Ned Beatty, 'Deliverance,' 'Network,' 'Superman' Actor, Dies at 83
Ned Beatty, the prolific and revered movie, TV, and stage actor whose performance in "Deliverance" earned him a place in the annals of film history — and whose extensive credits included such classics as "Network," "Nashville," "All the President's Men," and two "Superman" movies — has died. He was 83.
Beatty's manager confirmed his death, of natural causes, to TMZ exclusively. The actor died early Sunday morning surrounded by family at his home.
The rotund actor's everyman presence and versatility made him one of the busiest actors in history, with more than 160 credits.
Beatty was born July 6, 1937, in Louisville, Kentucky, launching his career in entertainment in barbershop quartets. He dropped out of college while pursuing a career in the theater, logging impressive credits in his home state during the '60s.
His career was forever transformed in 1972, when Beatty made his film debut as Bobby Trippe, one of the hapless, thrill-seeking businessmen canoeing down a river in remote Georgia only to be brutalized by locals far from help. Beatty's character is raped in the film — which has been selected for preservation in the U.S. National Film Registry by the Library of Congress — as they infamously demand that he "squeal like a pig."
Among Beatty's other noteworthy films: "The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean" (1972), "White Lightning" (1973), Robert Altman's "Nashville" (1974), "All the President's Men" (1976), "Silver Streak" (1976), "Exorcist II: The Heretic" (1977), "Superman: The Movie" (1978), "Superman II" (1980), "1941" (1979), "The Incredible Shrinking Woman" (1981), "The Toy" (1982), "Back to School" (1986), "The Big Easy" (1987), "The Fourth Protocol" (1987), "He Got Game" (1998), "Shooter" (2007), "Charlie Wilson's War" (2007), "Toy Story 3" (2010), and his final film, "Baggage Claim" (2013), to name a few.
His role in "Network" (1976) — the only film for which he was Oscar-nominated — was particularly tricky, consisting of a cynical speech that is one of the lynchpins of the entire film. For David Itzkoff's book "Mad as Hell: The Making of 'Network' and the Fateful Vision of the Angriest Man in Movies" (2014), Beatty revealed he had won the role using subterfuge.
"I said, 'I know this is difficult. Everybody's talking about this part, and they're saying you've got to do a speech that's three minutes long, for heaven's sakes. I know there's a lot of people that want to play this part, but look, I've got another offer, and it's for more money. I'm going to walk out of here and I'm going to make a call to my agent. I'm going to say, 'Hold on just a little while. I'll let you know if I want to do that,' and when I come back through the door, I've got to know."
Beatty proudly admitted it was all "flimflam. I was lying like a snake." His ruse worked, and also proved he was perfect for the part.
Many on Twitter singled out Beatty's "Network" speech in their remembrances, including actor Ralph Macchio, who wrote, "Ned Beatty. Superb character actor - my fave being his brilliantness in NETWORK (one of the greatest screenplays and films of all time) So ahead of its time. And same for Mr. Beatty. RIP."
On TV, Beatty starred on the short-lived sitcom "Szysznyk" (1977-1978), was Emmy-nominated for the TV movies "Friendly Fire" (1979) with Carol Burnett and "Last Train Home" (1989), recurred on "Roseanne" (1989-1994) as Dan Conner's dad, starred on "Homicide: Life on the Street" (1993-1995), and gave his final performance in the medium on the Matthew Perry series "Go On" (2013).
His triumphant late-career run as Big Daddy in "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" on Broadway in 2003 with Jason Patric, Ashley Judd and Margo Martindale resulted in Beatty winning Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle Awards.
Beatty is survived by his eight children from his first three marriages, and by his wife Sandra Johnson.