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Ned Beatty (1937–2021), actor known for “Deliverance,” “Superman”

by Linnea Crowther

Ned Beatty was a prolific character actor known for roles in films including “Deliverance,” “Network,” and “Superman.”

Acting career

Beatty’s film debut was in the harrowing 1972 classic “Deliverance,” playing an Atlanta businessman on a canoe trip with his friends. In one of the movie’s most shocking and talked-about scenes, his character was forced to “squeal like a pig” before being sexually assaulted. Beatty earned an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor for his performance in 1976’s “Network,” playing TV executive Arthur Jensen. In 1980’s “Superman” and its 1980 sequel “Superman II,” Beaty played Otis, Lex Luthor’s bumbling henchman.

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Beatty appeared in dozens of other movies. Highlights of his film career include “Nashville” (1975), “All the President’s Men” (1976), “The Toy” (1981), “Stroker Ace” (1983), “Back to School” (1986), and “Rudy” (1993). He had notable voice roles in “Toy Story 3” (2010), playing the villainous teddy bear Lotso, and in “Rango” (2011), playing Tortoise John. On television, he had a recurring role in “Roseanne” as Dan Conner’s father, Ed; and he played Detective Stanley Bolander on the first three seasons of “Homicide: Life on the Street.” Beatty also made many TV guest appearances, including “The Waltons,” “M*A*S*H,” “Murder, She Wrote,” “Highway to Heaven,” and “Law & Order.” Also a stage actor, Beatty won a Drama Desk Award for his performance as Big Daddy in the 2003 Broadway revival of “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.”

Beatty on his “Network” audition

“I had to go audition once and I had to go audition again and I told them, this is an Academy Award thing. I don’t usually talk in those terms, but look at this speech. I’ll do anything to give this speech. I’ll do anything that you want done. And then I pulled a little trick on them. I did some selling in my time because a lot of times actors can’t get jobs because they don’t have good work records. But sometimes, if you’re an actor and you can talk, put out a story, they’ll let you sell on commission. So I sold a lot when I was younger. So I looked at them and said, look, ‘I don’t want to do this to you, but you got to give me an answer before I leave here today. I’ve got another job that’s more money, but it’s not anywhere near as good as this job. And I want this job. But you’ve got to come up with an answer.’ And I just walked into the other room and shut the door. And they hired me. (laughs) So, selling is good.” –from a 2010 interview for Hollywood.com

Tributes to Ned Beatty

Full obituary: The New York Times

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