Fred Ward, ‘Tremors’ and ‘The Right Stuff’ Star, Dead at 79

by Leanne Stahulak
(Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images)

Fred Ward, Hollywood actor and star of “Tremors,” “The Right Stuff,” and “The Player,” is dead at 79, according to Ward’s publicist.

Ron Hofmann told Variety that Fred Ward died on May 8, though he did not state a cause of death. The family wished to keep the cause and place of death private.

According to NPR, Hofmann said the following in an email.

“The unique thing about Fred Ward is that you never knew where he was going to pop up, so unpredictable were his career choices,” Hofmann. “He could play such diverse characters as Remo Williams, a cop trained by Chiun, Master of Sinanju (Joel Grey) to become an unstoppable assassin in Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins.

“Or Earl Bass, who, alongside Kevin Bacon, battle giant, worm-like monsters hungry for human flesh in ‘cult’ horror/comedy film, Tremors (1990). Or a detective in the indie film Two Small Bodies (1993) directed by underground filmmaker Beth B.”

Hofmann continued, “Or a terrorist planning to blow up the Academy Awards in The Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult (1994). Or the father of the lead character in Jennifer Lopez’s revenge thriller Enough (2002).”

Honoring Fred Ward’s Life and Career

On Dec. 30, 1942, Frederick Joseph Ward was born in San Diego, California. He spent most of his childhood moving around a bit, per The Hollywood Reporter, before joining the US. Air Force. Once he spent three years in the Force, he moved to New York to attend acting school. Ward reportedly studied at Herbert Berghof’s school for six months in 1964.

He landed his first acting credit in 1973, but Ward’s first major role came in 1979. The actor starred alongside Clint Eastwood in “Escape From Alcatraz,” then went on to star in “Cardiac Arrest,” “Carny,” and “Southern Comfort.”

But one of Fred Ward’s most memorable roles came in 1983 when he joined Sam Shepherd, Scott Glenn, Ed Harris, and Dennis Quaid in “The Right Stuff.” The three-hour historical drama put Ward’s name on the map and landed him more film and TV roles throughout the 1980s.

Come 1990 though, Ward made another key impression in “Tremors” as Earl Bass. “Tremors,” a horror sci-fi, allowed Ward to show off his action movie skills as he took on creepy crawlies.

Fred Ward holds 89 acting credits to his name, per IMDb, with his most recent one coming from “True Detective” on HBO. He played Eddie Velcro, a retired cop and the father of Colin Farrell’s character.

Ward is survived by his wife, Marie-France Ward, and his son, Django.