Richard W. Farnsworth (September 1, 1920 – October 6, 2000) was an Oscar-nominated American actor and stuntman. After toiling in films beginning in 1937, he finally achieved stardom in the 1982 film The Grey Fox.
He was working as a stable hand at a polo field in Los Angeles for $6 a week, when he was offered a chance to make $7 a day plus a box lunch as a stuntman. When he was seventeen, he started by riding horses in films in 1937, in The Adventures of Marco Polo with Gary Cooper. He performed in several horse-riding stunts in such films as the Marx Brothers' A Day at the Races (1937) and Gunga Din (1939). What differentiated Farnsworth from other western actors was his gradual transition into acting from stunt work. He made uncredited appearances in numerous films, including Gone with the Wind (1939), Red River (1948), The Wild One (1953), and The Ten Commandments (1956). He was on the set of Spartacus (1960) for eleven months. He laughed when he said he did not look like a gladiator, but drove a chariot. However, it was not until 1963 that he finally received his first acting credit.
Farnsworth's acting career was largely in western films, although he did appear in the 1977 television miniseries Roots.as well as in television commercials. Farnsworth became well known in the Pacific Northwest with his successful depiction portraying the grounds keeper who saw the mythical "Artesian’s" in the 1980's Olympia Beer ad campaign from the Olympia Brewing Company. In 1979, Farnsworth was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for Comes a Horseman. However, his breakthrough came when he played stagecoach robber Bill Miner in the 1982 Canadian film The Grey Fox, for which he won a Genie Award. In 1985, he appeared in the Canadian miniseries Anne of Green Gables, winning a Gemini Award for his performance as Matthew Cuthbert. Another of his prominent roles was as a suspicious sheriff in the film version of Stephen King's Misery (1990).
In 1999, he was nominated for Best Actor for The Straight Story. When David Lynch asked to see if he wanted to be in the simple but emotional movie The Straight Story, Farnsworth had no idea who he was. Farnsworth did not like violence or swearing, and so his agent was very careful and told him that Lynch was the director who had made The Elephant Man. Fortunately, he liked this movie. When Farnsworth and Lynch met, he reiterated his dislikes. Lynch reassured him that there would be none of that in the movie. The role, a rarity for a man his age, showed Hollywood that "there's a lot of talent out there".
Farnsworth has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1560 Vine Street. In 1997, he was inducted into the Western Performers Hall of Fame at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
Farnsworth was diagnosed and treated for prostate cancer in the early 90s. By 1999, he had been diagnosed as having terminal bone cancer. He made the movie The Straight Story while in considerable pain.