Ned Beatty, the Oscar-nominated character actor who has appeared in half a century of American films including liberation, network and Superman, was a booming, indelible presence even in the smallest parts, has died. He was 83.
Beatty’s manager Deborah Miller said Beatty died of natural causes at his Los Angeles home on Sunday with friends and family.
After years in regional theater, Beatty was cast in 1972 liberation as Bobby Trippe, the cheerful member of a male river boat party terrorized by hillbilly folks. The scene in which Trippe is brutally treated and forced to “squeak like a pig” became the most memorable in the film, establishing Beatty as an actor whose name moviegoers might not know, but whose face they kept recognizing.
“For people like me there are many ‘I know you! I know you! What did I see you in? ‘“ Beatty remarked in 1992 without resentment.
Beatty received only one Oscar nomination for supporting actor for his role as corporate executive Arthur Jensen in the 1976s networkbut he contributed to and worked steadily in some of the most popular films of his time, his credits spanning more than 150 films and television shows.
Beatty’s appearance in network, written by Paddy Chayefsky and directed by Sidney Lumet, was short but gigantic. His three-minute monologue is one of the largest in the film. Jensen calls moderator Howard Beale (Peter Finch) into a long, dimly lit conference room to come to Jesus through the elementary powers of the media.
“You’ve interfered with the elemental forces of nature, Mr. Beale, and I won’t have it!” Beatty shouts from across the boardroom before declaring that there is no America and no democracy. “There’s only IBM and ITT and AT&T and DuPont, Dow, Union Carbide and Exxon. These are the nations of the world today. “
He was as memorable as Otis, the idiotic henchman of villainous Lex Luthor in the first two Christopher Reeve Superman Movies and as a racist sheriff in White flash. Other movies included All of the President’s men, the cover, Nashville, and The big one. In a 1977 interview, he had explained why he preferred to be a supporting actor.
“Stars never want to throw a curveball for the crowd, but I really enjoy throwing curveballs,” he told the New York Times. “Being a star limits your effectiveness as an actor because you become an identifiable part of a product and you are somewhat predictable. You need to take care of your Ps and Qs and take care of your fans. But I like to surprise the audience, to do the unexpected. “
He got a rare leading role in the Irish film Hear my song 1991. The true story of legendary Irish tenor Josef Locke, who disappeared at the height of a brilliant career, has been well-reviewed but largely unseen in the United States. In between films, Beatty often worked on television and in the theater. He had recurring roles in Roseanne as John Goodman’s father and as a detective Murder: Life on the Street.
He received critical acclaim (and a Drama Desk Award) on Broadway for his portrayal of Big Daddy in a revival of Cat on a hot tin roof, a role he first played in a public company production at the age of 21. His more recent films included Toy Story 3 (as the double-faced stuffed bear Lotso) in 2010 and the villainous turtle mayor in Rango. In 2013 he retired.
Ned Thomas Beatty was born in Louisville, Kentucky in 1937 and grew up in Lexington, where he joined the Protestant Disciples of Christ Christian Church. “It was the theater I went to as a kid,” he told The Associated Press in 1992. “This is where people got their true emotions and talked about things they didn’t talk about in everyday life. … The sermon was very often theatrical. ”He thought of becoming a priest for a while, but changed his mind after being in a high school production of Harvey.
He spent ten summers at the Barter Theater in Abingdon, Virginia, and eight years with the Arena Stage Company in Washington, D.C. On the Arena Stage he performed in Chekhovs Uncle Vanya and starred in Arthur Millers Death of a salesman. Then his life changed forever when he took the train to New York to audition for director John Boorman for the role of Bobby Trippe. Boorman told him the role was cast but changed his mind after seeing Beatty’s audition.
Beatty, who married Sandra Johnson in 1999, had eight children from three previous marriages.
The late AP Entertainment writer Bob Thomas contributed biographical material to this story.