Know Your Role: Ed Lauter
Ed Lauter was born on October 30th, 1938 in Long Beach, New York. He would be classified by most people as a character actor, but Lauter described himself as a “turn actor”, the character who was the catalyst for a turning point in the story.
I would also describe Ed Lauter as a “turn actor”, as he turned good movies into great movies, turned bad movies like Starship Troopers 2 into watchable movies and turned great movies into classics.
Lauter, like many actors, got his start on TV and even when he began getting roles in feature films as his career progressed, he was not one to turn his back on television. Ed Lauter guest starred on dozens of TV shows through out his career including Magnum P.I., The A-Team, The Equalizer, Miami Vice, Highlander, Renegade and Walker Texas Ranger.
Lauter’s first feature film role was along side a true legend, Lee Van Cleef in the Magnificent Seven Ride! The film also starred a young Gary Busey.
His next big action role would be in The French Connection II with another legend, Gene Hackman, who was reprising his role as Popeye Doyle.
In the 80’s he would work with Fred Ward in Timerider: The Adventure of Lyle Swann. Lauter played the character Padre in the movie about a champion off-road racer (Ward) who unwittingly travels back to 1877. The film also featured Belinda Bauer of Robocop 2 fame.
Lauter would get to work with Arnold Schwarzenegger in the underrated Raw Deal.
But it was Lauter’s collaborations with Charles Bronson that first made me a fan of his work. Lauter and Bronson worked together on four films, Breakheart Pass, The White Buffalo, Death Hunt (also starring Lee Marvin and Carl Weathers) and Death Wish 3. Of the four my favorites are Breakheart Pass and Death Wish 3.
Breakheart Pass is a movie that I was not immediately a fan of, but after a second viewing of it I enjoyed it and now find myself watching it anytime I come across it on TV. Lauter plays a major in the army who works with Bronson’s character, Deakin, to unravel the dirty deeds of a crooked politician in the Old West as they travel by train through the Rocky Mountains.
And then there is Death Wish 3, this is the movie that really made me take notice of Lauter. Sure I had seen him before but he was just another character actor, “THAT GUY”, I recognized him but couldn’t tell you his name. That all changed with Death Wish 3 and his portrayal of Shriker, a cop who harnesses the vigilante skills of Paul Kersey to help clean up the streets of New York. A preposterous plot executed to perfection by Lauter and Bronson.
Sadly, Lauter passed away last year on October 16th, 2013, just two weeks before his 75th birthday. But Lauter left behind a body of work that will be enjoyed for generations to come. Not everyone can be the leading man, but every leading man needs quality actors like Ed Lauter to help them shine.
Thank you Ed Lauter… I owed you that one dude.