Frederick Forrest starred in more than 80 films and TV shows during a career that began in the 1960s, giving perhaps his two most memorable performances in two completely different films in the same 1979. Rose, and the Vietnam War-drama Apocalypse Now, died Friday at his home in Santa Monica, Calif. He is 86 years old.
His sister and sole survivor, Ginger Jackson, confirmed his death. She said he had congestive heart failure.
Mr. Forrest began appearing on stage in New York’s La MaMa and other Off and Off Broadway theaters in the 1960s. In 1966, he starred in Megan Terry’s anti-war rock musical “Bet Rock” in Manhattan and New Haven, Connecticut, and is often cited as the pioneer of “Hair.”
In 1970, he moved to Los Angeles and worked in a pizza restaurant while appearing in showcase productions for Actors Studio West. Director Stuart Miller saw him there, playing opposite veteran actor Richard Widmark as a Ute Indian (although Mr. Forrest had some Native American blood in him) in Death Legends. cast in his first big role. Released in 1972, the film made Forrest famous.
Kevin Thomas wrote in a book review for the Los Angeles Times, “Forrest is a husky, strong-faced, sensitive actor who, perhaps inevitably, draws comparisons to early Brand, but his chemistry with Widmark. The same is true,” he wrote.
Among those impressed with Forrest’s performance was Francis Ford Coppola, who cast him in 1974’s The Conversation, which portrayed a surveillance expert played by Gene Hackman. Five years later, Forrest is on a boat upriver in search of the mysterious character Kurtz in Coppola’s harrowing “Apocalypse Now”.
Critics were divided about the film as a whole, but Forrest’s portrayal of the character known as Chef (who literally loses his head in the end) was widely praised. The film was shot in the Philippines, an experience that For Forrest found difficult.
“As we were creating unrealistic, dreamlike wars, nightmarish personal events began to occur. I did,” he told the New York Times in 1979. I couldn’t think of any reason to do anything. “
Less burdensome was “The Rose,” in which Midler played a self-defeating Janis Joplin-like singer. Forrest played a limousine driver and a non-combatant soldier who become her romantic partners.
Janet Maslin, AKA Mr. Forrest, wrote in a book review for The New York Times, “Had Miss Midler herself not been in the position, the film would have been an unexpected hit.” This role earned him his only Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor. (Melvin Douglas won that year for “Being There.”)
At that point, Forrest might have seemed poised to become an A-list star. However, despite his steady work throughout the 1980s and 90s, he landed only a few lead roles, and those films did not perform well. Coppola’s next project was “One from the Heart” (1981), a romantic drama in which Coppola and Teri Garr try different partners after breaking up. Critics criticized the film.
He next played the title role in Wim Wenders’ Hammett (1982), a fictional story about mystery writer Dashiell Hammett, which had a limited theatrical release. His later films include Tucker: The Man and His Dreams (1988, another Coppola film), Cat Chaser (1989), and the ill-fated sequel to Chinatown, Jakes (1990) and others. Jack Nicholson. He also appeared in numerous TV movies and the 1989 miniseries Lonesome Dove. His most recent film appearance was a small role in the 2006 Sean Penn film All the Kings Men.
“It’s a capricious town, and it has no rhyme or reason,” he said of Hollywood in 1979. “By the time you leave the driveway to pick up your mail, you’ll be forgotten.”
Frederick Fenimore Forrest, Jr. was born on December 23, 1936, in Waxahachie, Texas, to Frederick Forrest and Virginia Alley (McSpadden) Forrest. His father ran a large greenhouse wholesale business. Young Frederick was at Waxahachie High School where he played four sports and was voted the most handsome boy in the senior class.
He graduated from Texas Christian University in 1960 with a degree in television and radio and a minor in drama, and married college sweetheart Nancy Ann Whitaker the same year, though the marriage was short-lived. lasted only three years. He moved to New York soon after graduation and worked odd jobs while studying acting under Lee Strasberg, Sanford Meisner and other notable teachers.
Early roles in New York included The Brawny Man in Ted Harris’ Silhouette at the Actor’s Playhouse in Manhattan in 1969. A year after he moved to the West Coast, he reprized the role in Los Angeles.
Margaret Harford wrote in the Los Angeles Times, “Frederick Forrest is perfect for what might be one of the sleepiest roles ever written. He never gets out of bed.” .
In 1980, he married actress Marill Henner for the second time, sparked by a screen test for the movie Hammett that year, which included a kiss scene.
“Somebody almost poured cold water on us,” Henner told the Toronto Star in 1993. “Tapes are pretty wild.”
They married six months later, but the marriage, like his previous marriages, lasted only three years. Forrest’s sister, Jackson, said his third marriage also ended in divorce.
Actor Barry Plymouth, who co-starred with Forrest in The Rose, reflected on Forrest’s talent both on screen and as a storyteller.
“Working with him has been a fun and learning experience for me,” he said in a statement. “It was really enchanting to spend the night listening to him. I had the love to let you.”
In a phone interview, Jackson said he was particularly happy to take his mother to the 1980 Academy Awards ceremony when his brother was nominated for “The Rose.”
“It was so great for her to see it,” she said.