Rip Torn's final years were challenging, and although he had been dealing with the fatal illness for years, it was revealed to the public only after his passing.
"The Larry Sanders Show" star Rip Torn had a one-of-a-kind career and controversial life that included fights (on and off film sets) and, later in life, legal issues due to alcohol abuse.
RISE TO FAME
Born Elmore Torn Jr. in February 1931, Torn grew up with his agriculturalist father Elmore Sr. and his mother Thelma in Temple, Texas. Initially, Torn wasn't attracted to acting as he wanted to be a rancher, so he studied animal husbandry at the University of Texas.
In his early 20s, he started thinking that he could make enough money to buy a ranch by working as an actor, so he hitchhiked and moved from Texas to Hollywood.
Becoming an actor wasn't as easy as he had expected, so he had to take odd jobs for years before finally going to the Actors Studio in New York, a drama school founded by Elia Kazan, Cheryl Crawford, and Robert Lewis.
Speaking of filmmaker and theater director Kazan, he helped launch Torn's career by hiring him for the films "Baby Doll," "A Face in the Crowd," and Tennessee Williams's Broadway play "Sweet Bird of Youth."
After working in many films and TV shows in the '60s and '70s, Torn received an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor for "Cross Creek" in 1983. However, the role that skyrocketed his career was Artie on "The Larry Sanders Show."
His performance was so outstanding that he was nominated to six Emmys and took home one in 1996. Later in life, he worked in "30 Rock," the "Men in Black" franchise, and "Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story."
FIGHTING ACTORS AND FILMMAKERS
Torn's Hollywood career spanned over six decades but was far from perfect. In fact, he almost lost everything in the late '60s due to an altercation with actor and director Dennis Hopper.
Hopper, Terry Southern, and Peter Fonda wrote "Easy Rider" and wanted Torn to portray George Hanson. They invited him to dinner, but nobody could have ever foreseen what would happen.
Torn hit Mailer in the head with a small hammer and even made him bleed.
Torn and Hopper started fighting for reasons unknown to the public, and things escalated so much that Hopper even pulled out a knife, only to be disarmed by Torn shortly after.
As expected, Torn didn't get the part — Jack Nicholson booked it, and it was his breakthrough role. Apart from that, Torn's reputation took a blow as Hopper kept claiming Torn was the one pulling the knife out.
Things between Hopper and Torn were relatively calm for years. In 1994, when Torn's popularity was on the rise for "The Larry Sanders Show," Hopper retold the altercation story on "The Tonight Show."
Instead of ignoring him, Torn sued Hopper for defamation. Witnesses were called to testify, and the judge decided to award Torn $475,000. Hopper appealed, so the award was doubled.
[Torn] was sentenced with a two-and-a-half suspended sentence and three years of probation.
Hopper was not the only entertainer Torn fought, though. While filming "Maidstone," created by and starring Norman Mailer, Torn hit Mailer in the head with a small hammer and even made him bleed.
Mailer defended himself, and both men ended up wrestling on the grass while the cameras were still rolling. After a few seconds, Mailer's wife and kids started screaming, and both actors were separated.
ISSUES IN HIS LATER YEARS
Unfortunately, Torn's final years were also plagued with controversies and misfortune. In 2004, he was accused (and later acquitted) of DUI and causing an accident.
It became evident that he had a problem with alcohol in the following years as he was involved in another DUI incident in 2006 when he collided with a tractor trailer. He had to pay a fine and even temporarily lost his license.
In December 2008, Torn was caught again driving under the influence and was sentenced to probation. He was also asked to attend an alcohol education program and retake his driver's test due to hearing impairment.
As surprising as it might sound, Torn's three DUI arrests were not as shocking as his 2010 bank break-in. The actor was taken into custody for breaking into a bank in Connecticut and carrying a loaded gun. He was drunk at the time.
He was charged with everything from carrying a pistol without a permit to first-degree criminal trespass. Torn's attorney claimed his client was confused and believed the bank was his house, located less than two miles down the street.
Torn reportedly wanted to sleep in the bank and asked officers why they were in his home when they arrived. He was released on bail and ordered to complete an evaluation for substance abuse.
In December 2010, Torn pleaded guilty to four charges and was sentenced to a two-and-a-half suspended sentence and three years of probation. He could no longer carry a gun and had to take random drug and alcohol tests.
The incident was quite controversial, but when the case ended, Torn admitted he was thankful that nobody was injured and he could avoid jail time.
KEEPING AN ILLNESS IN SECRET
On July 9, 2019, Torn sadly passed away at his home in Connecticut. According to his death certificate, he died as a consequence of Alzheimer's disease, an illness he had been diagnosed with years before his passing but never publicly talked about.
Torn was survived by his six children from three marriages. His first wife was actress Ann Wedgeworth. They were married between 1955 and 1961 and welcomed a daughter named Danae.
In 1963, he married actress Geraldine Page. They had two sons, Tony and John, and a daughter, Angelica. The former couple remained together until Page died in 1987.
Torn's third wife was Amy Wright. They walked down the aisle in 1989 and shared two daughters, Katie and Claire. Torn and Wright were still married when he passed away. Rest in peace.
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