Heroes come and go, but it’s the Rip Torns who endure

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Heroes come and go, but it’s the Rip Torns who endure

The character actor's demise puts the spotlight on the great versatility that comes from a lifetime in supporting roles

Ben Lawrence

Reports of the death of the actor Rip Torn last week focused largely on his exploits (attacking Norman Mailer with a hammer) and on what he represented in the Hollywood ecosystem – a malevolent kind of masculinity which reached its apex with actors like Jack Nicholson and Dennis Hopper.

But in some ways, the most striking thing about Rip Torn was the extraordinary breadth of his career.

There were his early roles in such high-profile films as Baby Doll, surprising cult choices (The Man Who Fell to Earth), big franchises (Men in Black) and art-house cool (Marie Antoinette). And that’s before we get to TV (he portrayed Artie the producer for six years on The Larry Sanders Show) or Broadway, where he was particularly noted for his performances in the work of Tennessee Williams and Eugene O’Neill...

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