How Does Rip Torn (Actor) Keep Out-Smarting Rip Torn (Trainwreck)?
By Marc Schneider Posted Feb 2nd 2010 07:00PM
With a name like "Rip," you're bound to be a touch on the bizarre side. Rip Torn has made an art out of blending awesome and absurdity both on-screen and off. This past weekend, Torn did the unbelievable: he got blindingly drunk and entered a closed bank he believed was home sweet home. To get into his home/bank, the veteran actor smashed through a window, took off his boots and wandered around his living room/teller area. Police found a loaded revolver in his pants. Wow.
He's vowed to enter a rehab facility, but that won't erase those burglary, trespassing and weapons charges. Last year, Torn was given probation in a Connecticut drunken driving case and allowed to enter an alcohol education program. And before that was a string of booze-related offenses that dates back six years and includes his notorious mug shot and belligerent encounter with police officers.
"It's heartbreaking," the actor's daughter Angelica told the NY Post of her dad's freefall. "But maybe now he's finally going to have to face the truth about himself and his drinking."
Torn's alcohol-inspired behavior may strike fear in bank windows across New England, but he hasn't scared off movie or TV producers, who continue hiring the star in roles that suit his distinctly gruff voice or his general weirdness.
Therein lies the question: At what point will his erratic behavior -- arrests, break-ins, car accidents -- affect his career? He's become as infamous as he is famous, but there doesn't appear to be any threshold, or if there is, maybe he's just too darn good to shun. Ask the Emmy on his mantle for 'The Larry Sanders Show.'
"My father is a brilliant man, but so much has been wasted," Angelica Torn said. "He's pissed away so much -- so much of his time and so much of his talent."
This spate of incidents began happening when Torn was 72, and seem to happen again every two years. Through it all, he's kept busy.
► January, 2004: Torn's car collided with a taxi in NYC and video of the arrest shows the actor cursing and refusing a breahalyzer test. In short, it's a YouTube favorite. Watch It Over There >> That year, he appeared in the mega-successful 'Dodgeball' and in 2005 starred in 'The Sisters' with Mary Stuart Masterson and later the Dennis Quaid comedy 'Yours, Mine & Yours.'
► December, 2006: Torn was arrested for drunk driving again, this time in North Salem, NY after his car smooshed into a tractor trailer. In 2007, he starred in a few more films, including Jerry Seinfeld's 'Bee Movie' and he began his ongoing stint as Don Geiss on NBC's '30 Rock.'
► December, 2008: Another drunk driving arrest, this time after refusing a ride home after having a few too many at his local watering hole. Police stopped him in his tracks, which wasn't hard to do: his car had a Christmas tree lashed to the top. Since then, he landed roles alongside Demi Moore in 'Happy Tears,' and the upcoming National Lampoon movie and is currently playing the voice of a big cat in the animated film, 'Cat Tale.'
And then there's the events of last Friday and his mistaken break-in while armed at a Connecticut bank, which could actually lead to jail time for the actor, who turns 79 this weekend. According to friends, the fact that he had a gun on him at the bank incident should not be seen as unusual. He is an avid collector and apparently sleeps with a pistol under his pillow. "Rip's always got a gun on him," a friend said after the arrest. "He's a hunter, and he's paranoid."
Even before this late-in-life free fall with alcohol abuse, Torn has a history of bizarre actions on the set of films. The most notorious being an incident during the filming of 'Maidstone' in 1970. With cameras rolling, a disgruntled Torn struck director-actor Norman Mailer with a hammer, opening a wound in the legendary author's head. A frenzied fight ensued; Torn was bit in the ear as the men rolled around on the ground as children screamed in terror.
WARNING: GRAPHIC, VIOLENT & DISTURBING FOOTAGE. Viewer Discretion Is Advised:
His work appeared to slow down after that incident, according to data found on IMDB, and he only appeared in a smattering of films over the next few years.
Torn also successfully sued Dennis Hopper in 1999 after he claimed on 'The Tonight Show' that Torn threatened him with a knife during pre-production of 'Easy Rider.' Torn was reportedly cast in the role that eventually went to Jack Nicholson.
Back to the present: if Torn completes another round of rehab and gets his act together, how will Hollywood respond? So far, his fortunes have not been affected by the arrests and the drinking and the on-set weirdness.
Of course, that won't be Hollywood's problem if he's sent to jail.
Rip Torn Snapshots
Rip Torn exits court on Feb. 1 in Bantam, Connecticut where he was arraigned on charges of criminal trespass, carrying a gun without a permit, carrying a gun while intoxicated, burglary and criminal mischief and was released on a $100,000 bond. Police responding to an alarm found Torn in the Litchfield Bancorp branch's lobby Friday night after he reportedly broke into the bank though a window while intoxicated.
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