Though you may not know his name, you will know Ed Lauter by his face and the long list of work for television and film he's done. For us geeks, he's best known for the Rocketeer (1991) as hard-nosed F.B.I. Agent Fitch, or as one of the first victims of Cujo (1983), or his various television roles on Walker: Texas Ranger, X-Files, Star Trek The Next Generation, Manimal, and the A-Team. What Lauter did best was making the hero/protagonist look good by playing an asshole law official who eventually assists the hero, or as the villain. Whatever the role, Lauter's characters always made the hero look better.
He passed away at the age of 74 due to his ongoing battle with mesothelioma. Even when diagnosed with the disease, Lauter continued to work on various roles in films that have yet to be released. It just goes to show you Lauter was man who truly enjoyed his work.
For me, I recognized the face, but I never truly appreciated the man's work until I watched Death Wish 3 (1985) and instantly was charmed by his character in the movie, Police Chief Richard S. Shriker; a hardened cop who willingly accepts Paul Kersey (Charles Bronson) back onto the streets of New York, as long as the body count is low and Kersey keeps a "low profile". Of course complications arise that Shriker cannot foresee, and, in the climax of the movie, the pair share what quite possibly is one of the greatest team-ups in action film history:
It was that role made me really appreciate the actor and discover he was in another underrated favorite movie of mine, the Rocketeer (1991), as, yet again, a hard-nosed law official. His character was an asshole, but he still shares one of the best scenes in the movie with one of the film's previous antagonists as they team-up to take on Nazis. Again, he made the hero (Bill Campbell) look so darn heroric:
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