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SYFY WIRE obituary

Hard-nosed character actor Rip Torn, known for Men in Black and Beastmaster, dead at 88

By Christian Long
Rip Torn Men in Black

Rip Torn, a steely-eyed actor who commanded a profound amount of gravitas, passed away today at his home in Lakeville, Connecticut at the age of 88. His death was first announced by a representative via a press release, and later confirmed by Variety

Born in Temple, Texas in 1931, Torn did a stint in the army before moving out to Hollywood in the 1950s to start an acting career. He went on to play a number of memorable characters in beloved genre films over those six-plus decades.

Torn's seemingly innate grumpiness made him a natural fit for Zed, the high-ranking boss from 1997's Men in Black and 2002's Men in Black II, though he also had an uncredited role as an alien in Men in Black 3 in 2012. In 1976, he acted opposite David Bowie in the sci-fi odyssey The Man Who Fell to Earth. Six years later, his portrayal of Maax would become one of the most terrifying parts of the 1982 fantasy epic The Beastmaster, as did his role as the merciless OCP CEO in 1993's Robocop 3. The actor also had a bit of a lighter side, evident when he played a stern but lovable afterlife defense attorney in Albert Brooks' 1991 comedy Defending Your Life

But Torn didn't need to actually appear on film to have the weight of his presence felt. In 1997, he voiced Zeus in Disney's Hercules, later reprising the role in two video games based on the film, Hercules and Hercules Animated Storybook. He also lent his gravelly pipes to Lou Lo Duca in 2007's Bee Movie

Outside of genre, the actor portrayed several noteworthy figures on screen and stage, ranging from General Ulysses S. Grant to Richard Nixon, Louis XV, and Judas. He was nominated for an Emmy six different times for the supporting role of Artie on the '90s HBO sitcom The Larry Sanders Show, eventually winning in 1996. And no one will forget his immortal portrayal of Patches O'Houlihan in the 2004 slacker comedy Dodgeball

In more recent years, he had quite the guest-run on the NBC sitcom 30 Rock as the calculating network head Don Geiss. His last credited role was in 2016 as the character M in Comedy Central's short-lived animated anthology TripTank

Torn is survived by his six children, as well as his third wife, actress Amy Wright.