Ed Lauter, Prolific Character Actor, Dead at 74

Ed Lauter, Prolific Character Actor, Dead at 74

The butler from “The Artist” had been battling mesothelioma

Ed Lauter, the incredibly prolific character actor who played a butler in Oscar best-picture winner “The Artist” and whose film and television appearances numbered in the hundreds, has died. He was 74.

Lauter was diagnosed in May with mesothelioma, a form of terminal cancer most commonly associated with exposure to asbestos, his publicist told TheWrap on Wednesday.

“What good fortune to be married to a man who so easily combined love, kindness, caring and a sense of humor ranging from the sublime to the ridiculous,” said his wife, Mia. “Our marriage, as they say in the business, was one hell of a run. I'll miss him dearly as well as his family and countless friends. Ed Lauter really mattered.”

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Lauter’s film and TV credits are almost too daunting to highlight; he played dozens of memorable police captains, sports coaches, mob heavies, father figures and whatever other parts were lying around for a big fella with angular feartures and a commanding presence.

Lauter made his big screen debut in the 1971 western “Dirty Little Billy,” and his last film was “The Town that Dreaded Sundown,” a remake of the 1976 horror film. He kept on working after his cancer diagnosis, and had recently appeared as a recurring character on the TV series “Shameless,” in last year’s “Trouble With the Curve,” and as Peppy’s butler in “The Artist.”

See photos: Hollywood's Notable Deaths of 2013

It was as if there was no role Lauter would turn down, whether in TV or film: He did drama (“Grey’s Anatomy,” “Leaving Las Vegas”), comedy (“Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby,” “Not Another Teen Movie”), genre stuff (“The X-Files,” “True Romance”) TV movies (2005’s “Into the Fire”) – just about anything – often playing cops, tough guys or military figures, though almost never as the lead.

The native Long Islander appeared in Alfred Hitchcock's final film, “Family Plot,” a performance that the suspense maestro liked so much that he lined up Lauter for a major role in his next project — but it was never made, due to the director's failing health and eventual death in 1980.

Though he was in great pain toward the end, he recently attended a charity event at the Will Rogers Polo Grounds and a Hispanics for the Opera Gala that benefitted needy children.

  • David

    RIP Ed

  • PNK

    “Game ball” – love his line from ‘Longest Yard.’ His face in all of those scenes is chilling.

    • Jim

      YES!

  • hupto

    Ran into him at the Academy last year and we had a nice chat. Despite all the baddies he played, he was a lovely man with a keen sense of humor, though disappointed that he seldom got a chance to be funny onscreen.

  • Jason Newstedt

    To this day I do not know what a “character actor” is. If you're playing a part, are you not playing a character?!

    • chrish513

      its an actor where you recognize their face but not their name

    • Jim

      A character actor is Dr. Jekyll. And then when they become famous, make $20 million a project, hire a manager and a publicist, and turn lazy, you pray they don't turn into Mr. Hyde.