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SYFY WIRE Superman

Ned Beatty passes away: Superman, The Exorcist II & Pixar star was 83

By Benjamin Bullard
Ned Beatty

Ned Beatty, who came to fame alongside Burt Reynolds in Deliverance (1972) and went on to play affable bad guys in genre blockbusters like Superman and Toy Story 3, has passed away. The prolific actor, whose career spanned more than five decades, was 83. Via The Hollywood Reporter, he died Sunday at home in Los Angeles of “natural causes,” according to his daughter.

Beatty appeared in more than 150 films and scored a key early-career role as corporate pitchman Arthur Jensen in Sidney Lumet’s Network (1976), but genre fans will forever flag his appearance 1978 appearance in Richard Donner’s Superman as his breakout bad-guy role. Beatty played Otis, the villainous sidekick (and snark target) of Lex Luthor (Gene Hackman), in a performance that framed Otis’ second-fiddle place in the evil hierarchy as that of a lunkheaded bumbler; a follower with misshapen dreams of carving out his own “Otisburg” in Luthor’s post-nuclear paradise. He would go on to reprise the character in Superman II (1980).

Beatty’s career was filled with gritty parts in dramatic films, but it was peppered throughout with appearances in genre projects. He appeared in The Exorcist II: The Heretic with an all-star cast in 1977, playing the role of Edwards alongside Linda Blair, Richard Burton, Max von Sydow, and James Earl Jones. He later starred with Blair once more in the Exorcist parody Repossessed (1990). Beatty also starred alongside Lily Tomlin in Joel Schumacher’s The Incredible Shrinking Woman (1981).

Beatty’s versatility extended to voice roles in animated films in his later career. He voiced a Pixar baddie in Toy Story 3 (2010) as Lots-O'-Huggin' Bear, the movie’s main antagonist; and starred again as the voice of the villain alongside Johnny Depp in the Gore Verbinski-directed Rango (2011). Early-1990s TV fans also remember Beatty for his multi-season role as “Big Man” Stanley Bolander, a police detective on NBC’s Homicide: Life on the Street.

Though he worked with a constellation of A-list acting talent and appeared in many films now recognized as classics (Deliverance, Nashville, All the President’s Men, and many more), Beatty was nominated for an Academy Award only once — for his supporting role (won by All the President’s Men costar Jason Robards) as Jensen in Network. Beatty also earned two Emmy nominations — one for 1979’s Friendly Fire; the other for 1990’s Last Train Home — but never won. He received a Golden Globe nomination for his part in 1991’s Hear My Song, and won a Drama Desk award for his 2004 performance as Big Daddy in Broadway’s Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.