He was a character actor, a lawyer, and a politician who excelled at all of those professions over a considerable period of time, while also freely switching among them. Fred Thompson, who died Sunday at the age of 73, lived one of those truly, only-in-America lives.
Thompson reportedly died of lymphoma; he had first been diagnosed with cancer a decade before.
Fred Dalton Thompson, as he was credited in his acting career, began his professional career as an attorney in Tennessee, working as a prosecutor and later serving as counsel on the committee that investigated the Watergate scandal. In the 1980s, when a case of his was adapted for a movie, 1985’s Marie, Thompson was asked to play himself, leading the longtime lawyer to catch the acting bug.
Throughout the late 1980s and early ‘90s, Thompson had a stellar run as a character actor in thrillers and action films, appearing in such memorable roles as CIA Director Marshall in No Way Out (1987), Rear Admiral Joshua Painter in The Hunt For Red October (1990), airport head Trudeau in Die Hard 2 (1990), Tom Broadbent in Martin Scorsese’s Cape Fear (1991), and White House Chief of Staff Harry Sargent in Clint Eastwood’s In the Line of Fire (1993.)
In 1994, Thompson left Hollywood for politics, winning a special election that same year for the U.S. Senate seat vacated by Al Gore when he was elected vice president. A Republican, Thompson was re-elected in 1996, and shortly before his retirement six years later, he made a return to acting, taking the role of conservative Manhattan District Attorney Arthur Branch on Law & Order, which he kept for five years and sometimes brought to other Law & Order shows.
Thompson’s Law & Order run ended when Thompson made another return to politics, running for president in the 2008 Republican primaries. And while Thompson’s entrance was high-profile, he dropped out in late January.
In the last years of his life, Thompson appeared in a series of Christian films, including 2014’s Persecuted and 2015’s 90 Minutes in Heaven; he also played the director of the FBI in four episodes of the NBC spy series Allegiance. Thompson wrote a 2010 memoir called Teaching the Pig to Dance, hosted a radio show, and appeared in commercials touting reverse mortgages.
In his single years, Thompson was known as a ladies man – “I chased a lot of women, and a lot of women chased me,” Thompson famously once said. “And those that chased me tended to catch me.” He is survived by his second wife, Jeri, as well as four children; his daughter from his first marriage died in 2002.
His family issued the following statement:
“Fred stood on principle and common sense, and had a deep love for and connection with the people across Tennessee whom he had the privilege to serve in the United States Senate. He enjoyed a hearty laugh, a strong handshake, a good cigar, and a healthy dose of humility. Fred was the same man on the floor of the Senate, the movie studio, or the town square of Lawrenceburg, his home.”
Source: The Hill