Ned Beatty, an Oscar-nominated character actor who appeared in dozens of films and TV shows throughout his career, has died at the age of 83.
Rising to fame with a role in Deliverance in 1972, Beatty went on to appear in films including Superman and Superman 2 alongside Christopher Reeve, Network, All The President’s Men, and Charlie Wilson’s War.
His manager, Deborah Miller, said the actor died of natural causes at his home in Los Angeles, California, on Sunday, surrounded by his friends and loved ones.
After spending his early acting career on stage, Beatty was cast as Bobby Trippe in Deliverance, also starring Jon Voight and Burt Reynolds, playing a happy-go-lucky member of a male river-boating party terrorised by thugs.
In one scene, his character was forced to strip at gunpoint by two men who humiliated and raped him – a scene so shocking at the time that it is still referred to as a screen milestone.
Beatty appeared in more than 160 films and TV shows throughout his career, including playing Lex Luthor’s bumbling henchman Otis in the two Superman films in 1978 and 1980.
He received one Oscar nomination, for best supporting actor for his brief but memorable role as corporate executive Arthur Jensen in 1976’s Network, but lost out on the award to his All The President’s Men co-star Jason Robards.
In Network, Jensen summons anchorman Howard Beale, played by Peter Finch, to a long, dimly lit boardroom where he gives a famous monologue on the elemental powers of media.
Other roles included a racist sheriff in White Lightning and appearances in The Front Page, Nashville, and The Big Easy. He also landed a rare leading role in the Irish film Hear My Song, released in 1991, a true story based on the disappearance of legendary tenor Josef Locke at the height of his career.
In an interview in 1977, he explained why he preferred being a supporting actor. “Stars never want to throw the audience a curveball, but my great joy is throwing curveballs,” he told The New York Times.
“Being a star cuts down on your effectiveness as an actor because you become an identifiable part of a product and somewhat predictable. You have to mind your Ps and Qs and nurture your fans. But I like to surprise the audience, to do the unexpected.”
Beatty was born in 1937 in Louisville, Kentucky, and was raised in Lexington, where he joined the Protestant Disciples of Christ Christian Church.
“It was the theatre I attended as a kid,” he said in 1992. “It was where people got down to their truest emotions and talked about things they didn’t talk about in everyday life. The preaching was very often theatrical.”
The actor was married four times and had eight children. His last film before retirement was the comedy Baggage Claim in 2013.
Fans and those in the entertainment industry have paid tribute on social media.
Quoting Beatty’s famous speech from Network, author and journalist Nick Milligan wrote on Twitter: “‘You have meddled with the primal forces of nature, Mr Beale, and I won’t have it!’
“From his fearless big-screen debut in Deliverance to the bumbling Otis in Superman, #NedBeatty was a chameleonic actor. His monologue in Network is one of the greatest moments in cinema. Period.”