As reported by Deadline, actor Rip Torn—best known for his work on The Larry Sanders Show and his memorable appearances in films like Men In Black and Dodgeball—has died. A cause of death was not immediately available. Torn was 88.
Born Elmore Rual Torn Jr. in Texas in 1931, Torn studied acting while going to school at the University Of Texas. After serving with the Military Police in the U.S. Army after college, Torn briefly moved to Hollywood in the ’50s to try his hand at a professional acting career, making his first appearance in 1956’s Baby Doll and going on to land a dozen more small roles in movies and TV shows over the next couple years before moving to New York to attend classes at the legendary Actors Studio with Lee Strasberg. Torn made his Broadway debut in 1959, earning a Tony nomination for his work in the Tennessee Williams play Sweet Bird Of Youth (he later appeared in the film and TV adaptations in the ’60s and ’80s).
Torn nearly received another big break via the countercultural classic Easy Rider. The role of George Hanson was written with Torn in mind, but arguments between him and director Dennis Hopper—including an incident where someone pulled a knife that eventually lead to a defamation lawsuit decades later when Hopper told the story on The Tonight Show—resulted in Torn getting fired and replaced by Jack Nicholson (with Easy Rider becoming a breakout movie for Nicholson). After Easy Rider fell apart for Torn, he transitioned into working as a reliable character actor for the next few decades, appearing in The Man From U.N.C.L.E., Mannix, Blind Ambition, The Blue And The Gray, The Beastmaster, Jinxed!, Tropic Of Cancer, and alongside David Bowie in the Man Who Fell To Earth.
By 1992, Torn finally landed his first real long-term TV gig, playing Garry Shandling’s producer Artie on The Larry Sanders Show. He won a Supporting Actor Emmy for the role in 1996, and received a nomination for each of the show’s six seasons (he would go on to earn a total of nine Emmy nominations, the last of which came for his role as elderly GE boss Don Geiss on 30 Rock).
During his years on Larry Sanders, Torn also appeared in two roles that made him much more memorable to younger audiences, providing the voice of the infectiously boisterous Zeus in Disney’s Hercules and as the no-nonsense boss of the MIB in the first two Men In Black movies. As much as kids may have enjoyed his Zeus, though, Torn had an undeniable talent for playing gruff assholes, which he used to great effect in Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story when he played bitter dodgeball veteran Patches O’Houlihan. Two of Torn’s final roles were an uncredited cameo in Men In Black 3 and an appearance on Comedy Central’s TripTank.