Family & Companions
As an actor and former United States Senator, Fred Dalton Thompson had been both widely-recognized in prominent onscreen roles and active in important historical events. A former litigator, Thompson was plucked from private practice by former Tennessee senator Howard Baker in 1973 to serve as the Republican counsel for the Senate Watergate Committee. Thompson made an immediate splash, asking Richard Nixon's former deputy assist Alexander Butterfield the famous question, "[A]re you aware of the installation of any listening devices in the Oval Office of the president?" Since then, Thompson achieved moderate success in all three fields of expertise - acting, politics and litigation. But it was his film and television persona - one incidentally not far afield from his political self - that made him a recognized face, but by no means, a household name. Fred Thompson died on November 1, 2015 of a recurrence of lymphoma. He was 73.
Thompson was born on Aug. 19, 1942 in Sheffield, AL and raised in the small town of Lawrenceburg, TN by his mother, Ruth, and father, Fletcher, a used car salesman. After attending public schools, Thompson earned his bachelor's from Memphis State University in 1964, then obtained his law degree from Vanderbilt University in 1967, working his way through school selling shoes, driving trucks and working at a bicycle factory. After his work on the Watergate committee, Thompson returned to practicing law in Nashville, where he took on the case of Marie Ragghianti, the former chair of the state's parole board who was fired by then-Governor Ray Blanton for blowing the whistle on corruption in the prison system. He soon uncovered a clemency-for-cash scheme run by Blanton that forced convicts to pay for their freedom; a case that eventually landed the governor in jail.
The story was later turned into a novel by Peter Maas, inevitably attracting the attention of Hollywood producers who made the feature "Marie: A True Story" (1985), starring Sissy Spacek as the beleaguered Ragghianti. Thompson was originally brought onto the production as a consultant, but the producers quickly saw that he should play himself, which he did to great effect. Thompson was surprised to find himself a wanted commodity for other roles, thanks in large part to a stern, heavy-browed visage that projected unquestioned authority. In "No Way Out" (1987), he played the director of the Central Intelligence Agency, then appeared in "Feds" (1988), a lame comedy about two women (Rebecca DeMornay and Mary Gross) trying to make it in the FBI. After a brief turn as Maj. Gen. Melrose Hayden Barry in "Fat Man and Little Boy" (1989), a dramatic look at the making of the first atomic bomb at Los Alamos, Thompson had perhaps his widest exposure as an admiral aboard a U.S. aircraft carrier in "The Hunt for Red October" (1990).
Thompson continued having a banner year in 1990, appearing as a tension-fueled chief air traffic controller at Dulles' Airport in "Die Hard 2: Die Harder," followed in quick succession with "Days of Thunder" and "Flight of the Intruder." Continuing to play the voice of authority, Thompson was a sensible lawyer in the John Hughes' flop, "Curly Sue" (1991), then broke form with his performance as a skeptical, hard-edged attorney in Martin Scorsese's remake of "Cape Fear" (1991). After strong supporting roles in "Thunderheart" (1992) and "Aces: Iron Eagle III" (1992), Thompson turned to television with made-for-TV movies, including "Keep the Change" (TNT, 1992) and "Bed of Lies" (1992). He next had a meatier role as American Express CEO James D. Robinson III in "Barbarians at the Gate" (HBO, 1993), a dramatic look at the leveraged buyout of RJR Nabisco for a staggering $25 billion.
Thompson gave a brief, but impressionable performance as a politically-driven White House chief of staff who challenges the effectiveness of an aging Secret Service agent (Clint Eastwood) to protect the president (Jim Curley) in Wolfgang Peterson's gripping "In the Line of Fire" (1993). After roles in "Born Yesterday" (1993) and the dismal comedy "Baby's Day Out" (1994), Thompson bowed out of acting for a spell and ran for Al Gore's vacated Senate seat, easily winning the special election with 60 percent of the vote. Though he appeared sporadically in films and on television throughout his two terms, Thompson left the Senate in 2002 to once again pursue acting full time. He enjoyed a short-lived stint as District Attorney Arthur Branch on the surprisingly failed "Law & Order: Trial by Jury" (NBC, 2004-2005), a role he established in several episodes on the other three "Law & Order" series. Then in early 2007, Thompson announced a second go-round in politics, raising the possibility of a run for the Republican nomination for president in 2008. Thompson's potential run was heavily anticipated by political pundits of all stripes, but when he did enter the race, he proved to be a surprisingly lackluster candidate, attracting little support from voters. He withdrew from the race in January 2008 after placing third in the New Hampshire primary. Thompson returned to acting with appearances on the fantasy series "Life On Mars" (ABC 2009) and legal drama "The Good Wife" (CBS 2009-16), while maintaining a political presence with the daily radio talk show "The Fred Thompson Show" (Westwood One 2009-2011). Thompson's final major film roles came with a supporting part in the historical drama "Secretariat" (2010) and a leading role as William Jennings Bryan in the Scopes Monkey Trial drama "Alleged" (2010). Fred Thompson died of a recurrence of lymphoma in Nashville, Tennessee on November 1, 2015. He was 73 years old. In May 2017, a bill to name the new federal courthouse in Nashville after Thompson was passed.>/p>
Cast (Feature Film)
Misc. Crew (Feature Film)
Served as an assistant U.S. attorney
Served as campaign manager for Senator Howard Baker's successful re-election
Served as co-chief counsel to the Senate Watergate Committee in its investigation of the Watergate scandal
Took on a Tennessee Parole Board case that ultimately toppled Tennessee Governor Ray Blanton from power on charges of selling pardons; the scandal became the subject of a book and a movie titled "Marie"
Appeared in the documentary "The Wobblies"
Made feature acting debut as himself in "Marie: A True Story"; film launched his acting career
Landed first fictional role in a film, "No Way Out" as CIA Director Marshall
Appeared as Dr. Knox Pooley on CBS series "Wiseguy"
Cast in "The Hunt for Red October," starring Alec Baldwin and Sean Connery
Appeared in action blockbusters "Die Hard 2" and "Days of Thunder"
Cast in the remake of the 1962 film "Cape Fear" directed by Martin Scorsese
Landed first TV miniseries, "Stay the Night" (ABC)
Made TV-movie debut in "Bed of Lies" (ABC)
Portrayed White House Chief of Staff opposite Clint Eastwood in "In the Line of Fire"
Elected to U.S. Senate (Tennessee) to fill the unexpired portion of the term left vacant by the resignation of Al Gore
Re-elected to U.S. Senate (Tennessee)
In March, announced he would not seek Senate re-election
Joined cast of long-running NBC series "Law & Order" as Arthur Branch; became first serving U.S. Senator to hold a full-time television acting job; asked to be released from the role in preparation for 2008 presidential bid
Made occasional appearances on spin-off series "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" (NBC)
Introduced President George W. Bush at the Republican National Convention in New York
Reprised role of Arthur Branch on short-lived sister series "Law & Order: Trial by Jury" (NBC)
Signed on with ABC News Radio to serve as a host, commentator, and fill-in for Paul Harvey
Cast in Albert Brooks' "Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World"
Portrayed President Ulysses S. Grant in HBO movie "Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee"
Ran for 2008 Republican nomination for President of the United States; exited the race after finishing third in South Carolina Primary
Returned to series TV with guest appearance on "Life on Mars" (ABC)
Portrayed thoroughbred horse breeder Bull Hancock in Disney's "Secretariat"
Played the Sheriff opposite Ethan Hawke in found-footage thriller "Sinister"
Played FBI director in a story arc on NBC series "Allegiance"
A bill to name the new federal courthouse in Nashville after Thompson was passed