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Rip Torn (born February 6, 1931) is an American actor. His work includes the role of Artie 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 Larry Sanders Show. He was also nominated for a Satellite Award in 1997.

Early life

Torn was born Elmore Rual Torn, Jr. in Temple, Texasmarker, the son of Thelma Mary (née Spacek) and Elmore Rual Torn, an agriculturalist and economist. Being given the name "Rip" is a family tradition of men in the Torn family for several generations. It was given to him by his father, who was also called Rip; although as a young child and teenager he was referred to as "Skippy." He graduated from Texas A&M Universitymarker in 1952. Torn introduced his cousin, the Oscar-winning actress Sissy Spacek, to the entertainment business and she was able to enroll in Lee Strasberg's Actors Studiomarker and then the Lee Strasberg Institute in New York.

Movie career

Following graduation from Texas A&M, Torn relocated from his native Texas to Hollywood , making his debut in the 1956 film Baby Doll. Torn 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. 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 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, Rip plays an arrogant young thief on Alfred Hitchcock Presents -- the episode is entitled, "Number Twenty-Two". Rip also played Judas Iscariot in MGMs "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 Citymarker journalist.

He has been a character actor in numerous films since then, such as, New Orleansmarker blackmailer Slade opposite Steve McQueen and Karl Malden in 1965's The Cincinnati Kid or the gruff boss Agent Zed in Men in Black.

The part of lawyer George Hanson in the Peter Fonda-Dennis 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, ending with Dennis Hopper pulling a knife on Torn. As a result, Torn was replaced by Jack Nicholson, whose appearance in the film catapulted him to stardom.

In 1972, he won rave reviews for his portrayal of a country & western singer in the cult film Payday. In 1976 he starred in the cult classic science fiction movie The Man Who Fell to Earth. He received an Academy Award nomination as Best Supporting Actor for his role in the 1983 film Cross Creek.

In 1988, he made an venture 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. 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.

The Larry Sanders Show

Torn was cast for a role in the HBO sitcom, The Larry Sanders Show. For his role as talk show producer and TV veteran Artie in The Larry Sanders Show, Torn received six consecutive Emmy award nominations as Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series and won the award once, in 1996. Torn is the only actor on the show to win an Emmy Award. Other than the Emmys, Torn has received two American Comedy Awards nominations for Funniest Male Performance in a Series, winning one time, and two CableACE Awards for his work on the show.

Later career

Following The Larry Sanders Show, he has since appeared in many comedic roles in films such as Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story, Freddy Got Fingered, Canadian Bacon and Rolling Kansas, 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 head of the network, 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.

Stage career


Torn has starred in ten Broadwaymarker plays, directing one. Torn made his feature Broadway debut in 1959, when he played Chance Wayne in the Broadway play Sweet Bird of Youth and won Theater World Award for his performance in the play. He was also nominated for a Tony Award for his performance on the play. He returned to theater next year in 1962 in the play Daughter of Silence as Carlo. Two years later he returned to theater in 1963 in the play Strange Interlude. In 1964, he played Lyle Britten in the Broadway play Blues for Mister Charlie. Four years later, he played Roberto in the Broadway play The Cuban Thing for its opening and closing performance on September 24, 1968. Three years later, in 1971, he played Edgar in the Broadway play Dance of Death. Two years later, in 1973, he directed his first Broadway play, Look Away. Two years later, in 1975, he played The Son on the Broadway revival play The Glass Menagerie. Five years later, in 1980, he played Don in another Broadway play Mixed Couples. Thirteen years later, in 1993, he played Chris Christopherson in the play Anna Christie. In his final Broadway play, in 1997, he played Will Kidder in the play The Young Man from Atlanta.


Torn made his feature off-Broadway debut as an actor as Eben Cabot in the play Desire Under the Elms. His second off-Broadway play as an actor was in the 81st Street Theatre as Peter in The Kitchen. His third off-Broadway play as an actor was as Marion-Faye-A-Pimp in the play The Deer Park. He won the 1967 Obie Award for Distinguished Performance for his performance in the play. His off-Broadway debut as director was in the Evergreen Theater in the play The Beard. He won the 1968 Obie for Distinguished Direction for the play. His second off-Broadway play as director was in the Gramercy Arts Theater in the play The Honest-to-God Schnozzia. His fourth off-Broadway play as an actor was in the Lucille Lortel Theater as an unknown character in the play Dream of a Blacklisted Actor. His fifth off-Broadway play as an actor was in the Joseph Papp Public Theater/Anspacher Theater as William McLeod in the play Barbary Shore. His third off-Broadway credit as a director was in the Joseph Papp Public Theater/Anspacher Theater in the play Creditors/The Stronger. His sixth off-Broadway credit as an actor was in the American Place Theater as Henry Hackamore in the play Seduced.

Personal life

Torn was married to actress Ann Wedgeworth from 1956 to 1961, with whom he had a daughter, Danae Torn. They divorced and he later married the Oscar-winning actress Geraldine Page. Page and Torn remained married until her death in 1987. They had three children: Tony Torn, Jon Torn and actress Angelica Torn. Torn apparently delighted in the fact that their country estate was called Torn Page. He is married to actress Amy Wright with whom he has two children, Katie and Claire. Katie Torn is an accomplished painter and video artist.

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

On December 14, 2008, Torn was again arrested on suspicion of drunk driving. A bartender at the White Hart Inn in Salisbury, CT 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 with a Christmas tree tied on top and drove away. He was sentenced to probation in May, 2009.

On-set conflicts

While filming Maidstone, Torn, apparently unhappy with the film, struck director and star of the film Norman Mailer in the head with a hammer. 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. The fight is featured in the film.Although the scene may have been planned by Torn, the blood shed by both actors is real, and Torn was reportedly truly outraged by Mailer's direction.

In 1999, Torn filed a defamation lawsuit against Dennis Hopper over a story Hopper told on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. Hopper claimed that Torn pulled a knife on him during pre-production of the film Easy Rider. 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. A judge ruled in Torn's favor and Hopper was ordered to pay $475,000 in damages. Hopper then appealed but the judge again ruled in Torn's favor and Hopper was required to pay another $475,000 in punitive damages.

Selected filmography


  1. full episode available at
  2. Actor Rip Torn gets probation in Conn. DUI case

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