ABINGDON, Va. — Ned Beatty — the Oscar-nominated character actor who died Sunday at age 83 — appeared onstage at Abingdon’s Barter Theatre for several summers.
“It’s unfortunate,” Rick Rose, the Barter’s retired producing artistic director from 1992-2019, said of Beatty’s death.
Best known for his roles in the movies “Deliverance” and “Superman,” Beatty spent his early acting career, 1959-1964, performing in various roles such as Big Daddy in “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” (1959) under the guidance of Barter Theatre founder Robert Porterfield.
Beatty lived in a home on Valley Street in Abingdon for a while, Rose said.
“I almost became a minister, and that stage turned out to be my seminary,” Beatty once said about the Barter Theatre, which is the state theater of Virginia.
“Literally, there is nothing better for a young actor to do than be in a company like this,” Beatty said.
He played a city slicker exploring the backwoods of the South in 1972’s controversial “Deliverance,” filmed along the South Carolina-Georgia border.
That movie also starred Burt Reynolds and often yielded cries of “squeal like a pig” when Beatty was seen on the street, Rose said.
But Beatty simply accepted that as part of his career, Rose said.
The “squeal” referred to a strange scene in which Beatty’s character is attacked by a mountain man.
Beatty also once played a visiting chaplain with a fire-and-brimstone attitude in an episode of “M*A*S*H,” alongside another Barter Theatre alumnus, Larry Linville (Frank Burns).
Rose met Beatty a couple of times — once in New York City and another time when Beatty helped one of his sons audition for a role at the Barter. Rose also watched Beatty perform as Big Daddy in a Broadway production of “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.”
“He was immensely gracious to me,” Rose said. “He’s an interesting man and really bright. He’s known for kind of his quirkiness. He’s a helluva actor.”