Seasoned character actor Rip Torn has passed away at the age of 88. The Emmy-winning thespian was perhaps best known for playing temperamental or otherwise outlandish characters on TV series like The Larry Sanders Show, as well as the Men in Black movies and Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story, among many other films. His acting career spanned more than sixty years and included performances in multiple theatrical productions, including his Tony-nominated feature Broadway debut in 1959's Sweet Bird of Youth.
Born Elmore Rual Torn Jr. in Temple, Texas on February 6, 1931, Torn went by the nickname "Rip" (a nickname used by the men in his family) and attended college to study agriculture and architecture before turning to acting instead. He got his big break when Elia Kazan cast him in the original 1955 production of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, and would go on to land his first major film role two years later in the 1957 courtroom drama, Time Limit.
News of Torn's passing was confirmed by his publicist on Tuesday, July 9 (h/t THR). He died surrounded by his wife, Amy Wright, and daughters Katie and Angelica.
Torn appeared in several noteworthy films and TV shows throughout the 1960s and '70s, ranging from The Man from UNCLE and Alfred Hitchcock Presents to The Cincinnati Kid and the TV mini-series Blind Ambition (where Torn portrayed Richard M. Nixon). He became known for playing darkly eccentric characters inclined to debauchery in that time, especially thanks to his roles in movies like 1969's Coming Apart and David Bowie's 1976 cult classic The Man Who Fell to Earth. He went on to earn an Oscar nomination for playing an alcoholic patriarch in 1984's Cross Creek and portrayed the fierce producer "Artie" across all six seasons of The Larry Sanders Show in the 1990s (landing him an Emmy win in 1996).
Ultimately, Torn continued to act until the last few years of his life. In addition to his turns as MIB head Zed and the dodgeball legend Patches O'Houlihan in Dodgeball, Torn delivered memorable supporting performances in films like Albert Brooks' 1991 comedy Defending Your Life, Michael Moore's 1995 satire Canadian Bacon, Disney's animated Hercules (where he voiced Zeus), Sofia Coppola's Marie Antoinette, and a recurring stint as Jack Donaghy's boss Don Geiss on 30 Rock from 2007-09. In his final screen role, Torn voiced M on the animated TV series TripTank.
Torn was known for being as volatile off-screen as he was on and was even arrested for drunkenly breaking into a Connecticut bank with a gun in 2010, but typically owned up to his irascibility in interviews. He also used that energy for political causes and worked to start an integrated national theater during the 1960s before later speaking out against the Vietnam War in the early '70s.
Rest in Peace Elmore Rual "Rip" Torn Jr.: February 6, 1931 - July 9, 2019