Actor Fred Ward, who was best known for playing gruff tough guys in a variety of action and thriller films, died at the age of 79 on May 8, according to his publicist. Ward’s place and cause of death were not disclosed in the announcement.

His breakout role came in the 1979 film Escape From Alcatraz, and he cut his teeth in action films through the 80s until one of his biggest roles as Earl Bassett in Tremors released in 1990.

Ward diversified his roles significantly after this spate of action roles. He worked with Robert Altman twice on The Player and later Short Cuts. His role as Henry Miller in Henry & June also had the historical distinction of being the first NC-17-rated film to play in theaters, and one of three NC-17 films to receive Oscar nominations.

The actor was poised to become the American James Bond when he shot Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins in 1985. The film was based on The Destroyer novels and meant to kickstart a franchise, but the film received negative reviews upon release and failed to provide a proper foundation for an action legacy that could have begun there.

Frederick Joseph Ward was born in San Diego on December 30, 1942. He had a tumultuous early childhood with a father who was frequently incarcerated and later said that while living with his mother, “She supported us by working in bars. In five years, we lived in five different places.”

Ward had a bevy of different jobs before settling into acting. He served in the U.S. Air Force for three years, was a boxer, and worked as a lumberjack in Alaska. He spent time living in Rome where he was trained at the Herbert Berghof Studio and had his first film roles in two films by the legendary Italian director Roberto Rossellini.

His career stretched over four decades and included roles in major films and TV shows. His last role was in 2015 in an episode of True Detective. He reportedly enjoyed spending his time painting in the final years of his life. Fred Ward is survived by his wife of 27 years, Marie-France Ward, and his son Django Ward.

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