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Home / Fitness and Health / Death of Rip Torn – why he attacked Norman Mailer on a film set

Death of Rip Torn – why he attacked Norman Mailer on a film set



Rip Torn, who died yesterday at the age of 88, has a career full of memorable achievements. As Artie the producer at The Larry Sanders Show . As Agent Zed in Men in Black . As a patch O'Houlihan in Dodgeball . (And these are only from the second half of his career.) And all of them are characterized by a combination of restraint and power that very few actors can create.

But there is a performance by Rip Torn that I especially remember: The time when he tried to break the head of Pulitzer Prize winner Norman Mailer with a hammer.

It was fierce. Not so reserved.

The clip is taken from the documentary drama Maidstone the third part of a series of films that Mailer wrote, directed and produced in the late 1

960s. Mailer played a candidate for the novelist presidential candidate, and Torn played his brother Raoul. Mailer's directorial style involved provocation. He would needle and pester his actors while he was running the camera. This was apparently more than Torn could handle. While Mailer's real wife and children watch in horror and weeping, Torn attacks Mailer, who then grabs Torn and bites off part of his ear. The cameras catch everything – the clip made it into the final cut of the film, even though the actors used the proper names of each other in close combat.

The late '60s and early' 70s were a weird time for male artists, actors and intellectuals who were born around the beginning of the 20th century. See Richard Pryor and Milton Berle in The Mike Douglas Show . See Gore Vidal and William F. Buckleyon ABC during the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago. In the clip Maidstone Torn and Mailer both seemed to be macho-estranged in a Marlboro-Man manner, but also overstimulated by the sexual revolution, and the result of this combination is a kind of pathetic intensity that only it can kick when two middle-aged egos get bruised.

This clip contains several different lessons: Never participate in a movie directed by a novelist. Never leave your ear unprotected. And never take a hammer when you're mad.


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