Rip Torn was born Elmore Rual Torn, Jr. on February 6, 1931 in Temple, Texas. "Rip" is a family name, taken by generations of Torn men and bestowed on Elmore by his father, who was also called "Rip." Torn attended Texas A & M and the University of Texas, where he majored in animal husbandry. Extremely naive when he was young, Torn hitchhiked to Hollywood with the idea of becoming a movie star; he wanted to make enough money in order to buy a ranch. Success did not come overnight, as he had hoped, and Torn had to work many odd jobs while occasionally being cast in television roles. He made his feature film debut in `Elia Kazan' 's "Baby Doll" in a small part.
Serious about learning his craft, he moved to New York City where he studied under Lee Strasberg at the Actors Studio. Torn also studied dance with Martha Graham. His serious acting career began on the small screen, where he made a name for himself in the Golden Age of Television; between 1957 and 1960, he appeared regularly on such prestigious live shows as "Omnibus" and "Playhouse 90."
Torn made his Broadway debut in Kazan's staging of Tennessee Williams' "Sweet Bird of Youth" on March 10, 1959, in support of 'Paul Newman' , 'Sydney Blackmer' and Geraldine Page, who would become his second wife. The play was a hit, closing on January 30, 1960 after 375 performances. He won a 1960 Tony Award nomination as Best Featured Actor in a Play and a Theater World award for his role as Tom, Jr., a role he recreated in the 1962 film. (Torn also starred as Boss Finley in a later television adaptation of the play).
Torn earned a reputation as an actor's actor on stage, both Broadway and Off-Broadway, as well as on screen. He continues to work in the New York theater despite his demanding TV and movie schedule as both an actor and director. He has won two Obie awards for his work Off-Broadway, for Distinguished Performance in Norman Mailer's "The Deer Park" (for the 1966-1967 season), and for Distinguished Direction for "The Beard" (1967-1968). He has his own stage company, and directed his daughter Angelica Torn(by Gerladine Page) in John Paul Alexander's "Strangers in the Land of Canaan" at the Actors Studio. Torn made his feature film directorial debut with "The Telephone" (1987).
He has constantly been in demand as a character actor, in supporting, second lead and occasional lead roles. His best performance on film came in "Pay Day," and he was nominated for a best supporting actor Oscar for "Cross Creek." Most of Torn's roles have been in drama, though he is adept in comedy. His role in Albert Brooks' comedy "Defending Your Life" led to his being cast in "The Larry Sanders Show," on which he played talk show producer Artie. Torn won six consecutive Emmy nominations for the role, winning once for Best Supporting Actor in a comedy series in 1996.
Rip Torn was married to actress Ann Wedgeworth from 1956 to 1961, whom he divorced to marry Geraldine Page. They remained married until her death in 1987. Torn helped his cousin, Oscar-winner Sissy Spacek, to make her way as an actress, seeing to it that she was accepted by the Lee Strasberg's Actors Studio and then the Lee Strasberg Institute.
Mini Biography By:
Jon C. Hopwood
Nominated for Oscar.