Fred Thompson (1942-2015)
Fred Thompson, who passed away on November 1 at the age of 73, was a politician as well as an actor. This being an entertainment/ pop-culture site, this small tribute to the man’s life and works will not discuss his politics. What it can state was that Thompson had incredible screen presence, bringing that air of authority and leadership to each and every role he played and, as a result, he’s the kind of actor that you don’t notice, not really at all. That’s the highest compliment that can be given to an actor – that he or she doesn’t seem to be acting. Over the course of his career, he’s played presidents, judges, lawyers, generals, and his performances ion these roles, whether they are small bit parts or leading roles, are always on target.
Most people probably know him from playing Distinct Attorney Arthur Branch on quite a few of the Law and Order spin-offs, and he’s popped up in a few other shows as well. As I don’t watch a lot of T.V. I can only go from my won experiences: I loved it when he popped up in movies from time to time. So the roles that come to my mind are from a couple of movies I’ve seen so many times, and have never gotten tired of. In Die Hard 2: Die Harder (A very underrated film) he played the Chief of Air Operations at the airport that was held at bay by terrorists. As you’d expect from Tompkins, his character was frank, honest, and – if not totally in control of the situation – it was clearly something of annoyance that he wasn’t, and he had his own quiet resolve as things went south.
My favorite little bit part from Thompson (and this is just me personally) is his role as Admiral Painter from The Hunt for Red October. It seems that every scene, and every line of dialogue in that movie is memorable, and yet Thompson comes in with his deadpan delivery that underscores the severity of the drama by being peppered with a dose of sarcasm in his tone.
“Russians don’t take a dump son, without a plan.”
“This business will get out of control. It will get out of control and we’ll be lucky to live through it.”
Yes, Thompson, like pretty much the whole cast of that film, is very credible as a military leader who’s been through a hell of a lot but none of that has prepared them for crisis that a missing nuclear submarine presents them with, and suddenly all the usual red tape is just in the way. It was the first time I really noticed Thompson: seeing him in their roles afterwards, my first thought would always be: “It’s the guy from Red October.”