Rip Torn

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Rip Torn
Rip Torn at the 47th Emmy Awards headcrop.jpg
at the 47th Emmy Awards (1994)
Born Elmore Rual Torn, Jr.
(1931-02-06) February 6, 1931 (age 83)
Temple, Texas, U.S.
Occupation Actor
Years active 1956–present
Spouse(s) Ann Wedgeworth
(1955–1961; divorced)
Geraldine Page
(1963–1987; her death)
Amy Wright
Children Danae Torn
Tony Torn
Jon Torn
Angelica Torn
Katie Torn
Claire Torn

Elmore Rual "Rip" Torn, Jr. (born February 6, 1931), is an American actor of stage, screen and television.

Torn received an Academy Award nomination as Best Supporting Actor for his role in the 1983 film Cross Creek. His work includes the role of Artie, the producer, on The Larry Sanders Show, for which he was nominated for six Emmy Awards, winning in 1996. Torn also won an American Comedy Award for Funniest Supporting Male in a Series, and two CableACE Awards for his work on the show, and was nominated for a Satellite Award in 1997 as well.

Early life[edit]

Torn was born Elmore Rudolph[citation needed] Torn, Jr. (his middle name was later changed) in Temple, Texas, the son of Thelma Mary (née Spacek) and Elmore Rual Torn, Sr., an agriculturalist and economist.[1] His father was of German and Austrian descent, while his mother was of Czech, German and Austrian descent.[2] Being given the name "Rip" is a family tradition of men in the Torn family for several generations.[3] He was a member of the Texas A&M University Corps of Cadets although he graduated from the University of Texas,[4] and was a member of the Alpha Nu chapter of the Sigma Chi fraternity. After graduation he served in the Military Police in the U.S. Army.[5]

Film career[edit]

At the University of Texas, Torn had studied drama with Ben Iden Payne, and after relocating from his native Texas to Hollywood, he made his debut in the 1956 film Baby Doll. Torn then headed to New York where he studied at the Actors Studio under Lee Strasberg, becoming a prolific stage actor, appearing in the original cast of Tennessee Williams' play Sweet Bird of Youth, and reprising the role in the film and television adaptations. While in New York, Torn introduced his first cousin, the Oscar-winning actress Sissy Spacek, to the entertainment business, and helped her enroll in Strasberg's Actors Studio.

One of his earliest roles was in the film Pork Chop Hill, playing the brother-in-law of Gregory Peck's character. He also played an uncredited role in A Face in the Crowd as Barry Mills, touted as the down-home successor to Andy Griffith's megalomaniacal TV star Lonesome Rhodes. In 1957 Torn played "Jody", a young man trying to avenge the death of his father in an early episode so titled of John Payne's NBC western television series, The Restless Gun. In 1960 he played the arrogant young thief Ernie Walters on Alfred Hitchcock Presents in the "The Kiss-Off." [6] Rip also played Judas Iscariot in MGM's King of Kings released in 1961.

In 1963 he appeared as a graduate student with multiple degrees at fictitious Channing College in the ABC drama Channing starring Jason Evers and Henry Jones. That same year, he appeared as Roy Kendall in the episode "Millions of Faces" in the ABC medical drama about psychiatry, Breaking Point with Paul Richards. In 1964 Torn appeared as Eddie Sanderson in the episode "The Secret in the Stone" of the NBC psychiatric drama, The Eleventh Hour with Ralph Bellamy and Jack Ging. That same year, he appeared in the premiere of the short-lived CBS drama The Reporter, starring Harry Guardino as a New York City journalist. In 1965 he portrayed Colonel Royce in the "The Lorelei" episode of 12 O-Clock High (TV series).

He has been a character actor in numerous films since then, including roles such as those of New Orleans blackmailer Slade opposite Steve McQueen and Karl Malden in 1965's The Cincinnati Kid or the gruff boss Agent Zed in 1997's Men in Black and 2002's Men in Black II. He also voiced the almighty Zeus in Disney's Hercules (1997 film).

