Film News: Character Actor Robert Forster Dies at 78

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LOS ANGELES – The unforgettable actor Robert Forster had one of the most celebrated of “second acts” in show biz history, but he would humbly characterize himself as a “working actor,” performing in film and TV for over 50 years. Forster passed away on October 11th, 2019, in Los Angeles. He was 78 years old.

Robert Wallace Forster Jr. was born in Rochester, New York, and graduated from the University of Rochester in the mid-1960s. His father had done time as an elephant trainer for Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circuses, so the show business coursing through his blood changed his ambitions from the legal profession to acting. After making his Broadway debut in 1965 with “Mrs. Dolly,” the rave reviews got him a screen test at 20th Century Fox, and he was one of the last put under contract by old school studio chief Darryl Zanuck.

Robert Forster at the 54th Chicago International Film Festival in 2018
Photo credit: Joe Arce for Starstruck Foto for

Forster became an iconic character actor, who has worked since first appearing in the John Huston directed film “Reflections in a Golden Eye” (1967). His most famous film roles in his first phase include “Medium Cool” (1968, also filmed in Chicago) and “The Black Hole” (1979), along with TV (1971’s “Banyon”) and B-movies.

Quentin Tarantino wrote the character Max Cherry just for him in “Jackie Brown” (1997, nominated for a Best Supporting Actor Oscar), which put him onto the next phase towards films like “Mulholland Drive” (2001), “The Descendants” (2011) and last year’s “What They Had.” He also had hundreds of TV roles, including “Breaking Bad” and the recent Showtime revival of “Twin Peaks.” His final role is in a movie releasing this week on Netflix, “El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie.”

Forster was married twice and is survived by four children. According to his publicist, he died due to brain cancer at his home in Los Angeles.

In a Podtalk with Patrick McDonald of, conducted at two different venues at the 54th Chicago International Film Festival in 2018, Robert Forster talks about the perspective on his role in “What They Had,” a vital tip he received from director John Huston and his time in Chicago with “Medium Cool.”

Sources for the this article are The Hollywood Reporter and Wikipedia. Robert Forster, 1941-2019 senior staff writer Patrick McDonald

Editor and Film Writer

© 2019 Patrick McDonald,

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