Oscar Actors: Robert Forster, Nominated for Tarantino’s Jackie Brown, Dies at 78

Robert Forster, who received a Supporting Actor Oscar nomination for his performance as a bail bondsman in Quentin Tarantino’s 1997 Jackie Brown, has died. He was 78.

Forster died on Friday, October 11, 2019, at his Los Angeles home from brain cancer, his publicist said.

With his good looks, steely chin and earnest gaze, Forster exuded a raw truthfulness. He made his film debut opposite Marlon Brando and Elizabeth Taylor in John Huston’s Reflections in a Golden Eye (1967), then sparkled as an ethically challenged cameraman in Haskell Wexler’s groundbreaking Medium Cool (1969).

Forster then took on title characters on TV to build on his stardom, portraying a dogged 1930s detective on NBC’s Banyon, which premiered in 1971, and a Native American police deputy in New Mexico on ABC’s Nakia, which bowed in 1974. However, the shows lasted just 15 and 14 episodes, respectively, before being canceled.

Forster was a captain of a spaceship in Disney’s sci-fi thriller The Black Hole (1979), but it was a box office disappointment.

Other low-budget features in the 1980s include Alligator (1980), The Kinky Coaches and the Pom-Pom Pussycats (1981), Vigilante (1982), Hollywood Harry (1986) and Satan’s Princess (1989).

By the early 1990s, the actor was down to supporting roles in such low-budget efforts as Maniac Cop 3: Badge of Silence, Body Chemistry 3: Point of Seduction and Scanner Cop II and supplementing his income with speaking engagements.

“I went 21 months without a job. I had four kids, I took any job I could get,” Forster told the Chicago Tribune in 2018, raising and then lowering his hand to indicate his fortunes. “My career went like this for five years and then like that for 27. 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 through the cracks.”

Tarantino brought the actor in to audition for the part of aging gangster Joe Cabot in his 1992 debut, Reservoir Dogs, but he was set on casting Lawrence Tierney, who proved to be brilliant.

Tarantino never forgot Forster, however, and as he was writing the screenplay for Jackie Brown (1997), an adaptation of Elmore Leonard’s 1992 novel Rum Punch, he wrote Max Cherry with Forster in mind.

“Years had gone by and I ran into him in a coffee shop. By then my career was really, really dead,” Forster recalled in a 2018 interview with Fandor. “And we blah-blah’d for a few minutes, and then six months later he showed up at the same coffee shop with a script in his hands and handed it to me.

“When I read it I could hardly believe that he had me in mind for Max Cherry, except that nothing else made any sense. So when I asked him about it, he said, ‘Yes, it’s Max Cherry that I wrote for you.’ That’s when I said to him, ‘I’m sure they’re not going to let you hire me.’ He said, ‘I hire anybody I want.’ And that’s when I realized I was going to get another shot at a career.”

After Jackie Brown, Forster’s career blossomed, and he worked in such high-profile films as Psycho (1998), Me, Myself and Irene (2000), Mulholland Drive (2001), Human Nature (2001), Like Mike (2002), Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle (2003), Firewall (2006), Lucky Number Slevin (2006) and The Descendants (2011).

In 2013, Forster was cast as the key Breaking Bad character The Disappearer in the AMC series’ penultimate episode, with the show’s team citing Max Cherry as an inspiration. Forster reprised the role in El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie, which opened in theaters and hit Netflix Friday.

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