Rip Torn dies at 88

Will Smith leads tributes to Men In Black co-star

by Amber Wilkinson

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R.I.P. Rip

A post shared by Will Smith (@willsmith) on

Emmy Award-winning actor Rip Torn has died at his home in Connecticut at the age of 88, surrounded by his family.

The star, who was Oscar nominated in 1994 for Cross Creek, became a fan favourite through his role as Artie the Producer on The Larry Sanders Show as well as film work, including Men In Black and Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story.

He played Agent Zed in the original MIB and its sequel and his co-star Will Smith led the tributes to him on Instagram. Smith shared a photo of the pair of them in the science-fiction comedy with the caption: "R.I.P. Rip."

His big-screen outings also included Pork Chop Hill, Tropic Of Cancer, Coma and Welcome To Mooseport.

Torn - who was born in Texas in 1931 and adopted the family nickname Rip in the same way all male members of his family did - made his debut as a former PoW in 1957's Time Limit, although he appeared uncredited a year earlier in Baby Doll. He was also instrumental in helping his cousin Sissy Spacek get a start as an actress.

Equally at home in comedy or darker roles - including a womaniser in The Man Who Fell To Earth and Judas in Nicholas Ray's King Of Kings - he was also Tony nominated for playing Thomas J Finley Jr in Tennessee Williams' Sweet Bird of Youth.

Torn was known for tearing it up on and off set, having reportedly attacked Norman Mailer with a hammer while shooting Maidstone in 1970. He also received a suspended sentence in 2010 after drunkenly breaking into a bank after closing time, armed with a loaded revolver. His attorney told the court that the actor had mistakenly thought the bank was his home and, according to reports, he had asked police what they were doing in his house when they arrived.

As the tributes came in on social media this morning, Good Omens author Neil Gaiman revealed he was inspired by him. He tweeted: "I met Rip Torn once, in 1990, on a movie location in NC. "You write science fiction?" he said, teeth in a scary grin. "I was in BEASTMASTER." Then he shook my hand and I ceased to exist for him. That was the start of Mr Wednesday in American Gods. RIP Rip."

Alec Baldwin also paid tribute to him, recalling working alongside Torn on 30 Rock. He wrote: "He was a deeply committed, phenomenal actor. See you down the road, Rip.You wonderful madman."

Previously married to actors Anne Wedgewood and then Geraldine Page, until her death in 1987, Torn is survived by his wife Amy Wright, and children Tony, Angelica, Danae, Claire, Jonathan and Katie.

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