Ned Beatty, character actor best known for roles in Deliverance and Network, dies age 83

Ned Beatty, the indelible character actor whose first film role in 1972’s Deliverance launched him on a long, prolific and accomplished career, has died. He was 83.

Beatty’s manager, Deborah Miller, said Beatty died Sunday of natural causes at his home in Los Angeles surrounded by friends and loved ones.

After years in regional theater, Beatty was cast in Deliverance as Bobby Trippe, the happy-go-lucky member of a male river-boating party terrorized by backwoods thugs.

The scene in which Trippe is brutally sexually assaulted became the most memorable in the movie and established Beatty as an actor whose name moviegoers may not have known but whose face they always recognized.

“For people like me, there’s a lot of `I know you! I know you! What have I seen you in?”‘ Beatty remarked without rancour in 1992.

Director-producer Robert Altman, right, laughs with Beatty prior to the 25th anniversary screening of Nashville at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in Beverly Hills, Calif., in 2000. (Michael Caulfield/The Associated Press)

Beatty received only one Oscar nomination, as supporting actor for his role as corporate executive Arthur Jensen in 1976’s Network, but he contributed to some of the most popular movies of his time and worked constantly, his credits including more than 150 movies and TV shows.

Beatty’s appearance in Network, scripted by Paddy Chayefsky an directed by Sidney Lumet, was brief but titanic. His three-minute monologue ranks among the greatest in movies.

Jensen summons anchorman Howard Beale —portrayed by Peter Finch — to a long, dimly lit boardroom for a come-to-Jesus about the elemental powers of media.

“You have meddled with the primal forces of nature, Mr. Beale, and I won’t have it!” Beatty shouts from across the boardroom before explaining that there is no America, no democracy.

“There is only IBM and ITT and AT&T and DuPont, Dow, Union Carbide, and Exxon. Those are the nations of the world today.”

WATCH | Beatty’s monologue from Network:

He was equally memorable as Otis, the bungling henchman of Gene Hackman’s villainous Lex Luthor in the first two Christopher Reeve Superman movies and as the racist sheriff in White Lightning

Other films included All The President’s MenThe Front PageNashville and The Big Easy.

‘I like to surprise the audience’

In a 1977 interview, he had explained why he preferred being a supporting actor.

“Stars never want to throw the audience a curveball, but my great joy is throwing curveballs,” he said.

“Being a star cuts down on your effectiveness as an actor because you become an identifiable part of a product and somewhat predictable. You have to mind your P’s and Q’s and nurture your fans. But I like to surprise the audience, to do the unexpected.”

WATCH | Ned Beatty on his acting career:

Actor Ned Beatty talks about his career in film and his love of music 28:50

He landed a rare leading role in the Irish film Hear My Song in 1991. The true story of legendary Irish tenor Josef Locke, who disappeared at the height of a brilliant career, it was well reviewed but largely unseen in the United States.

Between movies, Beatty worked often in TV and theater. He had recurring roles in Roseanne as John Goodman’s father and as a detective on Homicide: Life on the Street.

On Broadway he won critical praise, and a Drama Desk Award, for his portrayal of Big Daddy in a revival of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, a role he had first played as a 21-year-old in a stock company production.

Beatty, left, and Brendan Fraser perform a scene from Cat on a Hot Tin Roof at the Lyric Theatre in London in 2001. (Anthony Harvey/Getty Images)

He created controversy, however, when he was quoted in The New York Times on the skills of his young co-stars, Ashley Judd and Jason Patric.

“Ashley is a sweetie,” he said, “and yet she doesn’t have a lot of tools.” Of Patric, he remarked: “He’s gotten better all the time, but his is a different journey.”

His more recent movies included Toy Story 3 in 2010 and two releases from 2013, The Big Ask and Baggage Claim. He retired soon after.

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