Beloved character actor Ned Beatty, who made his film debut in 1972’s “Deliverance” and delivered memorable performances in classics like 1976’s “Network” and 1978’s “Superman,” died on Sunday at age 83.
“Ned passed away from natural causes Sunday morning, surrounded by his family and loved ones,” Beatty’s manager, Deborah Miller, said in a statement provided to TheWrap. “His family has decided to keep details private at this time. Ned was an iconic, legendary talent, as well as a dear friend, and he will be missed by us all.”
Born in Louisville, Kentucky in 1937, Beatty got his start as an actor in regional theater in the South in the 1960s before making his film debut in John Boorman’s 1972 film “Deliverance” as an Atlanta businessman on a canoe trip with three buddies who gets humiliated — and raped — by two Georgia mountainmen.
That memorable debut opposite Burt Reynolds and Jon Voight put Beatty on the map in Hollywood. He went on to appear in scores of films and TV shows in his 50-plus years as an actor, proving the importance of supporting cast and that character actors could also steal the scene.
Two years later, he earned an Oscar nomination for his supporting role in 1976’s “Network,” where he had a brief but memorable role as a TV network executive who gives an impassioned five-minute speech to Peter Finch’s increasingly unhinged on-air news host, Howard Beale, and tries to argue that corporate control of humanity would be a good thing.
Two year’s later, Beatty played the bumbling the sidekick to DC Comics villain Lex Luthor in the 1978 “Superman” movie opposite Gene Hackman and Christopher Reeve. As Luthor’s minion Otis, Beatty gave a subtly funny and memorable performance that at times turned the superhero drama into almost a comedy.
Throughout his career, Beatty’s trademark became playing or voicing villains that were equal mixes of charismatic and bumbling but also capable of being believably scary.
Other notable big-screen credits include “Toy Story 3,” in which he voiced the evil bear Lotso; reporter Dardis in “All the President’s Men,” Senator Charles Meachum in “Shooter,” and the sheriff in the 2003 film adaptation of “Where the Red Fern Grows.”
In addition to his 160-plus film roles, he also had a healthy career on TV and the theater, including a two-season run in the mid-’90s on “Homicide: Life on the Street” as a Baltimore police detective. He also played the father of John Goodman’s Dan Conner in six episodes of the sitcom “Roseanne.”
He earned Emmy nominations for Outstanding Lead Actor in a miniseries (for 1979’s “Friendly Fire”) and Outstanding Supporting Actor in a miniseries (for 1990’s “Last Train Home”). He also earned a Drama Desk Award in 2004 for his role as Big Daddy in a Broadway revival of Tennessee Williams’ “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.”
Beatty was also nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actor for “Hear My Song,” released in 1991.