Rip Torn

Rip Torn

Torn at the 47th Emmy Awards in 1994
Born Elmore Rudolph Torn, Jr.
(1931-02-06) February 6, 1931
Temple, Texas, United States
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 –
Spouse(s) Ann Wedgeworth
(1955–1961; divorced)
Geraldine Page
(1963–1987; her death)
Amy Wright
Children Danae Torn
Tony Torn
Jon Torn
Angelica Page
Katie Torn
Claire Torn
Parent(s) Elmore Rual Torn, Sr.
Thelma Mary Torn
Relatives Sissy Spacek (cousin)

Elmore Rual Torn Jr. (born February 6, 1931), known within his family and professionally as Rip Torn, is an American actor, voice artist, and comedian.

Torn was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his part as Marsh Turner 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

Torn was born Elmore Rual Torn Jr.[1] in Temple, Texas, on February 6, 1931, the son of Elmore Rual Torn Sr., an agriculturalist and economist, and Thelma Mary (née Spacek),[1] aunt of actress Sissy Spacek. The family is of German, Austrian, and Czech/Moravian ancestry.[2] The nickname "Rip" is a family tradition in the Torn family.[3]

Torn 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 and television

At the University of Texas, Torn studied drama with Ben Iden Payne, and after moving to Hollywood, he made his debut in the 1956 film Baby Doll. Torn then studied at the Actors Studio in New York 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 the Actors Studio.[6]

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 of The Restless Gun. In 1957, he starred as incarcerated Steve Morgan in the Alfred Hitchcock Presents episode "Number Twenty-Two," and on the same series in 1961 he played a recently released prisoner, Ernie Walters, in the Alfred Hitchcock Presents episode "The Kiss-Off."[7]

After portraying Judas, betrayer of Jesus, in 1961's epic film King of Kings, Torn appeared as a graduate student with multiple degrees in 1963's television series Channing, and 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 in the premiere of The Reporter.

In 1965, in the film The Cincinnati Kid, he played Slade, a corrupt New Orleans millionaire who pressures Steve McQueen during a high-stakes poker game. On television that year, 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 (see Filmography below).

The part of George Hanson in Easy Rider was written for Torn by Terry Southern, 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 (see On-Set Conflicts section below). Jack Nicholson played Hanson instead in a career-launching performance.

In 1972, Torn won rave reviews for his portrayal of a country & western singer in the cult film Payday. He co-starred with singer David Bowie in a 1975 science-fiction film, The Man Who Fell to Earth.

Torn received an Academy Award nomination as Best Supporting Actor for his role in 1983's Cross Creek as a poor neighbor of Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings in the orange groves of Florida. He portrayed a Southern senator in 1979's The Seduction of Joe Tynan, opposite Alan Alda and Meryl Streep, and a music producer in Paul Simon's 1980 film One Trick Pony.

In 1982, Torn played a role as a holy man in the sword-and-sorcery movie The Beastmaster. He also co-starred in Jinxed!, a comedy with Bette Midler, and appeared as an airline executive in Airplane II: The Sequel. He co-starred with John Candy as a man who helps a tourist win a sailboat race in the 1985 comedy Summer Rental.

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, a film from HBO about a fictional world war.

In 1991, he portrayed Albert Brooks' character's celestial defense attorney in Defending Your Life. He was a jeweler who murdered his own nephew to steal a winning lottery ticket in an episode of Columbo that year on TV, "Death Hits the Jackpot."

In 1993, Torn portrayed the OCP CEO in RoboCop 3, then opposite Tantoo Cardinal in Where the Rivers Flow North.[9] He was a Naval officer presiding over a wager in the Kelsey Grammer submarine comedy Down Periscope in 1996.

Men in Black, a 1997 hit film starring Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones, featured Torn as their boss, Zed.

In 2001, Torn portrayed James "Jim" Brody in Freddy Got Fingered.

Stage career


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 – for 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

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

Following The Larry Sanders Show, Torn has appeared in many comedic roles in films (see Filmography below). He is also known for his voice work and has done voice-overs for many animated films.