The part of lawyer George Hanson in the Peter FondaDennis Hopper road movie Easy Rider was written for Torn by Terry Southern (who was a close friend), but according to Southern's biographer Lee Hill, Torn withdrew from the project after he and co-director Dennis Hopper got into a bitter argument in a New York restaurant. On The Tonight Show in 1994, Hopper said that the argument ended with Torn pulling a knife—a statement Hopper later rescinded after Torn filed a defamation lawsuit (see "On-set conflicts" below).[7] As a result, Torn was replaced by Jack Nicholson, whose appearance in the film catapulted him to stardom.[8]

Torn portrayed a psychiatrist who installed a hidden camera in his New York office to record his own mental breakdown in Coming Apart (1969). In 1972 he won rave reviews for his portrayal of a country & western singer in the cult film Payday. Torn then played a chilling portrayal of KKK Imperial Wizard Glen Tuttle in the true life NBC-TV movie Attack on Terror: The FBI vs. the Ku Klux Klan (1975). In 1976 he starred in the cult classic science fiction movie The Man Who Fell to Earth. In 1979 Torn along with Conchata Ferrell starred in the Richard Pearce directed film "Heartland" about early homestead life in western America. He received an Academy Award nomination as Best Supporting Actor for his role in the 1983 film Cross Creek. He had a Brief role in Extreme Prejudice opposite Nick Nolte.

Rip Torn in 1993

In 1988 he ventured into directing with the offbeat comedy The Telephone, starring Whoopi Goldberg. The screenplay was written by Terry Southern and Harry Nilsson, and the film was produced by their company Hawkeye. The story, which focused on an unhinged, out-of-work actor, had been written with Robin Williams in mind. After he turned it down, Goldberg expressed a strong interest, but when production began Torn reportedly had to contend with Goldberg constantly digressing and improvising, and he had to plead with her to perform takes that stuck to the script. Goldberg was backed by the studio, who also allowed her to replace Torn's chosen DP, veteran cinematographer John Alonzo, with her then-husband. As a result of the power struggle, Torn, Southern and Nilsson cut their own version of the film, using the takes that adhered to the script, and this was screened at the Sundance Film Festival, but the studio put together a rival version using other takes and it was poorly reviewed when it premiered in January 1988.[8] In 1990 he played the ultra-hawkish Colonel Fargo in the cold war drama By Dawn's Early Light. In 1991 he portrayed Albert Brooks' defense attorney in the comedy Defending Your Life. In 1993 Torn played the OCP CEO in the science fiction film, RoboCop 3, then opposite Tantoo Cardinal in Where the Rivers Flow North,[9] which featured a cameo role for Michael J. Fox. He played Gord's dad, James "Jim" Brody, in the 2001 film Freddy Got Fingered.

Stage career[edit]


Torn has appeared in ten Broadway plays, and directed one. He made his feature Broadway debut in 1959, when he played Tom Junior in Sweet Bird of Youth, for which he won a Theater World Award, also receiving a Tony Award nomination. He returned next in 1962 in the play Daughter of Silence as Carlo, following that with a role in the 1963 production of Strange Interlude. In 1964, he played Lyle Britten in Blues for Mister Charlie, and four years later he was Roberto in The Cuban Thing for its only performance on September 24, 1968. In 1971 he played Edgar in Dance of Death, and directed his first Broadway play in 1973: Look Away. He played The Son in the Broadway revival of The Glass Menagerie in 1975, and five years later played Don in Mixed Couples. Torn was absent from Broadway for thirteen years, but returned in 1993 to play Chris Christopherson in Anna Christie. In his last Broadway appearance he played Will Kidder in The Young Man from Atlanta in 1997.

Off Broadway[edit]

Torn made his feature Off Broadway acting debut as Eben Cabot in the play Desire Under the Elms, followed by Peter in The Kitchen at the 81st Street Theatre. His third Off Broadway role was Marion-Faye-A-Pimp in The Deer Park, for which he won the 1967 Obie Award for Distinguished Performance. He performed at the Lucille Lortel Theatre in the play Dream of a Blacklisted Actor, and later in the Joseph Papp Public Theater's Anspacher Theater as William McLeod in Barbary Shore. He last acted Off Broadway at the American Place Theatre as Henry Hackamore in the play Seduced.

Torn's Off Broadway debut as director was for the Evergreen Theater with the play The Beard; he won the 1968 Obie for Distinguished Direction for that work. He next directed The Honest-to-God Schnozzia at the Gramercy Arts Theater, followed by Strindberg's Creditors and The Stronger – in which he acted beside his wife at the time, Geraldine Page and his future wife, Pasha Dabiri – in the Anspacher Theater of the Joseph Papp Public Theater. Torn and Page also co-produced that production, and had previously presented the two plays along with Miss Julie at the off-off-Broadway Hudson Guild Theatre the year before.

