Rip Torn

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Rip Torn
Rip Torn at the 47th Emmy Awards headcrop.jpg
Torn at the 47th Emmy Awards in 1994
Born Elmore Rudolph Torn, Jr.
(1931-02-06) February 6, 1931 (age 85)
Temple, Texas, U.S.
Other names Elmore Rual Torn, Jr.
Rip Torn, Jr.
Elmore Rual Torn
Elmore Torn
Elmore Torn, Jr.
Elmore Rudolph Torn, Jr.
Elmore Rudolph Torn
Occupation Actor, voice artist, comedian
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
Parent(s) Elmore Rual Torn, Sr.
Thelma Mary Torn

Elmore Rual "Rip" Torn, Jr. (born Elmore Rudolph Torn, Jr.; February 6, 1931) is an American actor, voice artist, and comedian.

Torn received an Academy Award nomination as Best Supporting Actor for his role in Cross Creek (1983). 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 Rual Torn, Jr. in Temple, Texas, on February 6, 1931, the son of Elmore Rual Torn, Sr., an agriculturalist and economist, and Thelma Mary Torn (née Spacek).[1] His father was of German and Austrian descent, while his mother was of Czech/Moravian, German and Austrian ancestry.[2] Being given the name "Rip" is a family tradition of men in the Torn family for several generations.[3] Through his mother, he is a first cousin of Oscar-winning actress Sissy Spacek. 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 United States 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 cousin Sissy Spacek to the entertainment business, and helped her enroll in Strasberg's Actors Studio.

One of Torn's earliest roles was in Pork Chop Hill, portraying the brother-in-law of Gregory Peck's character. He also had an uncredited role in A Face in the Crowd as Barry Mills. In 1957, Torn portrayed Jody in an early episode so titled of The Restless Gun. In 1960, he portrayed Ernie Walters in the Alfred Hitchcock Presents episode "The Kiss-Off."[6] Torn also portrayed Judas Iscariot in King of Kings

In 1963, Torn appeared as a graduate student with multiple degrees at fictitious Channing College in Channing. That same year, he appeared as Roy Kendall in the Breaking Point episode "Millions of Faces." In 1964, Torn appeared as Eddie Sanderson in the episode "The Secret in the Stone" in The Eleventh Hour and appeared in the premiere of The Reporter. In 1965, Torn portrayed Colonel Royce in the episode "The Lorelei" of 12 O-Clock High.

Since then, he has been a character actor in numerous films, including roles such as those of New Orleans blackmailer Slade opposite Steve McQueen and Karl Malden in The Cincinnati Kid or Agent Zed in Men in Black and Men in Black II. He also voiced Zeus in Hercules.

The part of George Hanson in 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]

In 1969, Torn portrayed a psychiatrist who installed a hidden camera in his New York office to record his own mental breakdown in Coming Apart. In 1972, he won rave reviews for his portrayal of a country & western singer in the cult film Payday. In 1975, Torn portrayed a chilling portrayal of KKK Imperial Wizard Glen Tuttle in Attack on Terror: The FBI vs. the Ku Klux Klan. In 1976, he starred in The Man Who Fell to Earth. In 1979, Torn appeared in Heartland. He received an Academy Award nomination as Best Supporting Actor for his role in Cross Creek. In 1987, Torn portrayed Sheriff Hank Pearson in Extreme Prejudice.

Torn in 1993

In 1988, he ventured into directing with The Telephone. 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, Whoopi 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 portrayed Colonel Fargo in By Dawn's Early Light. In 1991, he portrayed Albert Brooks' defense attorney in Defending Your Life. In 1993, Torn portrayed the OCP CEO in RoboCop 3, then opposite Tantoo Cardinal in Where the Rivers Flow North,[9] which featured a cameo role for Michael J. Fox. In 2001, Torn portrayed James "Jim" Brody in Freddy Got Fingered.

Stage career[edit]


Torn has appeared in 10 Broadway plays and directed one. In 1959, he made his feature Broadway debut when he played Tom Junior in Sweet Bird of Youth, for which he won a Theater World Award and also received 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 portrayed Edgar in Dance of Death, and directed his first Broadway play in 1973: Look Away. In 1975, he portrayed the Son in the Broadway revival of The Glass Menagerie and 5 years later, portrayed Don in Mixed Couples. For 13 years, Torn was absent from Broadway, but returned in 1993 to portray Chris Christopherson in Anna Christie. In his last Broadway appearance in 1997, Torn portrayed Will Kidder in The Young Man from Atlanta.


