If someone best symbolized character acting, it’s Ed Lauter. The versatile, reliable, widely sought after supporting player succumbed to mesothelioma on Wednesday in Los Angeles. He belonged to a class of actors whose simple presence adds depth to any project and makes it more enthralling. For any film buff, Lauter remains one of the most familiar faces on screen. Though never leads, his roles were always pivotal to the storylines and, in the course of his long career, the eclectic actor shared extensive screen time with legends such as Charles Bronson, Burt Lancaster, Lee Marvin and Clint Eastwood.
Sheriffs, police captains, medical examiners, thugs and wardens, Ed Lauter portrayed them all with the same conviction and he was equally prolific on television and feature films. Who else could pride himself of having starred in hit TV shows of each decade in a career that spans 40 years?: Mannix, Cannon, The Streets of San Francisco, Kojak, Charlie's Angels, Hawaii Five-O (1970s), Murder She Wrote, Magnum P.I., The A-Team, Miami Vice, The Equalizer (1980s), Walker, Texas Ranger, Millennium, ER (1990s), CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, Jag, NYPD Blue, Grey's Anatomy (2000s) and, most recently, Showtime’s hit show Shameless. Who else can say they were directed by Aldrich, Attenborough, Benton, Frankenheimer, Stone and Hitchcock. The latter, for whom Lauter worked on Family Plot (Universal, 1976), which would end up being the master of suspense's last film, had tapped the actor to appear in his next outing, opposite Sean Connery. Unfortunately, Hitchcock died before he could make it.
In Magic (Embassy, 1978), Lauter gave one of his finest performances, opposite Anthony Hopkins. In this movie directed by Richard Attenborough, the actor played Ann-Margret’s lowlife husband murdered by Hopkins, who portrays the real love of her life, a ventriloquist suffering from a multiple personality disorder.
In recent years, Lauter had made regular appearances at the Hollywood Collectors & Celebrities Show,which is the ultimate autograph-signing celebrity event in Los Angeles. He was a popular favorite among film buffs and was always eager to interact with his fans, proving himself to be far different from the seedy characters he often portrayed on screen. Ed Lauter was a genuinely nice man and a class act in person. He will be greatly missed and leaves an indelible gap in the film community.