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Arts and Culture

Actor Ned Beatty Of 'Deliverance' Has Died At Age 83

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Ned Beatty was a character actor best known for his appearances in the movies "Deliverance," "Network" and "Superman." He died Sunday at age 83. NPR's Anastasia Tsioulcas has this remembrance of Beatty and his long and enduring career, a career in which he played everything from a network executive to a stuffed bear.

ANASTASIA TSIOULCAS, BYLINE: Born and raised in Kentucky, Ned Beatty worked in film, theater and TV for more than four decades. He grew up singing in barbershop quartets. After his dad died when he was 15, he started working as an usher in a movie theater, and he got to watch a lot of films. His own first film role was a very memorable one. He appeared in the 1972 movie "Deliverance," playing a hapless weekend warrior who was sexually assaulted in the Georgia backwoods.

(SOUNDBITE OF ERIC WEISSBERG AND STEVE MANDELL'S "DUELING BANJOS")

TSIOULCAS: In a 1989 op-ed for The New York Times, Beatty said that he was very proud of having played that part. He wrote that he got angry when people shouted, squeal like a pig, at him when they saw him in public. Instead, he asked, what would it be like if men really grappled with sexual assault and thought deeply about living with that fear of rape? In 2003, Ned Beatty appeared as Big Daddy in a Broadway revival of Tennessee Williams' play "Cat On A Hot Tin Roof." In his wide-ranging career, Beatty he also played comic roles from the bumbling henchman Otis in "Superman" and "Superman II" to the bitter teddy Lots-o'-Huggin' Bear, who rules Sunnyside Daycare in "Toy Story 3."

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "TOY STORY 3")

NED BEATTY: (As Lots-o'-Huggin' Bear) When the kids get old, new ones come in. When they get old, new ones replace them. You'll never be outgrown or neglected, never abandoned or forgotten. No owners means no heartbreak.

TSIOULCAS: Beatty earned an Academy Award nomination for the 1976 film "Network," in which he appears for just a few minutes as the rich, feared boss.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "NETWORK")

BEATTY: (As Arthur Jensen) You have meddled with the primal forces of nature, Mr. Beale, and I won't have it. Is that clear?

TSIOULCAS: In a 1987 interview on WHYY's Fresh Air, Beatty said humbly that part of the mystique of his role in "Network" was the buildup to his actual appearance on screen.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)

BEATTY: I must tell you any time you read a play or a script and they talk about your character for pages and pages and pages before you appear (laughter)...

TERRY GROSS: (Laughter).

BEATTY: That's like a license to steal. It's wonderful when they talk about you for a long time before you get there. That's like having been on screen all that time. And this particular character was focused on a lot by a wonderful actor named Robert Duvall, who talked about me all the time and his fear of me.

TSIOULCAS: In his Fresh Air interview, Beatty said that he was very fortunate not to be typecast as a particular kind of character. But instead, he was treated as an actor who could play many different roles. His long filmography and list of television credits are ample proof of that versatility.

Anastasia Tsioulcas, NPR News, New York.

(SOUNDBITE OF KURT VILE SONG, "WILD IMAGINATION") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.