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 portrayed Artie in The Larry Sanders Show. For his work, Torn received 6 consecutive Emmy award nominations as Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series and won the award once (1996). Torn was the only actor in the series who won an Emmy Award for his work. Other than the Emmys, he received two American Comedy Awards nominations for Funniest Male Performance in a Series, winning once, and two CableACE Awards for his work on the series.

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 films, as well as dramatic roles in films such as The Insider and Marie Antoinette. He is also known for his voice work and has done voice-overs for many animated films. He lent his voice in Bee Movie.

In 2007 and 2008, he made 5 guest appearances on 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.

In 2015 he reprised his role as Zed in a Men in Black safety video for Air New Zealand.[11]

Personal life[edit]


Torn has been married three times and has 6 children:

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

In 1963, Torn married Geraldine Page, 7 years his senior. Torn and Page 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[12]) and actress Angelica Torn. Torn apparently delighted in the fact that the doorbell of their New York townhouse read Torn Page.[13]

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.[14]

Currently, Torn is married to Amy Wright, with whom he has two children named 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.[15] 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.[16]

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.[17]

On January 29, 2010, he 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.[18] On February 1, 2010, he 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.[19]

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.[20] On December 14, 2010, Torn pled guilty to 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.[21][22]

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."[23]

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.[24][25] 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.[24] The fight is featured in the film. Although the scene may have been planned by Torn, the blood shed by both actors was real,[24] and Torn was reportedly truly outraged by Mailer's direction.[25]

In 1994, he 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.[26][27]


Year Title Role Notes
1956 Baby Doll The Dentist Uncredited
1957 Time Limit Lt. George Miller
1959 Pork Chop Hill Lt. Walter Russel Torn also appears in 1960 in the TV episode "The Kiss-Off" as Ernie Walters (also part of Alfred Hitchcock Presents)
1961 King of Kings Judas Iscariot
1962 Sweet Bird of Youth Thomas J. Finley, Jr.
1963 Critic's Choice Dion Kapakos
The Lieutenant Episode 3, The Proud and the Angry, GySgt Karl Kasten
1965 The Cincinnati Kid Slade
1966 You're a Big Boy Now I.H. Chanticleer
1967 Beach Red Sergeant Honeywell
1969 Coming Apart Joe
1970 Maidstone Raoul Rey O'Houlihan
Tropic of Cancer Henry Miller
1972 Cotter Roy
Slaughter Dominic Hoffo
Payday Maury Dann
Mannix - Season 6 - "The Open Web" Victor Roarke Lead villain in a TV series episode
1973 The President's Plane is Missing George Oldenburg
1974 Crazy Joe Richie
1976 The Man Who Fell to Earth Dr. Nathan Bryce
1977 Nasty Habits Father Maximilian
1977 The Private Files of J. Edgar Hoover Dwight Webb
1978 Coma Dr. George
1978 Steel Cowboy K.W. Hicks TV Movie
1978 The Eddie Capra Mysteries Kilraine TV (episode "The Intimate Friends of Janet Wilde")
1979 The Seduction of Joe Tynan Senator Kittner
Heartland Clyde Stewart
1980 One Trick Pony Walter Fox
Rape and Marriage: The Rideout Case Charles Burt TV Movie
1982 A Stranger Is Watching Artie Taggart
The Beastmaster Maax
Jinxed! Harold Benson
Airplane II: The Sequel Bud Kruger
1983 Cross Creek Marsh Turner Nominated - Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor
1984 Flashpoint Sheriff Wells
City Heat Primo Pitt
1985 Summer Rental Scully
1985 Beer Buzz Beckerman
1987 Extreme Prejudice Sheriff Hank Pearson
Nadine Bufford Pope
1988 April Morning Solomon Chandler TV Movie
1989 Zwei Frauen Dr. Markowitz
Hit List Vic Luca
1990 Beautiful Dreamers Walt Whitman
By Dawns Early Light Colonel Fargo
1991 Columbo: Death Hits the Jackpot Leon Lamarr
Defending Your Life Bob Diamond
Another Pair of Aces: Three of a Kind Captain Jack Parsons TV Movie
1992 Dolly Dearest Karl Resnick
Beyond the Law
1993 RoboCop 3 The CEO
Where the Rivers Flow North Noel Lord
1995 For Better or Worse Captain Cole
Canadian Bacon General Dick Panzer
Letter To My Killer Russel Vanik TV Movie
How to Make an American Quilt Arthur
1996 Down Periscope Vice Adm. Dean Winslow
1997 Trial and Error Benny Gibbs
Hercules Zeus Voice Only
Men in Black Zed Nominated - Satellite Award for Best Supporting Actor – Motion Picture
1998 Senseless Randall Tyson
1999 Balloon Farm Harvey H. Potter TV Movie
The Insider John Scanlon
2000 Wonder Boys Quentin 'Q' Morewood
2001 Freddy Got Fingered Jim Brody Nominated - Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Supporting Actor
2002 Maniac Magee George McNab TV Movie
Men in Black II Zed
2003 Rolling Kansas Oldman
Love Object Novak
2004 Welcome to Mooseport Bert Langdon
Eulogy Edmund Collins
Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story Patches O'Houlihan
2005 Forty Shades of Blue Alan James
The Sisters Dr. Chebrin
Yours, Mine and Ours Commandant Sherman
2006 Marie Antoinette Louis XV
Zoom Larraby
2007 Three Days to Vegas Joe Wallace
Turn the River Teddy Quinette
Bee Movie Lou Lo Duca & the Pollen Jocks General Voice Only
2008 The Golden Boys Captain Jeremiah "Jerry" Burgess
August David Sterling
2009 American Cowslip Trevor O'Hart
Happy Tears Joe
30 Rock Don Geiss TV: 7 Episodes
The Afterlight Carl
2010 God of War III Hephaestus Voice Only
2011 The Legend of Awesomest Maximus King Looney
3 Weeks to Daytona Sal
2012 Bridge of Names Tom
2013 Johnny Kidd Frank


