Iconic Actor Robert Forster Dead at 78

Famous for roles in “Jackie Brown,” “Twin Peaks” and more

Robert Forster
Robert Forster attends the "What They Had" premiere during 2018 Toronto International Film Festival.
George Pimentel/Getty Images for TIFF
By Tobias Carroll / October 12, 2019 10:07 am

In the pantheon of American actors, Robert Forster had one of the greatest second acts to a career that one could imagine. Following his early-career work in the 1960s, his career reached a low ebb after years of acclaimed but little-seen films and television shows. After Quentin Tarantino cast him in 1997’s Jackie Brown, a role for which he was nominated for an Oscar, Forster became a favorite of a number of acclaimed auteurs, working steadily in high-profile projects for the remainder of his life.

Forster died at home on Friday at the age of 78. The Hollywood Reporter has reported that the cause of death was brain cancer. 

His early career included high-profile roles in films like Reflections in a Golden Eye and Medium Cool. And even when he wasn’t working in movies that were quite as acclaimed — including being cast as the villain in 1986’s The Delta Force — he was still earning acclaim for his work. Roger Ebert hailed his work, calling it “a frighteningly good performance, intense and uncompromising.”

Forster spoke warmly about his work with Tarantino in Jackie Brown. “I could not believe that I was going to get another shot at this business,” he told The AV Club in 2011. “But this guy gave it to me. He gave me a gift, the size of which cannot be exaggerated.”

After his comeback with Jackie Brown, Forster continued to take impressive roles in high-profile projects, including David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive and Alexander Payne’s The Descendants. He reteamed with Lynch for the third season of Twin Peaks, and had a small but significant part in Vince Gilligan’s Breaking Bad and its sequel film El Camino

In an interview for what would be one of his final roles, Elizabeth Chomko’s 2018 film What We Had, Forster spoke about the importance of casting and finding the right ensemble. “It’s an art form for a director to give his or her actors the feeling that they are they author of her own words, but they’re hers,” he said. “It’s right there on the page.” 

Forster’s work was never showy, but he always left an indelible mark on whatever film he was in. His was a singular presence, and one that will be missed on screens large and small. 

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