Robert Forster, the handsome and omnipresent character actor who got a career resurgence and Oscar-nomination for playing bail bondsman Max Cherry in “Jackie Brown,” has died. He was 78.
Forster’s publicist Kathie Berlin said he died Friday at home in Los Angeles of brain cancer following a brief illness. He was surrounded by family, including his four children and partner Denise Grayson.
Condolences poured in Friday night on social media. Bryan Cranston wrote on Twitter that Forster was a “lovely man and a consummate actor.” The two met on the 1980 film “Alligator” and then worked together again on “Breaking Bad” and the spinoff film “El Camino,” which launched on Netflix Friday.
“I never forgot how kind and generous he was to a young kid just starting out in Hollywood,” Cranston wrote.
His “Jackie Brown” co-star Samuel L. Jackson tweeted that he was, “truly a class act/Actor!!”
Stumbling into acting
A native of Rochester, New York, Forster quite literally stumbled into acting when in college, intending to be a lawyer, he followed a fellow female student he was trying to talk to into an auditorium where they were holding auditions for “Bye Bye Birdie.” He would get cast in the play, the fellow student would become his wife (they had three daughters), and it started him on a new trajectory as an actor.
A fortuitous role in the 1965 Broadway production “Mrs. Dally Has a Lover” put him on Darryl Zanuck’s radar, and Zanuck signed him to a studio contract. He would soon make his film debut in the 1967 John Huston film “Reflections in a Golden Eye,” with Marlon Brando and Elizabeth Taylor.
Forster would go on to star in Haskell Wexler’s documentary-style Chicago classic “Medium Cool” and the detective television series “Banyon,” and worked consistently throughout the 1970s and 80s in mostly forgettable B-pictures.
“I had four kids, I took any job I could get,” he said in the same interview last year. “Every time it reached a lower level I thought I could tolerate, it dropped some more, and then some more. Near the end I had no agent, no manager, no lawyer, no nothing. I was taking whatever fell thru the cracks.”
It was Quentin Tarantino’s 1997 film “Jackie Brown” that put him back on the map. Tarantino said he created the role of Max Cherry with Forster in mind. The performance opposite Pam Grier became one of the more heartwarming Hollywood comeback stories, earning him his first and only Academy Award nomination. He’d ultimately lose the golden statuette to Robin Williams, who won that year for “Good Will Hunting.”
Since then, he’s worked consistently, appearing in films like David Lynch’s “Mulholland Drive,” “Me, Myself and Irene,” “The Descendants,” and “Olympus Has Fallen,” and in television shows like “Breaking Bad” and the “Twin Peaks” revival.