Rip Torn dies at 88: tributes flow in for 'one of a kind' actor

The Oscar nominee starred in films such as 'Men in Black' and 'Defending Your Life'

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Veteran actor Rip Torn has died at the age of 88, his publicist announced on Tuesday evening.

The American star, born Elmore Rual Torn in Texas, was renowned for his roles in films such as Men in Black and TV programmes including The Larry Sanders Show and 30 Rock.

He died at home on Tuesday afternoon with his wife, Amy Wright, and daughters Katie Torn and Angelica Page by his side, according to his publicist Rick Miramontez. No cause of death has yet been given.

Torn made his film debut in 1956 in an adaptation of Tennessee Williams's Baby Doll; his last appearance on the big screen was in 2013's Johnny Kidd.

The Emmy winner (who netted his award in 1996 for his role as Artie in HBO's The Larry Sanders Show, alongside a further five nominations) also treaded the boards on Broadway in multiple plays, and worked as a voice artist.

Torn's credits include roles in Sofia Coppola's Marie Antoinette, Dodgeball and alongside David Bowie in The Man Who Fell to Earth, as well as an Oscar-nominated turn in 1983's Cross Creek. His lengthy career spanned seven decades, transitioning from dark, villainous roles to lighter, comedic fare in his later life.

He was also due to star in 1969's Easy Rider, but was replaced by Jack Nicholson after rumours of tension on-set. "I wouldn't say that I was blacklisted," Torn told The Associated Press in 1984, "but the word got around that I was difficult and unreliable. Unreliable! In all my years in the theatre I have never missed a performance."

Celebrity tributes

Following the news of his death, many stars of the big and small screens took to social media to pay tribute to Torn.

Among them was Albert Brooks, who directed Torn in 1991's Defending Your Life.

"I'll miss you Rip, you were a true original," the filmmaker posted on Twitter.

Comedian and Family Guy star Seth MacFarlane also paid his respects, saying Torn "always made me laugh".

Will Smith, who costarred with Torn in Men in Black I and II, paid homage by sharing a still of the two with his 34 million Instagram followers.

Good Omens co-author Neil Gaiman shared an anecdote from a meeting with Torn.

"I met Rip Torn once, in 1990, on a movie location in NC," the writer posted. "'You write science fiction?' he said, teeth in a scary grin. 'I was in Beastmaster.' Then he shook my hand and I ceased to exist for him."

Alec Baldwin, who starred with Torn in TV series 30 Rock, called the actor "deeply committed" and "phenomenal". "See you down the road, Rip," Baldwin added. "You wonderful madman."

Actor Rob Schneider, meanwhile, shared thanks for co-starring with Torn. "They don’t make 'em like Rip any more," he posted.

This is Spinal Tap actor Michael McKean praised Torn's body of work, describing him as "one of a kind".

"Looking back on decades of Rip Torn's work and can't think of a single performance that could have been bettered by another actor," he wrote.