The Larry Sanders Show[edit]

From 1992 to 1998 Torn played veteran television producer "Artie" on the HBO series The Larry Sanders Show, a satire about celebrity-driven Hollywood talk shows. For his work, Torn received six consecutive Emmy award nominations as Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series and won the award once (1996). Torn is the only actor on the show who won an Emmy Award for his work. Other than the Emmys, Torn received two American Comedy Awards nominations for Funniest Male Performance in a Series, winning once, and two CableACE Awards for his work on the show.

Later career[edit]

Following The Larry Sanders Show, Torn has appeared in many comedic roles in films such as Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story, Freddy Got Fingered, Canadian Bacon, Rolling Kansas and the first two Men in Black movies, as well as dramatic roles in films such as The Insider and Marie Antoinette. Torn is also known for his voice work, and has done voice-overs for many animated films. He lent his voice to the Jerry Seinfeld film Bee Movie.

In 2007 and 2008 Torn made five guest appearances on the Emmy-award winning NBC comedy 30 Rock as the fictional Chief Executive Officer of General Electric, Don Geiss. He was nominated for an Emmy Award in the category for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series, but lost to Tim Conway, who also guest starred in the same sitcom. Torn's character was reportedly killed off as a direct result of his 2010 arrest,[10] though Tina Fey denied this in a DVD commentary. Torn voiced the character of Hephaestus in the 2010 video game, God of War III.

Torn also appears in the music video for the They Might Be Giants song Can't Keep Johnny Down, from their 2011 album Join Us.

Personal life[edit]


Torn has been married three times and has six children:

Torn was married to actress Ann Wedgeworth from 1956 to 1961 with whom he had a daughter, Danae Torn.

In 1963, Torn married the Oscar-winning actress Geraldine Page, seven years his senior. Page and Torn remained married until her death in 1987. They had three children: actor Tony Torn, Jon Torn (an assistant professor of Electronic Media and Film at Northern Arizona University[11]) and actress Angelica Torn. Torn apparently delighted in the fact that the doorbell of their New York townhouse read Torn Page.[12]

His maternal first cousin, Sissy Spacek, lived with Torn and Page when she first moved to New York (circa 1966) to pursue a show business career. Torn helped her enroll in the Actors Studio.[13]

He is currently married to actress Amy Wright with whom he has two children, Katie and Claire.

Legal troubles[edit]

In January 2004, Torn was arrested in New York City after his car collided with a taxi. A video of his arrest in which he curses at officers and angrily refuses a breathalyzer test was aired on television news outlets. In October 2004, a jury acquitted Torn of any wrongdoing.[14]

In December 2006, Torn was again arrested for drunk driving in North Salem, New York, after colliding with a tractor trailer. In April 2007 Torn pleaded guilty and had his driver's license suspended for 90 days and was required to pay a $380 fine.[15]

On December 14, 2008, Torn was again arrested on suspicion of drunk driving. A bartender at the White Hart Inn in Salisbury, Connecticut reportedly served Torn, but apparently noticed he appeared intoxicated as he was leaving the establishment, according to a police report. Torn reportedly refused a ride home and got into his vehicle, (a 1994 Subaru Legacy) with a Christmas tree tied on top and drove away. He was convicted and sentenced to probation in May 2009.[16]

On January 29, 2010, Torn was arrested after breaking into a closed Litchfield Bancorp branch office in Lakeville, Connecticut, where Torn maintains a residence. He was charged with carrying a firearm without a permit, carrying a firearm while intoxicated, first-degree burglary, second-degree criminal trespassing and third-degree criminal mischief. The Connecticut State Police said that Torn broke into the bank thinking it was his home.[17]

On February 1, 2010, Torn appeared in court where his attorney, A. Thomas Waterfall, told the judge that his client needed help with his alcohol abuse and that he could start treatment immediately in New York state. Torn was released on $100,000 bail. As a condition of his release, the judge said Torn must be evaluated for substance abuse.

