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Emmy-winning actor Rip Torn dead at 88

By AAP Newswire

Award-winning television, film and theatre actor Rip Torn has died at the age of 88, his publicist has confirmed.

Rick Miramontez said Torn died on Tuesday at his home with his wife, Amy Wright, and daughters Katie Torn and Angelica Page by his side.

No cause of death was given.

Torn was a free-spirited Texan who overcame his quirky name to become a distinguished actor, enjoying a career on stage and screen spanning seven decades.

He won an Emmy late in his career for his comedy turn on TV's The Larry Sanders Show, playing the role of Artie, the bombastic, ethically challenged television producer.

Created by and starring Garry Shandling, HBO's spoof of TV talk shows aired from 1992 to 1998.

Born Elmore Rual Torn, the actor adopted the name Rip in his boyhood, following the tradition of his father and uncle.

It was the subject of endless ridicule during his early days as a stage actor in New York, and fellow drama students urged him to change it.

With customary stubbornness, he refused, eventually overcoming the jokes with a series of powerful performances that led to his being regarded, along with Marlon Brando, Paul Newman and James Dean, as actors of a post-war generation who brought tense realism to their craft.

Torn made his film debut in 1956 in an adaptation of Tennessee Williams' Baby Doll and within a few years was a respected film and television actor, working on occasions with his second wife, Geraldine Page.

At the Actors Studio, he gained the attention of Elia Kazan, who hired him as understudy to Alex Nicol, then playing Brick Pollitt in the Tennessee Williams classic Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.

Towards the end of the show's Broadway run, Torn took over the role of the alcoholic, emotionally troubled former football hero. He did so billed against his wishes as Elmore Torn.

His success eventually inspired a younger cousin to take up acting, too - Oscar winner Sissy Spacek.

Other film credits included Critics Choice and The Cincinnati Kid, while on television he played such figures as Richard Nixon, Lyndon B Johnson and Walt Whitman.

City Heat, The Hunt for Red October and Men in Black were some of his other films.

Torn and his first wife, actress Ann Wedgeworth, had a daughter, Danae, before divorcing.

In 1963 he married Page, with whom he had co-starred in the touring production and movie version of Sweet Bird of Youth.

They had three children - a daughter, Angelica, and twins Jon and Tony - and appeared in productions together until her death in 1987.

Torn also had two children, Katie and Claire, with actress Amy Wright.