  1. ^ "Rip Torn Biography (1931-)". 
  2. ^ Battle, Robert. "Ancestry of Rip Torn". Retrieved 2008-07-10. 
  3. ^ "Rip Torn". IMDb. 
  4. ^ "Rip Torn". Texas Monthly. 
  5. ^ Biskind, Peter (1998). Easy Riders, Raging Bulls. New York: Simon & Schuster. p. 68. ISBN 0-684-80996-6. 
  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. ^ lseeber-1 (4 March 1994). "Where the Rivers Flow North (1993)". IMDb. 
  10. ^ The Hollywood Gossip article: "Rip Torn Pleads Not Guilty in Drunken Bank Robbery."
  11. ^ "Air NZ teams up with All Blacks for new safety video". August 13, 2015. 
  12. ^ "Faculty – School of Communication". Northern Arizona University. Retrieved 2011-04-11. 
  13. ^ Erickson, Hal (2007-05-01). "Geraldine Page". The New York Times. Retrieved 2007-05-01. 
  14. ^ "Sissy Spacek Biography". 1949-12-25. Retrieved 2011-04-11. 
  15. ^ Hall, Sarah (2004-10-28). "Rip Torn Cleared of DUI". E! Online. Retrieved 2007-04-26. 
  16. ^ "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. 
  17. ^ 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. 
  18. ^ Hayes, Kevin (March 30, 2010). "Rip Torn Pleads "Not Guilty" in Alleged Booze-Fueled Bank Break-in". CBS News. 
  19. ^ Rip Torn Pleads Not Guilty in Bank Break-in. YouTube. 30 March 2010. 
  20. ^ "Judge Rejects Rip Torn's Probation Request". E! Online. 2010-08-11. Retrieved 2011-04-11. 
  21. ^ "Rip Torn Pleads Guilty in Bank Break-In Case". 
  22. ^ Associated Press (December 14, 2010). "Actor Rip Torn Pleads Guilty in Connecticut Bank Break-in". 
  23. ^ 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. 
  24. ^ 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. 
  25. ^ a b Rollyson, Carl (1991). The Lives of Norman Mailer: A Biography. Paragon House. pp. 210–211. ISBN 1-55778-193-1. 
  26. ^ JANET SHPRINTZ (1998-04-02). "Appeals court upholds judgment vs. Hopper:Torn wins defamation case and punitive damages". Variety. Retrieved 2012-07-26. 
  27. ^ "Torn rips Hopper coin". Retrieved 2 January 2013. 

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