Ned Beatty was an incredibly versatile force in American cinema. From the moment he burst on the scene as the unfortunate victim of backwoods hillbillies in “Deliverance” to his effective voiceover work as Lots-O’-Huggin’ Bear in “Toy Story 3,” Beatty carved out a niche as a go-to actor when you wanted a supporting character to shine. He also played a pivotal role in the ever-more-prescient “Network,” and he was a great bumbling sidekick to Gene Hackman in the wonderful 1978 “Superman: The Movie.”
In a 1977 interview, Beatty explained why he preferred supporting roles. “Stars never want to throw the audience a curveball, but my great joy is throwing curveballs,” he said. “Being a star cuts down on your effectiveness as an actor because you become an identifiable part of a product and somewhat predictable. You have to mind your P’s and Q’s and nurture your fans. But I like to surprise the audience, to do the unexpected.”
He may not have had the look of a leading man, but as soon as he appeared on screen, you knew Ned Beatty was going to bring a top-shelf performance. His range seemed boundless. Ned Beatty died in his sleep of natural causes yesterday.
If you’d like to stream the best of Ned Beatty, here’s where you can see all his landmark performances…
The Best of Ned Beatty
Trying to put himself back together after serving prison time for robbery, Paul takes a job as a parks employee in a small Connecticut town. His co-worker, Murph, a generation older than Paul, is dealing with his own issues, chiefly the the impending death of his very ill son. After the men have a run-in with local snob Frederickson, Murph’s age and experience starts to temper Paul’s fiery nature, as the younger man begins to embrace his new life.
Self-made millionaire Thornton Melon decides to get a better education and enrolls at his son Jason’s college. While Jason tries to fit in with his fellow students, Thornton struggles to gain his son’s respect, giving way to hilarious antics.
Beatty plays the delightful criminal sidekick Otis in one of the best superhero movies of all time.
A somewhat daffy book editor on a rail trip from Los Angeles to Chicago thinks that he sees a murdered man thrown from the train. When he can find no one who will believe him, he starts doing some investigating of his own. But all that accomplishes is to get the killer after him.
If you’ve never seen this groundbreaking masterpiece, now is the time. Beatty plays an intimidating figure who bullies a renegade news anchor into submission. He earned an Academy Award nomination for essentially one scene.
Intent on seeing the Cahulawassee River before it’s turned into one huge lake, outdoor fanatic Lewis Medlock takes his friends on a river-rafting trip they’ll never forget into the dangerous American back-country.
Even if you’ve never seen this terrifying movie, you’ve certainly heard “Squeal like a pig!” in several other movies and shows. This is where that horrific line debuted and Ned Beatty is on the unfortunate receiving end of that command. This one is not for the faint of heart.
As with any modern celebrity passing, stars and colleagues lined up on social media to share their thoughts.
Just heard that Ned Beatty passed away in his sleep.— Lee Unkrich (@leeunkrich) June 14, 2021
It was a joy and and an incredible honor to work with him.
Thanks, Ned, for bringing Lotso to life — both his good side and his not-so-good side. We’ll miss you. pic.twitter.com/mDP9pP2vg1
The primal forces of nature have come to collect Ned Beatty. He was great in NETWORK, SUPERMAN, DELIVERANCE and the TV series HOMICIDE (and so much more), but don’t forget his chilling, villainous turns in WHITE LIGHTNING and MIKEY AND NICKY. https://t.co/cJMoFevJBx— Patton Oswalt (@pattonoswalt) June 13, 2021
RIP Ned Beatty. Here’s one of the greatest monologues ever in a movie: https://t.co/JjotXIKdNo— Seth Rogen (@Sethrogen) June 14, 2021
Ned Beatty. Superb character actor - my fave being his brilliantness in NETWORK (one of the greatest screenplays and films of all time) So ahead of its time. And same for Mr. Beatty. RIP https://t.co/yzw05ip7zw— Ralph Macchio (@ralphmacchio) June 13, 2021