Rip Torn had a personal life – including struggles with alcohol abuse – that sometimes garnered more attention than his acting career and overshadowed his natural talents. Torn, who notably played Artie the producer on The Larry Sanders Show died at the age of 88.
Torn initially gained international attention when he was nominated for an Oscar in the 1984 drama Cross Creek, with Mary Steenburgen.
On HBO’s The Larry Sanders Show, Torn’s performance was critically acclaimed as Artie, the producer of a fictional late-night TV talk show. The sitcom ran from 1992 to 1998, and during that time, the actor earned an Emmy nomination for each of the six seasons. He won the Emmy in 1996. He also won an American Comedy Award for the rule and two CableACE Awards.
Following his time on The Larry Sanders Show, Torn guest-starred in different comedy roles including on 30 Rock, playing the Chief Executive Officer of General Electric, which got him another Emmy Award nomination although he lost to Tim Conway.
Other notable roles included stints as Zed in the first two Men In Black movies, and as Patches O’Houlihan in Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story.
Torn’s Long Career
Torn was born in Texas, and following time at Texas A&M and the University of Texas at Austin, he went on to an apprenticeship at the Dallas Institute of Performing Arts. After two years in the Army, Torn moved to New York, studying at the Actors Studio under Lee Strasberg. While there, direct Elia Kazan noticed Torn and gave him an opportunity as an understudy to Ben Gazzara as Brick in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.
A Troubled Life
While Torn was hailed widely as an excellent actor, he was also associated with unpredictable antics and other types of trouble throughout his career. For example, in a fight scene in the 1970 movie Maidstone, Torn attacked Norman Mailer with a tack hammer, and Mailer then bit Torn’s ear. Reportedly, the scene was not purely fiction, but fueled by a drug binge.
Between 2004 and 2008, Torn was arrested three times for driving under the influence. Later in 2010, Torn became intoxicated and broke into a Connecticut bank with a loaded revolver. According to police, Torn believed the bank was his home. He pled guilty and received a suspended sentence. As part of Torn’s sentencing in that case, he entered treatment for alcohol misuse and dependence. Torn’s legal team attempted to have his name cleared of all charges. However, the judge said no based on his history of alcohol abuse, as well as the fact that he had a loaded weapon while intoxicated. At the time of the break-in, Torn was 79.
Torn’s daughter, Angelica Torn, gave an interview following the break-in with The New York Post. She described her feelings that her father had wasted much of his time and talent because of his alcohol abuse and run-ins with the law. Family, friends and other loved ones often lamented the perception of Torn as a crazy, out-of-control alcoholic, rather than a talented actor.
Torn’s excessive alcohol misuse started impacting his ability to memorize lines, and he wasn’t in an on-stage performance since 1997. Torn’s story is a reminder that even the most talented and accomplished figures can also struggle with alcohol abuse.
If you or a loved one are struggling with alcohol misuse, the Recovery Village has programs to help you. Contact us to learn more about treatment.
Barnes, Mike. “Rip Torn, Artie the Producer on ‘The Larry Sanders Show,’ Dies at 88.” Hollywood Reporter, July 9, 2019. Accessed August 15, 2019. Trott, Bill. “Rip Torn, Emmy winner and Oscar nominee, known as trouble-maker, dies at 88.” Reuters, July 10, 2019. Accessed August 15, 2019. Riedel, Michael. “Daughter laments Rip’s wasted talent.” New York Post, February 3, 2019. Accessed August 15, 2019.
Barnes, Mike. “Rip Torn, Artie the Producer on ‘The Larry Sanders Show,’ Dies at 88.” Hollywood Reporter, July 9, 2019. Accessed August 15, 2019.
Trott, Bill. “Rip Torn, Emmy winner and Oscar nominee, known as trouble-maker, dies at 88.” Reuters, July 10, 2019. Accessed August 15, 2019.
Riedel, Michael. “Daughter laments Rip’s wasted talent.” New York Post, February 3, 2019. Accessed August 15, 2019.