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6 Facts About Rip Torn, The Late ‘Men In Black’ And ‘Larry Sanders’ Actor

Posted at 1:46 PM, Jul 10, 2019

Rip Torn, a beloved Emmy-winning actor, died on July 9 at the age of 88.

He had a long career in Hollywood and was most well-known for roles like the character Patches O’Houlihan in “Dodgeball,” agency boss Zed in “Men in Black,” and the naval officer in “Down Periscope.” In 1983, Torn was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his role in “Cross Creek.”

Torn died surrounded by his family, his publicist confirmed to the Associated Press. No cause of death was given.

Here are some facts about Torn, who entertained audiences for seven decades:

1. His unique name comes from a boyhood nickname

Elmore Rual Torn was born in Texas in 1931. He picked up the nickname “Rip” during his early childhood years, just like his father and uncle. Yet he was teased throughout his life for the unique name, and was encouraged to change it in the entertainment business.

Against his wishes, Torn was billed as “Elmore Torn” when he appeared in “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” on Broadway in the 195os, according to the AP. He was also billed as “Eric Torn” on a TV show, which he was forced to do after being told he’d have to give up the role. Fortunately for him, he was billed by Rip Torn for the rest of his career.

Rip Torn photo
Getty Images | Brad Barket

2. Torn was the only ‘Larry Sanders Show’ actor to win an Emmy

The comedian is perhaps best known for his role as Arthur on “The Larry Sanders Show,” which he played from 1992 until 1996. The show starred Gary Shandling as a late-night TV host and Torn played his loyal producer. He won an Emmy Award for outstanding supporting actor in a comedy series for the role in 1996, making him the only actor on the show to receive an Emmy Award. He appeared on the show alongside actors including Jeffrey Tambor, Janeane Garofolo, Mary Lynn Rajskub, and Jeremy Piven.

3. He appeared in 10 plays on Broadway

Torn appeared in 10 Broadway shows and directed one show as well, according to He debuted on Broadway in 1959, playing the character Tom Junior in the Tennessee Williams play “Sweet Bird of Youth,” directed by Elia Kazan. He won a Theater World award and a Tony Award nomination for that role. Torn starred in that play alongside Paul Newman and Geraldine Page, an actress whom he married from 1963 to 1987.

4. Torn was arrested for breaking into a bank

Torn made headlines in 2010 when he broke into a bank in Lakefield, Connecticut, while intoxicated, claiming he thought was his own home. The actor pleaded guilty to illegally carrying a firearm, criminal trespass, criminal mischief, and reckless endangerment. He was given a suspended jail sentence and three years probation, as well as random drug and alcohol testing. He also sought help for substance abuse in light of the incident.

Rip Torn photo
Getty Images | Wendy Carlson

5. He has been an on-screen leader

Torn has been very presidential at times: He played the role of President Lyndon B. Johnson in the 1987 TV movie “J. Edgar Hoover,” as well as Richard Nixon in “Blind Ambition,” a 1979 TV mini-series. He also played Gen. Ulysses S. Grant in the 1982 TV mini-series “The Blue and the Gray.” Other leadership titles his characters have had include senators, generals, sheriff and admiral — to name a few.

6. He was a bit of a hothead

While filming the movie “Maidstone,” which was released in 1970, Torn struck the director and star Norman Mailer in the head with a hammer, and the two wrestled to the ground. The fight had to broken up by others on the set. (Mailer bit Torn’s ear in the fight.)

In the 1990s, Torn got into a scuffle with actor Dennis Hopper in which a knife was pulled. Hopper said Torn pulled the knife on him, while Torn said it happened the other way around. Torn was so angry that Hopper said he pulled the knife in a story he told while on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” he sued Hopper for defamation — and won.

Rip Torn photo
Getty Images | Wendy Carlson

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