Fred Ward dies at 79: The Right Stuff actor passes away

Hollywood actor Fred Ward died on May 8 at the age of 79, it was revealed by his publicist on Friday. 

His cause of death is unknown and his publicist Ron Hofmann declined to reveal it to the New York Post. 

‘I am sad to announce the passing of acclaimed actor Fred Ward, who passed away on Sunday, May 8, 2022, at age 79,’ Hofmann wrote in a statement.  


However, Hoftmann said the star’s last wishes were for his fans to make donations and that he had spent the last years of his life painting. 

‘It was Fred Ward’s wish that any memorial tributes be made in the form of donations to the Boston University Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy Center,’ Hofmann told the New York Post.  

The San Diego native began his career in the 1970s and went on to star in many well known films including Tremors, Henry & June, Sweet Home Alabama, and Enough.

He was best known for playing Gus Grissom in the 1983 US Space Program movie The Right Stuff opposite Sam Shepard and Dennis Quaid.

Sad loss: Hollywood actor Fred Ward (pictured in 2011) died on May 8 at the age of 79, his publicist revealed on Friday

In 1990 he starred as Earl Bass, (right) alongside Kevin Bacon (left) in the horror movie Tremors

The Right roles: He was best known for playing Gus Grissom in the 1983 US Space Program movie The Right Stuff opposite Sam Shepard and Dennis Quaid. (Pictured: With Scott Glenn, Ed Harris, and Quaid) 

Ward died Sunday, his publicist Ron Hoffman announced this week and according to The Hollywood Reporter, no cause or place of death was shared which was his family’s wish.

The Golden Globe winner, who was part Cherokee, had a background in boxing, which led to him playing gruff tough guys roles on the big screen. 

Although it appears the actor kept his private life private, the actor was married a total of three times throughout his life.

His first wife was Carla Evonne Stewart. They wed in 1965 and shortly divorced in 1966.

He then tied the knot with Silvia Ward, with whom he shares his musician son Django. It is not known what year they divorced.


In 1995 he married Marie-France Boisselle. She filed for divorce in August 2013, but they reconciled later that year, according to TMZ.

The actor – who served three years in the US Air Force – appeared in over 70 movies and more than a dozen TV shows. 

The former lumberjack and short-order cook got his start in acting after moving to Rome and working as a mime and a voice-over actor, NPR reported. His mime gig eventually led to a a few appearance on a TV shows by an Italian director Roberto Rossellini in 1973 before he moved onto the bright lights of Hollywood. 

He landed his first break in the 1973 TV movie The Age Of The Medici as Niccolo. Afterwards, he popped up on TV shows like Quincy ME in 1978.

His first Hollywood film was the Hearts of the West, where Ward played a cowboy. 

He eventually was cast again and again as the rough type until he finally stood out when he landed the role of jailbird John Anglin in the 1979 movie Escape From Alcatraz with Clint Eastwood, which became his breakout role. He played a prisoner keen on escaping the San Francisco prison.

Ready to fly: He is seen here in his orange and silver astronaut suit in The Right Stuff 

A Navy man: The he was seen in Swing Shift with Christine Lahti in 1984, where he played a sailor. In real life, Ward  served three years in the Air Force before pursuing acting 

Group effort. He is seen with Randall ‘Tex’ Cobb, Patrick Swayze, Reb Brown, Gene Hackman, Harold Sylvester, Tim Thomerson in Uncommon Valour in 1983

He could do period films too: Seen with Maria DeMedeiros as writer Anais Nin in the 1990 movie Henry & June in which he played author Henry Miller. Uma Thurman was also in the movie as June

‘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 said.

Ward played several notable roles in Silkwood with Meryl Streep in 1983 then Swing Shift with Goldie Hawn in 1984.

His last role was in 2015 as Eddie Velcoro for two episodes of the series True Detective with Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson. 

Next came the role of Jamie in 1979’s Cardiac Arrest then the role of Reece in 1981’s Southern Comfort.

In 1983 he got a bigger break in the critically acclaimed space movie The Right Stuff.

He held his own against stage actor Shepard and movie star Quaid. The film revolved around the US space program’s development from the breaking of the sound barrier.

It also covered the selection of the Mercury 7 astronauts, from a group of daring test pilots. 

The drama Silkwood followed in 1983 then Swing Shift in 1984 before he was given the titular role in the 1985 movie Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins.

Fred worked steadily from then on, often making three or four movies a year.

In 1990 alone he made four films: Tremors, Catchfire, Miami Blues and Henry & June (in which he landed the starring role as author Henry Miller).

Ward (left) had a standout role as Walter Stuckel in the ensemble The Player in 1992 with co-star Whoopi Goldberg (right)

Ward and Morgan Freeman at the Feast of Love premiere at The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in LA in 2007

Ward (pictured with spouse Marie-France Ward in 2011)  married three times in his life. Marie France Ward filed for divorce in August 2013 but they reconciled that same year

Ward had a standout role as Walter Stuckel in the ensemble The Player in 1992 with co-star Whoopi Goldberg. And that same year he played Wyatt Earp in the TV movie Four Eyes and Six-Guns.

His work in the 1990s was rounded out by small parts in Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult (1994), Chain Reaction (1996), Dangerous Beauty (1998) and the mini series Invasion Earth (1998).

He was very busy in the 2000s with roles in big Hollywood movies like The Crow: Salvation, Joe Dirt and Summer Catch as well as the Jennifer Lopez thriller Enough (2002).

And he showed up on two episodes on ER in 2006 as Eddie.

He worked less starting in 2010; he showed up in only a handful of roles like as Admiral Tuwey in 2 Guns in 2013, which he starred next to Mark Wahlberg and Denzel Washington. 

Many social media users honored the actor, posting tributes remembering their favorite roles Ward played. 

Executive Producer for the Walking Dead Gale Anne Hurd, who worked with Ward on Tremors and Cast a Deadly Spell, wrote: ‘#RIP #FredWard was one of the nicest, talented and under-rated actors. A pure delight on-screen and off. I was privileged to work with him on #Tremors [and] #CastADeadlySpell.’ 

Many flocked to social media to pay tribute to the famed actor, with many remembering their favorite roles of his 

Alan Sepinwell, a TV critic for Rolling Stone, wrote: ‘RIP, Fred Ward, a great character actor whose big shot at leading man status, Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins, unfortunately flopped, but who kept giving great, lived-in performances for the rest of his career.’ 

Amanda Cude, the health editor for Hearst Connecticut Media, replied: ‘Oh no! I loved Fred Ward, and it’s sad that he passed before living out his true destiny of playing Jon Bernthal’s dad in something!’ 

Director Alex Winter wrote on Twitter: ‘RIP Fred Ward. He always elevated the films he was in.’ 

The Editor-in-Chief of Fangoria Phil Nobile Jr. wrote on the platform: ‘Fred Ward was great in just about everything he did. You’ll hear a lot about TREMORS in your feed but he’s also amazing in HENRY & JUNE (the first NC-17 movie), and fantastic in MIAMI BLUES. Sad day.’ 

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