Rip Torn, the versatile actor with more than 200 credits to his name, died peacefully in his home on July 9th, 2019. He was 88 years old. After making his film debut in 1956, Torn enjoyed a diverse and illustrious career in such films as The Man Who Fell To Earth with David Bowie, Men In Black with Will Smith, Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story, and Albert Brooks’ Defending Your Life.
Torn is perhaps best known for his brilliant turn as talk show producer Artie in HBO’s The Larry Sanders Show. During the show’s six-year run between 1992 and 1998, Torn earned six straight Emmy nominations for Best Supporting Actor In A Comedy Series, with a win in 1996.
Off-screen, Torn had a wild life marked with erratic behavior that would sound made up if it wasn’t true. He struck author Norman Mailer with a hammer while making the 1970 film Maidstone, which lead to an actual fight between the two that made it into the final film.
During a 1994 appearance on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, actor Dennis Hopper accused Torn of pulling a knife on him during pre-production on Easy Rider, leading Torn to be replaced by Jack Nicholson. Torn sued for defamation and won more than $900,000 in punitive and damages. In 2010, Torn was arrested for breaking into a bank in Lakeville, Connecticut that Torn mistook for his house.
As news of Torn’s death became public, the actor’s friends, former colleagues and admirers paid tribute on Twitter. Actor and filmmaker Albert Brooks tweeted,
“R.I.P Rip Torn. He was so great in Defending Your Life. I’ll miss you Rip, you were a true original.”
Actor and director Seth Rogen also had some kind words to say about Torn’s role in the comedy classic, tweeting,
“Rip Torn was incredible. His work on The Larry Sanders Show was hysterical but nothing is better than the way he says ‘Big Bear’ in Defending Your Life. I still laugh just thinking about it.”
Phantasm and Beastmaster filmmaker Don Coscarelli tweeted,
“As a young filmmaker I was blown away by Rip Torn’s performance in PAYDAY. We became friends working together on THE BEASTMASTER. I’ll always look back fondly on meeting up at his little crash pad for lunches in Malibu- and the great Hollywood stories he’d tell. RIP dear friend.”
Actor Griffin Newman reminded his followers about Torn’s groundbreaking TV comedy work, tweeting,
“Rip Torn was one of those people who just became electric on camera. Anyone who hasn’t seen THE LARRY SANDERS SHOW should correct that immediately. It’s on HBOGo. His performance helped ‘legitimize’ TV at a time when it was still (falsely) considered a lesser medium for actors.”
Comedian and Freddy Got Fingered co-star, Tom Green, tweeted,
“Just heard the sad news that the great Rip Torn has passed away. Rip was a class act. He was an incredible actor. One of the greats. A true legend. I am proud to have worked with him and to have known him. Rest in peace Rip.”
Ashley Clark, senior programmer for BAM Film wrote,
“Oh no, RIP Rip Torn, the only man whose surname – as a friend once pointed out – represents the consequence of having performed the action indicated by his first name. So great, and so unsettling, in so many films, particularly The Man Who Fell To Earth!”
Men in Black co-star Vincent D’Onofrio reminisced about time spent with Rip and his first wife, Ann, tweeting, in part,
“Our younger generation of actors may not know of Rip or Ann but they should. Rip as unique an actor as any1 could ever hope 2b.”
Torn leaves behind his wife, actress Amy Wright, six children, and four grandchildren.
Watch the video to see how Twitter reacts to Rip Torn’s death.