Monday August 3rd, 2020 7:21PM

Emmy-winning actor Rip Torn has died at the age of 88

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
  Contact Editor

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Rip Torn, the free-spirited Texan who overcame his quirky name to become a distinguished actor in theater, television and movies and win an Emmy in his 60s for his comedy turn on TV's "The Larry Sanders Show," has died. He was 88.

Torn died Tuesday afternoon at his home with his wife, Amy Wright, and daughters Katie Torn and Angelica Page by his side, according to his publicist Rick Miramontez. No cause of death was given.

His career on stage and screen spanned seven decades, ranging from an early career of dark, threatening roles to iconic comedic performances later in life.

After acclaimed performances in "Cross Creek," ''Sweet Bird of Youth" and other dramas, Torn turned to comedy to capture his Emmy as the bombastic, ethically challenged television producer in "The Larry Sanders Show." Created by and starring Garry Shandling, HBO's spoof of TV talk shows aired from 1992 to 1998 and is widely credited with inspiring such satirical programs as "30 Rock" and "Curb Your Enthusiasm."

Born Elmore Rual Torn, the actor adopted the name Rip in his boyhood, following the tradition of his father and uncle. It was the subject of endless ridicule during his early days as a stage actor in New York, and fellow drama students urged him to change it.

With customary stubbornness, he refused, eventually overcoming the jokes with a series of powerful performances that led to his being regarded, along with Marlon Brando, Paul Newman and James Dean, as actors of a postwar generation who brought tense realism to their craft. He was also a political activist who joined James Baldwin, Harry Belafonte and other cultural and civil rights leaders for a frank and emotional 1963 meeting with then-Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy about the country's treatment of blacks.

Torn made his film debut in 1956 in an adaptation of Tennessee Williams' "Baby Doll," and within a few years was a respected film and television actor, working on occasions with his second wife, Geraldine Page. At the Actors Studio, he gained the attention of Elia Kazan, who hired him as understudy to Alex Nicol, then playing Brick Pollitt in the Tennessee Williams classic, "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof." Toward the end of the show's Broadway run, Torn took over the role of the alcoholic, emotionally troubled former football hero. He did so billed against his wishes as Elmore Torn.

Cast later in a "U.S. Steel Hour" production for television, he was told to either change his name or forfeit the role. He threatened to return to his native Texas, but finally agreed to be credited as Eric Torn. He was billed as Rip Torn thereafter. His success eventually inspired a younger cousin to take up acting, too — Oscar winner Sissy Spacek.

Other film credits included "Critics Choice" and "The Cincinnati Kid." In Albert Brooks' "Defending Your Life," he was featured as a gregarious attorney in the afterlife.

Brooks tweeted Tuesday night, "R.I.P Rip Torn. He was so great in Defending Your Life. I'll miss you Rip, you were a true original."

On television he played such figures as Richard Nixon, Lyndon B. Johnson and Walt Whitman.

His career hit a dry spell in the 1970s, and he blamed it on the buzz in Hollywood at the time that he was difficult to work with, a reputation sealed when tension on the set of "Easy Rider" led to his being replaced by Jack Nicholson for the 1969 release and missing out on one of the biggest hits of the era.

"I wouldn't say that I was blacklisted," he told The Associated Press in 1984, "but the word got around that I was difficult and unreliable. Unreliable! In all my years in the theater I have never missed a performance."

He managed to keep working in small projects in theater, films and TV, returning to the mainstream in 1983 with "Cross Creek," in which he played table-smashing backwoodsman Marsh Turner. The role brought him his only Oscar nomination, for best supporting actor.

Among his other films: "City Heat" and "Men in Black."

But he never entirely shook his rebellious reputation.

"What do they say about all the guys that are tremendous actors?" he told The New York Times in 2006. "Don't they say they have a volatile temper and emotions? Yeah, sure they do! They're not saying they like a nice, mild guy. Look at Sean Penn.

In 1994, actor-director Dennis Hopper said on "The Tonight Show With Jay Leno" that Torn once pulled a knife in a New York restaurant as he complained about being replaced in "Easy Rider." He sued Hopper for slander and won a $475,000 judgment.

He remained active in film and television in later years, including a recurring role in "30 Rock" and a voice acting gig in the 2007 animated "Bee Movie."

He weathered a couple of drunken driving arrests, including one in December 2008 near his home in Salisbury, Connecticut, that led to his placement in an alcohol education program.

Born in Temple, Texas, Torn initially studied agriculture at Texas A&M and acting at the University of Texas. After service as a military policeman during the Korean War, he hitchhiked to Hollywood. Landing only tiny roles in movies and TV dramas, and supporting himself as a fry cook and dishwasher, he decided to shift to New York and seek more training as an actor.

Torn and his first wife, actress Ann Wedgeworth, had a daughter, Danae, before divorcing. In 1963 he married Page, with whom he had co-starred in the touring production and movie version of "Sweet Bird of Youth." They had three children, a daughter, Angelica, and twins Jon and Tony, and appeared in productions together until her death in 1987. Torn also had two children, Katie and Claire, with actress Amy Wright.


Former AP Entertainment Writer Bob Thomas in Los Angeles compiled this report before his death in 2014.


This story has been corrected to show that Rip Torn was not in "The Hunt for Red October".

