Longtime Film & Television Character Actor Ed Lauter Has Died at 74
Though audiences may not be as familiar with the names of character actors as they are with the A-list stars who are bombarded by paparazzi and appear in the tabloids and gossip websites non-stop, that doesn't make them any less important in the world of cinema. Sadly, Hollywood has lost another great character actor this week as THR reports Ed Lauter, who most recently appeared as Berenice Bejo's butler in The Artist, and recurred on Showtime's series "Shameless," has passed away at age 74. Earlier this summer, Lauter learned he had contracted mesothelioma, and he finally lost that battle with the terminal cancer.
Lauter has been acting since 1971 after making his debut in an episode of the series "Mannix." He would arrive on the big screen just one year later in the western Dirty Little Billy. The actor turned that into a career that now spans over 200 films and TV episodes. As a character actor, Lauter has worked with some of the biggest names in the business, including having a role in Alfred Hitchcock's final film Family Plot in 1976, a role that he received after Hitchcock saw his performance in the original prison football classic The Longest Yard with Burt Reynolds. The trade recalls the story of how he was cast:
“Hitchcock came out of his screening room, walked back into the office and said, ‘He’s very good, isn’t he?’” Lauter recalled in a 2003 interview. “[His assistant Peggy Anderson], thinking that he meant Burt Reynolds, said, ‘Yes, he is.’ ”
“Hitchcock said, ‘What’s his name again?’ Now, Peggy’s lost; he doesn’t know who Burt Reynolds is? Then, Hitchcock said, ‘Ed something …’ and when Peggy told him, ‘Ed Lauter,’ he said, ‘Yes, we’ve got our Maloney.’ He had actually told Peggy that he wasn’t going to do the film unless he first cast Maloney, the antagonist.”
Lauter starred in plenty of other recognizable films including The Last American Hero, French Connection II, the remake of King Kong in 1976, the horror film Cujo, Joe Johnston's adventure throwback The Rocketeer, Leaving Las Vegas, Mullholland Falls, Seabiscuit, The Number 23, Trouble with the Curve and a hilarious little appearance in the spoof Not Another Teen Movie (goddamnit). His long list of TV series appearances include but are not limited to a whole slew of crime drama series like "Kojak," "Hawaii Five-0," "Charlies Angels," "The Rockford Files," "Magnum P.I.," and "Miami Vice." More recent appearances include "Cold Case" and "CSI." Lauter was a recognizable and gifted character actor, and our thoughts go out to his friends and family. Rest in peace.