For most TV fans, the name Ed Lauter is probably not one that rings any immediate bells. That said, if you've watched many movies or TV shows in the past forty years, you've definitely seen him. Sadly, on Wednesday, Lauter died at the age of 74 after suffering from a rare form of cancer commonly caused by asbestos exposure called mesothelioma.
Lauter booked his first TV role in a 1971 episode of 'Mannix,' and has been acting pretty much nonstop ever since. He even holds the distinction of appearing in Alfred Hitchcock's final film, 'Family Plot.' His performance so impressed the legendary director that Hitch wanted Lauter to star in his next project. Unfortunately, failing health took Hitchcock's life before 'The Short Night' could become a reality.
The above anecdote doesn't begin to scratch the surface of Ed Lauter's storied career. The man has appeared in over 200 films and television shows, which is an absolutely amazing stat when you consider how many aspiring actors never get the chance to perform in even one. Lauter's distinctive angular face and powerful, authoritative appearance and mannerisms quickly became his trademark. Over his four decades in the industry, Lauter portrayed many authority figures, including cops, firemen, military officers, astronauts, coaches, and the like.
My first exposure to Lauter came in the 1993 'X-Files' episode 'Space,' where he portrayed Col. Marcus Aurelius Belt, a heroic astronaut with a dark secret. I never really cared for the episode itself, but Lauter himself made enough of an impression on me that I immediately recognized him the next time I saw him on TV. The ability to create a lasting memory in the viewer's mind, despite only playing a supporting or guest starring role, is a trait that all good character actors possess. Ed Lauter possessed that trait in spades.
Lauter's most recent TV work was as Dick Healey on the Showtime comedy 'Shameless.' He also has two finished films still awaiting release. On behalf of TVRage, I extend my condolences to Ed Lauter's family, friends, and fans. I'll leave you with but a small sampling of the man's other credits.
St. Elsewhere - Cujo - Magnum, P.I. - The A-Team - Real Genius - Death Wish 3 - Raw Deal - Miami Vice - Born on the Fourth of July - The Rocketeer - Golden Years - Star Trek: The Next Generation - School Ties - Homicide: Life on the Street - Mulholland Falls - Walker, Texas Ranger - Millennium - Law & Order - Charmed - ER - CSI - NYPD Blue - Cold Case - Grey's Anatomy - Psych - The Office