  • Associated Categories: U.S. News, Death / Obits News, Associated Press (AP), AP National News, AP Online National News, Top U.S. News short headlines, Top General short headlines, AP Entertainment, AP Online TV News, AP Online Movies News, APOnline Celebrity News
© Copyright 2020
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Emmy-winning actor Rip Torn has died at the age of 88
Award-winning television, film and theater actor Rip Torn has died at the age of 88, according to his publicist
11:11PM ( 8 minutes ago )
The Latest: AL racks up Ks, tops NL 4-3 for 7th straight win
The Latest: AL pitchers strike out 16, beat NL 4-3 for seventh straight All-Star Game win
11:08PM ( 11 minutes ago )
EU fines Hello Kitty owner $7 million in antitrust ruling
EU antitrust authorities fine Japanese company behind Hello Kitty $7M for restricting cross-border sales
11:02PM ( 17 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
California OKs benefits to immigrants in country illegally
California has become the first state to offer taxpayer-funded health benefits to adults living in the country illegally
10:06PM ( 1 hour ago )
Judge blocks government lawyers from quitting census fight
A New York judge says the Justice Department can't change lawyers so late in the dispute over whether to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census
10:05PM ( 1 hour ago )
Artists' warehouse founder: City visited, had no complaints
The founder of an artists' collective in an Oakland, California warehouse that caught fire two years ago, killing 36, said Tuesday that police, fire and other officials who visited his home never said it might be a fire hazard
10:04PM ( 1 hour ago )
AP National News
Amy McGrath announces bid for Mitch McConnell's Senate seat
Retired Marine fighter pilot Amy McGrath says she's running for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's seat
8:24PM ( 2 hours ago )
Trump defends Acosta but will look into Epstein plea deal
Trump defends Acosta, but says he'll look into Epstein plea deal
8:18PM ( 3 hours ago )
Validity of Obama health care law at issue in appeal hearing
Supporters of President Barack Obama's signature health care law have asked a federal appeals court to decide that the Affordable Care Act is still valid even though Congress eliminated a tax the law imposed on people who don't buy insurance
8:14PM ( 3 hours ago )
Top General short headlines
Beyoncé to drop new original song from 'The Lion King'
Beyoncé is dropping a new original song from Disney's live-action "Lion King."
9:09PM ( 2 hours ago )
Man sentenced for stealing Marilyn Monroe statue in LA
Prosecutors say a man who stole a statue of Marilyn Monroe from atop a Hollywood public art installation has been sentenced to a year in jail and ordered to pay more than $14,000 in restitution
8:03PM ( 3 hours ago )
Willie Nelson brings Farm Aid 2019 to Wisconsin's dairy land
Willie Nelson, John Mellencamp, Neil Young and Dave Matthews will headline Farm Aid 2019 when the music and food festival visits Wisconsin's dairy country in September
7:31PM ( 3 hours ago )
AP Entertainment
Freeform supports Halle Bailey's Ariel casting amid backlash
A Disney-owned cable network has taken aim at critics who disagreed with the decision to cast Halle Bailey as Ariel in the upcoming adaption of "The Little Mermaid."
4:26PM ( 1 day ago )
Film producer and Holocaust survivor Artur Brauner dies
Artur Brauner, a Polish-born Holocaust survivor who became one of post-World War II Germany's most prominent film producers, has died at age 100
4:44PM ( 2 days ago )
'Spider-Man' soars with $185.1M over six-day holiday weekend
"Spider-Man: Far From Home" swooped in to dominate the July Fourth holiday weekend, raking in an estimated $185.1 million since opening in North American theaters Tuesday
2:43PM ( 2 days ago )
AP Online Movies News
Lady Gaga heralds the coming of her makeup line on Amazon
Lady Gaga's beauty line, Haus Laboratories, coming to Amazon
3:00PM ( 8 hours ago )
Jay-Z partners with cannabis company as brand strategist
Rapper Jay-Z is heading into the legal marijuana industry as a chief brand strategist for a cannabis product company
2:44PM ( 8 hours ago )
AP Exclusive: Nicki Minaj pulls out of Saudi Arabia concert
AP Exclusive: Nicki Minaj is pulling out of a concert in Saudi Arabia because she says she wants to show support for women's rights, gay rights and freedom of expression
1:49PM ( 9 hours ago )
APOnline Celebrity News
The Latest: AL racks up Ks, tops NL 4-3 for 7th straight win
The Latest: AL pitchers strike out 16, beat NL 4-3 for seventh straight All-Star Game win
11:08PM ( 12 minutes ago )
EU fines Hello Kitty owner $7 million in antitrust ruling
EU antitrust authorities fine Japanese company behind Hello Kitty $7M for restricting cross-border sales
11:02PM ( 17 minutes ago )
From Nazis to hippies: End of the road for Volkswagen Beetle
Volkswagen is halting production of the last version of its classic Beetle this week at its plant in Puebla, Mexico
10:56PM ( 23 minutes ago )
SKorean leader denounces Japanese comments over sanctions
South Korean president has criticized comments by Japanese officials who questioned the credibility of Seoul's sanctions against North Korea while justifying Tokyo's stricter controls on high-tech exports to South Korea
10:47PM ( 33 minutes ago )
Outrage over killing of black teen over rap music complaint
Hundreds of people including presidential candidate Cory Booker have spoken out on Twitter about the killing of a 17-year-old black youth, allegedly by a white man charged Tuesday with first-degree murder who said the youth's rap music threatened him
10:20PM ( 59 minutes ago )