On August 11, 2010, Torn was denied special probation which would have allowed his name to be cleared of charges. The judge in the case cited Torn's history of alcohol abuse and the possession of a loaded weapon while intoxicated, which carries a minimum one-year sentence.[18] On December 14, 2010, Torn pled guilty to a litany of charges: reckless endangerment, criminal trespass, criminal mischief and the illegal carrying of a firearm and was given a two-and-a-half-year suspended jail sentence and three years probation.[19][20]

On-set conflicts[edit]

Appearing as an interview subject in Studs Terkel's 1974 oral-history book Working, Torn confessed, "I have certain flaws in my make-up. Something called irascibility. I get angry easily. I get saddened by things easily."[21]

While filming Maidstone (1970) Torn, apparently unhappy with the film, struck director and star of the film Norman Mailer in the head with a hammer.[22][23] With the camera rolling, Mailer bit Torn's ear and they wrestled to the ground. The fight continued until it was broken up by cast and crew members as Mailer's children screamed in the background.[22] The fight is featured in the film. Although the scene may have been planned by Torn, the blood shed by both actors is real,[22] and Torn was reportedly truly outraged by Mailer's direction.[23]

In 1994 Torn filed a defamation lawsuit against Dennis Hopper over a story Hopper told on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.[8] Hopper claimed that Torn pulled a knife on him during pre-production of the film Easy Rider (1969). According to Hopper, Torn was originally cast in the film but was replaced with Jack Nicholson after the incident. According to Torn's suit, it was actually Hopper who pulled the knife on him, and Torn demanded a retraction from Hopper. A trial court judge ruled in Torn's favor and Hopper was ordered to pay $475,000 in compensatory damages but denied Torn's request for punitive damages, ruling Hopper had not acted with malice. Hopper then appealed the ruling, and a California appellate court upheld the trial court's ruling for compensatory damages, and reversed the ruling for the punitive damages, requiring Hopper to pay another $475,000 to Torn.[24][25]


Main article: Rip Torn filmography


  1. ^ "Rip Torn Biography (1931-)". 
  2. ^ Battle, Robert. "Ancestry of Rip Torn". Retrieved 2008-07-10. 
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^ Biskind, Peter (1998). Easy Riders, Raging Bulls. New York: Simon & Schuster. p. 68. ISBN 0684809966. 
  6. ^ full episode available at
  7. ^ "Court ruling doubles the 'Easy' score: Torn 2, Hopper zip". CNN. 1999-05-11. Retrieved 2007-04-26. 
  8. ^ a b c Hill, Lee (2001). A Grand Guy: The Life and Art of Terry Southern. Bloomsbury. 
  9. ^
  10. ^ The Hollywood Gossip article: "Rip Torn Pleads Not Guilty in Drunken Bank Robbery."
  11. ^ "Faculty - School of Communication". Northern Arizona University. Retrieved 2011-04-11. 
  12. ^ Erickson, Hal (2007-05-01). "Geraldine Page". The New York Times. Retrieved 2007-05-01. 
  13. ^ "Sissy Spacek Biography". 1949-12-25. Retrieved 2011-04-11. 
  14. ^ Hall, Sarah (2004-10-28). "Rip Torn Cleared of DUI". E! Online. Retrieved 2007-04-26. 
  15. ^ "Rip Torn Pleads Guilty To Driving While Impaired". Access Hollywood. Associated Press. 2007-04-17. Archived from the original on 2007-09-29. Retrieved 2007-04-26. 
  16. ^ Derosa, Ronald (30 January 2010). "Actor Rip Torn arrested, charged with breaking into local bank with loaded gun". The Register Citizen. Retrieved 6 July 2010. 
  17. ^ Hayes, Kevin (March 30, 2010). "Rip Torn Pleads "Not Guilty" in Alleged Booze-Fueled Bank Break-in". CBS News. 
  18. ^ "Judge Rejects Rip Torn's Probation Request". E! Online. 2010-08-11. Retrieved 2011-04-11. 
  19. ^ "Rip Torn Pleads Guilty in Bank Break-In Case". 
  20. ^ Associated Press (December 14, 2010). "Actor Rip Torn Pleads Guilty in Connecticut Bank Break-in". 
  21. ^ Terkel, Studs (1974). Working: People Talk About What They Do All Day and How They Feel About What They Do. New York: Pantheon Books. p. 82. ISBN 0-394-47884-3. 
  22. ^ a b c Scott, A.O. (2007-07-20). "Norman Mailer, Unbound and on Film: Revisiting His Bigger-Than-Life Selves". The New York Times. Retrieved 2012-05-28. 
  23. ^ a b Rollyson, Carl (1991). The Lives of Norman Mailer: A Biography. Paragon House. pp. 210–211. ISBN 1-55778-193-1. 
  24. ^ JANET SHPRINTZ (1998-04-02). "Appeals court upholds judgment vs. Hopper:Torn wins defamation case and punitive damages". Variety. Retrieved 2012-07-26. 
  25. ^ "Torn rips Hopper coin". Retrieved 2 January 2013. 

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