Rip Torn

Rip Torn

Rip Torn (born February 6, 1931) is an American television and film actor, who is perhaps best known for his role as Artie on the HBO comedy series The Larry Sanders Show.


Early life

Torn was born Elmore Rual Torn, Jr. in Temple, Texas, the son of Thelma Mary (née Spacek) and Elmore Rual Torn, an agriculturalist and economist. Being given the name "Rip" is a family tradition of men in the Torn family for several generations. It was given to him by his father, who was also called Rip; although as a young child and teenager he was referred to as "Skippy." He graduated from Texas A&M University in 1952. Torn introduced his cousin, the Oscar-winning actress Sissy Spacek, to the entertainment business and she was able to enroll in Lee Strasberg's Actors Studio and then the Lee Strasberg Institute in New York.


Following graduation from Texas A&M University, Torn relocated from his native Texas to give Hollywood a shot, making his debut in the 1956 film Baby Doll. Realizing that the way to success was a hard one, Torn headed to New York where he studied at the Actors Studio under Lee Strasberg and started becoming a prolific stage actor, appearing in the original cast of Tennessee Williams' play Sweet Bird of Youth, and reprising the role in the film and television adaptations. One of his earliest roles was in the film Pork Chop Hill, playing the brother-in-law of Gregory Peck's character.

He has been a distinctive character actor in numerous films since then, often showing up well in roles like the rich, sleazy New Orleans blackmailer Slade opposite Steve McQueen and Karl Malden in 1965's The Cincinnati Kid or the gruff boss Agent Zed in Men in Black.

The part of lawyer George Hanson in the Peter Fonda-Dennis Hopper road movie Easy Rider was written for Torn by Terry Southern (who was a close friend) but according to Southern's biographer Lee Hill, Torn withdrew from the project after he and co-director Dennis Hopper got into a bitter argument in a New York restaurant, ending with Dennis Hopper pulling a knife on Torn. As a result, Torn had to be replaced by Jack Nicholson, whose appearance in the film catapulted him to stardom.

In 1972 he won rave reviews for his portrayal of a country & western singer in the cult film Payday. In 1976 he starred in the cult classic science fiction movie The Man Who Fell to Earth. He received what many felt was a long-overdue Academy Award nomination as Best Supporting Actor for his role in the 1983 film Cross Creek.

In 1988, he made an unsuccessful venture into directing with the offbeat comedy The Telephone, starring Whoopi Goldberg. The screenplay was written by Terry Southern and Harry Nilsson and the film was produced by their company Hawkeye. The story, which focussed on an unhinged, out-of-work actor, had been written with Robin Williams in mind. After he turned it down, Goldberg expressed a strong interest, but when production began Torn reportedly had to contend with Goldberg constantly digressing and improvising, and he had to plead with her to perform takes that stuck to the script. Goldberg was backed by the studio, who also allowed her to replace Torn's chosen DP, veteran cinematographer John Alonzo, with her then husband. As a result of the power struggle, Torn, Southern and Nilsson cut their own version of the film, using the takes that adhered to the script, and this was screened at the Sundance Film Festival, but the studio put together a rival version using other takes and it was poorly reviewed when it premiered in January 1988. In 1990, he played ultra-hawkish Colonel Fargo in By Dawn's Early Light, which despite a modest budget is replete with major name actors from the era when it was filmed. In 1993, Torn played the OCP CEO in the science fiction film, Robocop 3.

For his role as talk show producer and TV veteran Artie in The Larry Sanders Show, Torn received six consecutive Emmy award nominations as Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series and won the award once, in 1996. He has since appeared in many comedic roles in films such as Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story, Freddy Got Fingered, Canadian Bacon and Rolling Kansas, as well as dramatic roles in films such as The Insider and Marie Antoinette. Torn is also known for his voice work, and has done voice-overs for many animated films, the most notable being Hercules. He lent his voice to the Jerry Seinfeld film Bee Movie. In 2007 and 2008 Torn made five guest appearances on the Emmy-award winning NBC comedy 30 Rock as the fictional head of the network, Don Geiss. He will next be seen in a starring role in Turn the River costarring Famke Janssen.

Personal life

Torn was married to actress Ann Wedgeworth from 1956 to 1961, with whom he had a daughter, Danae Torn. They divorced and he later married the Oscar-winning actress Geraldine Page. Page and Torn remained married until her death in 1987. They had three children: Tony Torn, Jon Torn and actress Angelica Torn. Torn apparently delighted in the fact that their country estate was called Torn Page. He is married to actress Amy Wright with whom he has two children, Katie and Claire. Katie Torn is an accomplished painter and video artist.

In January 2004, Torn was arrested for drunk driving after colliding with a taxi in New York City. Video of his arrest in which he curses at officers and angrily refuses a breathalyzer test was aired on television news outlets. In October 2004, a jury acquitted Torn of any wrongdoing. In December 2006, Torn was again arrested for drunk driving in North Salem, New York after colliding with a tractor trailer. In April 2007, Torn pled guilty and agreed to have his license suspended for 90 days and pay a $380 fine.

On-set conflicts

While filming Maidstone, Torn, apparently unhappy with the film, struck director and star of the film Norman Mailer three times in the head with a hammer. With the camera rolling, Mailer bit Torn's ear and they wrestled to the ground. The fight continued until it was broken up by cast and crew members as Mailer's children screamed in the background. The fight is featured in the film. Although the scene may have been planned by Torn, the blood shed by both actors is real and Torn was reportedly truly outraged by Mailer's direction.

In 1999, Torn filed a defamation lawsuit against Dennis Hopper over a story Hopper told on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. Hopper claimed that Torn pulled a knife on him during pre-production of the film Easy Rider. According to Hopper, Torn was originally cast in the film but was replaced with Jack Nicholson after the incident. According to Torn's suit, it was actually Hopper who pulled the knife on him. A judge ruled in Torn's favor and Hopper was ordered to pay $475,000 in damages. Hopper then appealed but the judge again ruled in Torn's favor and Hopper was required to pay another $475,000 in punitive damages.

Selected filmography


External links

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