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 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


Torn has been married three times and has six children.

His first marriage to actress Ann Wedgeworth lasted from 1956 to 1961. They had a daughter.

In 1963, Torn married Geraldine Page, and they remained married until her death in 1987. They had a daughter, actress Angelica Page, and twin sons: actor Tony Torn, Jon Torn (an assistant professor of Electronic Media and Film at Northern Arizona University[12]). Torn apparently delighted in the fact that the doorbell of their New York townhouse read Torn Page.[13]

Torn married actress Amy Wright in 1989. They have two children.[14][15]

Legal troubles

On January 29, 2010, he was arrested after breaking into a Litchfield Bancorp branch office in Lakeville, Connecticut, where he 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 Torn broke into the bank thinking it was his home.[16] At his court appearance his attorney told the judge his client needed help with alcohol abuse and that he could start treatment immediately in New York state. Torn was released on $100,000 bail.[17]

As a condition of his release, Torn had to 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 pleaded 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.[19][20]

On-set conflicts

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 struck director and star 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.[22] The fight is featured in the film. Although the scene may have been planned by Torn, the blood shed by both actors was real,[22] and Torn was reportedly outraged by Mailer's direction.[23]

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. Torn claimed in his lawsuit that Hopper pulled the knife on him. 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 appealed. A California appellate court upheld the ruling for compensatory damages, and reversed the ruling for the punitive damages, requiring Hopper to pay another $475,000.[24][25]


Year Title Role Notes
1956 Baby Doll The Dentist Uncredited
1957 Time Limit Lt. George Miller
1959 Pork Chop Hill Lt. Walter Russel
1961 King of Kings Judas Iscariot
1962 Sweet Bird of Youth Thomas J. Finley, Jr.
1962 Naked City - "A Case Of Two Savages" Ansel Boake
1963 Critic's Choice Dion Kapakos
The Lieutenant Episode 3, "The Proud and the Angry," GySgt Karl Kasten
1965 The Cincinnati Kid Slade
1965 The Man from U.N.C.L.E. - Season 2 Episode 1&2- "Alexander the Greater Affair" "Mr. Alexander"
1966 You're a Big Boy Now I.H. Chanticleer
One Spy Too Many Alexander
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 Television film
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 Max
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
Cold Feet Sheriff
1990 Beautiful Dreamers Walt Whitman
By Dawn's 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
Men in Black 3 Bug-Eyed Alien Uncredited Cameo[26]
2013 Johnny Kidd Frank


  1. 1 2 "Rip Torn Biography (1931-)".
  2. Battle, Robert. "Ancestry of Rip Torn". Retrieved 2008-07-10.
  3. "Rip Torn : Biography". Retrieved 2016-10-23.
  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. "Sissy Spacek Biography". 1949-12-25. Retrieved 2011-04-11.
  7. full episode available at
  8. 1 2 Hill, Lee (2001). A Grand Guy: The Life and Art of Terry Southern. Bloomsbury.
  9. "Where the Rivers Flow North (1993)". 4 March 1994. Retrieved 2016-10-23.
  10. "Rip Torn Pleads Not Guilty in Drunken Bank Robbery". 30 March 2010. Retrieved 23 October 2016.
  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. "Amy Wright : Biography". Retrieved 2016-10-23.
  15. "Rip Torn : Biography". Retrieved 2016-10-23.
  16. Hayes, Kevin (March 30, 2010). "Rip Torn Pleads "Not Guilty" in Alleged Booze-Fueled Bank Break-in". CBS News.
  17. Rip Torn Pleads Not Guilty in Bank Break-in. YouTube. 30 March 2010.
  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". Retrieved 23 October 2016.
  20. "Actor Rip Torn Pleads Guilty In Connecticut Bank Break-in". 14 December 2010. Retrieved 23 October 2016.
  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. 1 2 3 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. 1 2 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. Sandler, Adam (11 May 1999). "Torn rips Hopper coin". Retrieved 23 October 2016.
  26. This character was seen at the funeral of the other character Torn played in the MIB franchise, Zed.

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