What number of Hollywood main males are sufficiently divested of vainness that they might not solely play a personality who will get his dentures stolen, however then subsquently spend an excellent portion of their display time gumming it up attempting to retrieve them? Most likely not many to start with, however sadly, that quantity went down by one immediately. Hell, who’re we kidding? Fred Ward, who died immediately at age 79, was in all probability the ONLY Hollywood main man who has accomplished such a factor.
The film in query was 1990’s Miami Blues. The character Ward performed was the grizzled, denture-wearing cop Hoke Moseley, and the man who purloined his dentures was a stone psychopath named Junior. Ward produced the image, too, having been shocked by Charles Willeford’s first of 4 (revealed) Hoke Moseley novels. (Shaggy dog story: after making an enormous splash with the primary Moseley e-book, Willeford penned a sequel through which the hero turns horrible assassin. His agent talked him down and WIlleford produced three extra wonderful Moseley yarns, and the unpublished perverse one stays a bootleg lit favourite.) When Ward attained the property, he was of a thoughts to play the flashily loopy Junior. However the studio, based on Ward, wished “younger blood” for the half, and so the villain position went to the then 32-year-old Alec Baldwin, who certainly delivered a manic, memorable efficiency. An ideal counter to what Ward delivered to the a part of Hoke: a laconic however targeted demeanor reflective of a personality whose fatalism isn’t going to intervene along with his monitoring down Junior and getting his enamel again. (Ward’s authentic concept, by the best way, was to have Gene Hackman play Hoke to Ward’s Junior.)
Miami Blues wasn’t successful, nevertheless it must have been, and it’s developed a well-earned cult following over time. Ward was virtually 50 when he made it. His highway to that film was a bit off the crushed path. He did time within the Air Pressure, as a lumberjack, and as a boxer — that lumpy, crooked nostril of his was a take-home from that final gig. His appearing research introduced him to New York after which to Rome. In Italy he did voice work, dubbing Italian photos into English, and he acted for the nice Roberto Rossellini. He performs a Venetian in Florence in Rossellini’s 1972 docudrama The Age of Medici, the primary (and I believe solely) time he ever portrayed a dandy. Ward spoke his dialogue in English (Italian motion pictures had been post-dubbed on this period of filmmaking) however undoubtedly bought his glib character. On return to the States, it took him some time to determine himself as a personality actor par excellence. A flip reverse Clint Eastwood, within the excellent 1979 Escape From Alcatraz — the most effective jail break movies ever — put him on the map, and a slew of supporting roles in largely wonderful photos by distinctive administrators bought him right into a groove.
To wit: the extreme, brutal Southern Consolation for Walter Hill, through which Ward performs a reluctant warrior in a soldiers-versus-Cajuns standoff. The Proper Stuff, primarily based on Tom Wolfe’s groundbreaking e-book, for Phillip Kaufman, enjoying blunt astronaut Gus Grissom. Silkwood for Mike Nichols, enjoying a union activist working with the movie’s title whistleblower, performed by Meryl Streep. Swing Shift for Jonathan Demme, enjoying a WWII period nightclub supervisor.
That latter film had a tough time in post-production, with star Goldie Hawn clashing with Demme over artistic variations. For Ward, although, working with Demme was an awesome expertise, and when he put Miami Blues in movement, Demme was his director of alternative, as Ward informed the Los Angeles Instances. At that time limit, Demme had problem in referring to the fabric, so whereas overseeing script rewrites he advisable passing the directorial baton to George Armitage, a pal that Demme had provide you with by means of the Roger Corman college of B-pictures. They usually made a criminal offense film masterpiece.
It needs to be famous that Ward, on the time, had all his personal enamel. He needed to put on a gummy prosthetic for the scenes the place he’s denture-less. You’d by no means understand it although, such is Ward’s dedication.
Ward had the type of stardom one imagines a whole lot of different higher-celebrity-profile actors would envy. He was married 3 times, however you by no means examine any of his unions within the gossip columns. He wasn’t stalked by paparazzi; and when he gave interviews, it was to advertise a film, not for the sake of a character profile.
In these interviews, he proved constantly considerate. One other movie he made in 1990, reuniting him with director Philip Kaufman, was Henry and June, a biographical research of roughneck author Henry Miller and his spouse June and mistress Anais Nin. Ward had found Miller’s e-book Tropic of Most cancers throughout his pre-stardom wanderings and was instantly taken with the writer’s spontaneity — in writing and in life. “Individuals are burdened down by their futures, their jobs, their accumulating,” Ward informed The Washington Publish. “Everybody says, ‘I want I may try this, simply take off, experiment with life time and again.’ [Miller] was 40 when he took that huge leap. Most individuals are digging themselves deeper into their constructions. He was a person who knew he needed to comply with that internal urge, the creativity and the eagerness. Or he would die bitter.”
Via appearing, Ward did experiment with life time and again, and he was a performer who at all times understood the task. Usually in his profession the task was not too critical, and he met it appropriately. He’s nonetheless a delight as a New York cop pressured into an Worldwide Man of Thriller job in 1985’s Remo Williams: The Journey Begins, which must have been a franchise — Popeye Doyle meets Indiana Jones. One other Ward basic is Tremors, additionally from 1990 (think about a yr through which you seem on this AND Henry and June AND Miami Blues), the distinctive scary/humorous sci-fi horror through which Ward and Kevin Bacon tackle big worms. And don’t neglect the overt parody of his broad-shouldered dangerous man Rocco Dillon in The Bare Gun 33 1/3: The Remaining Insult. Earlier than business adjustments steered him to the sort-of pasture of supporting patriarchal roles in studio comedies, romantic or in any other case (Candy Dwelling Alabama on one hand, Joe Grime on the opposite), Ward additionally did two movies with maverick Robert Altman in the course of the latter’s personal filmmaking renaissance: The Participant (1992) and Quick Cuts (’93). The TV work of the 2000s was good — United States of Tara and True Detective. However the truth that the function movie work had dried up stated extra concerning the state of Hollywood moviemaking then of Ward’s. He shall be missed, simply as a lot because the varieties of flicks he made are.
Veteran critic Glenn Kenny evaluations new releases at RogerEbert.com, the New York Instances, and, as befits somebody of his superior age, the AARP journal. He blogs, very often, at Some Got here Operating and tweets, largely in jest, at @glenn__kenny. He’s the writer of the acclaimed 2020 e-book Made Males: The Story of Goodfellas, revealed by Hanover Sq. Press.