Ned Beatty, the indelible character actor whose first film role as a genial vacationer brutally raped by a backwoodsman in 1972's Deliverance launched him on a long, prolific and accomplished career, has died. He was 83.
Beatty's manager, Deborah Miller, said Beatty died on Sunday of natural causes at his home in Los Angeles surrounded by friends and loved ones.
After years in regional theatre, Beatty was cast in Deliverance as Bobby Trippe, the happy-go-lucky member of a male river-boating party terrorised by backwoods thugs. The scene in which Trippe is brutalised became the most memorable in the movie and established Beatty as an actor whose name moviegoers may not have known but whose face they always recognised.
"For people like me, there's a lot of 'I know you! I know you! What have I seen you in?"' Beatty remarked without rancour in 1992.
Beatty received only one Oscar nomination, as supporting actor for his role as corporate executive Arthur Jensen in 1976's Network, but he contributed to some of the most popular movies of his time and worked constantly, his credits including more than 150 movies and TV shows.
He was equally memorable as Otis, the idiot henchman of villainous Lex Luther in the first two Christopher Reeve Superman movies and as the racist sheriff in White Lightning. Other films included All The President's Men, The Front Page, Nashville, and The Big Easy. In a 1977 interview, he had explained why he preferred being a supporting actor.
He landed a rare leading role in the Irish film Hear My Song in 1991. Between movies, Beatty worked often in TV and theatre. He had recurring roles in Roseanne as John Goodman's father and as a detective on Homicide: Life on the Street.
On Broadway he won critical praise (and a Drama Desk Award) for his portrayal of Big Daddy in a revival of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, a role he had first played as a 21-year-old in a stock company production.
Ned Thomas Beatty was born in 1937 in Louisville, Kentucky, and raised in Lexington, where he joined the Protestant Disciples of Christ Christian Church. For a time he thought of becoming a priest, but changed his mind after he was cast in a high school production of Harvey.
He spent 10 summers at the Barter Theater in Abingdom, Virginia, and eight years at the Arena Stage Company in Washington, DC. Then his life changed forever when he took a train to New York to audition for director John Boorman for the role of Bobby Trippe. Boorman told him the role was cast, but changed his mind after seeing Beatty audition.
Beatty, who married Sandra Johnson in 1999, had eight children from three previous marriages.
Australian Associated Press