Acting legend Rip Torn always sounded like someone I'd want to hang out with.
Torn was an "actor's actor," but he had a reputation as a trouble-maker.
Legend has it that he was all set for Jack Nicholson's career-making role in Easy Rider (1969) before things went awry. Dennis Hopper, the film's director, said years later on The Tonight Show that Torn had pulled a knife on him in a diner, costing him the job. Torn said it was Hopper that pulled the knife on him and sued for libel, winning $475,000 in damages.
In an improvised fight seen in Maidstone (1970), Torn attacked actor-director Norman Mailer with a tack hammer; Mailer then bit into Torn's ear during the ensuing scrum. The Criterion Collection described the movie as being "shot over the course of five drug-fueled days in East Hampton, New York."
An Army veteran, Torn was also an outspoken activist.
After Torn met with Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy in an attempt to start an integrated national theater in 1963, he was targeted by the FBI and found trouble finding work in major motion pictures. "I began to see things in gossip columns, stories about me," he once said.
In 1970, on the day after Torn spoke out against the Vietnam War on The Dick Cavett Show, a bullet was fired through the window of his Manhattan home.