Ed Lauter remembered as menacing character actor

Lauter's work spanned five decades and included many roles in film and TV. His characters often interrupted plot lines, turning stories in new directions.   

John Shearer/Invision/AP, File
In this file photo, Ed Lauter attends the 'Hitchcock' gala screening as part of AFI Fest in Los Angeles last year. Lauter, who died Wednesday, said he was inspired by real-life characters from his childhood.

Veteran character actor Ed Lauter, whose long, angular face and stern bearing made him an instantly recognizable figure in scores of movies and TV shows during a career that stretched across five decades, died Wednesday. 

Whether he was an irascible authority figure, a brutal thug or a conniving con man, Lauter's presence made him all but impossible to miss in any film he was in. That was so even on those occasions when he was playing a character more bumbling than menacing, although menacing was clearly his forte.

He was the brutal prison guard who was Burt Reynolds' nemesis in the 1974 comedy-drama "The Longest Yard" and the sleazy gas station attendant in Alfred Hitchcock's last film, "The Family Plot." In "Death Wish 3," he was the violent cop who teams with Charles Bronson's vigilante to rid New York City's streets of criminals, not by incarcerating them but by killing them.

More recently he was the butler to Berenice Bejo's French ingenue in the 2011 Oscar-winning film "The Artist."

Lauter described himself in a 2010 interview with Cinema Shock magazine as a "turn" actor, someone who shows up at some point in the film and suddenly turns the plot in a different direction.

He credited the cast of real-life characters he grew up observing in his native Long Beach, New York, as inspiring many of the characters he would go on to portray.

He laughed at being someone frequently recognized in public for his roles.

"But sometimes people don't know my name," he said. "They'll say, 'Oh, yeah! There's that guy! You were in ... you were in ... "

He was in "Trouble With the Curve" in 2011 with Clint Eastwood and in "Born on the Fourth of July" with Tom Cruise. He was also in "The New Centurions" with George C. Scott and in "My Blue Heaven," ''Revenge of the Nerds 2" and "Not Another Teenage Movie," among many other films.

TV appearances included "The Office," ''ER," ''Murder, She Wrote" and "The Rockford Files."

Among his favorite roles, he said in 2010, was "The Longest Yard."

He recalled that director Robert Aldrich told him he didn't have to read for the part but would have to accompany Aldrich to a nearby park so the director could ensure that he could throw a football like a quarterback would. When he hit former NFL receiver Pat Studstill, who was a stuntman in the movie, right in his jersey number with the first pass, Lauter said Aldrich told him he had the job.

Lauter, who continued to work until a few months ago, had completed roles in several films still to be released.

He is survived by his wife, Mia, and four children.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.