Richard Jordan, a versatile, award-winning actor and director who segued easily from portraying film and television heroes or heavies to performing or directing Shakespeare and the classics and to writing and producing his own plays, died Monday of a brain tumor. He was 56.
Jordan, who had to be replaced because of illness last spring in the highly successful, recently released film “The Fugitive,” died in his Los Angeles home.
His latest project, which he helped to write, was the television epic “Gettysburg,” scheduled to be shown on TNT in October.
New York-born and Harvard-educated, Jordan won a Golden Globe as best actor in the television miniseries that made him nationally known, “Captains and Kings.”
He also won an Obie for his acting in the Vaclav Havel play “Protest” in New York and later at Los Angeles’ Taper, Too.
When Jordan directed the Czechoslovakian playwright Havel’s “Largo Desolato” at the Taper, Too in 1987, he won the Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Award.
Jordan loved a challenge and preferred honing his art to protecting an image as a star. He appeared in more than 100 plays on and off Broadway and spent eight years with the New York Shakespeare Festival, playing such roles as Romeo, Troilus, and Orlando. With other companies, he took on Shakespeare’s Macbeth and Hamlet and classic heroes and villains in the works of Ibsen, Pirandello, Chekhov, Shaw, Sheridan and Congreve.
“In an odd way, I’ve never cared if I’m accepted or rejected,” Jordan told The Times in 1978, discussing his willingness to tackle any role. “I just remind myself that if I’d wanted to make money I didn’t have to go into this business. I could have become a lawyer like the rest of my family.
“I did it because, as preposterous as it sounds, I wanted to be an artist.”
As managing artist of the L.A. Actors’ Theater in the 1970s, Jordan produced, directed and wrote plays and contributed money to keep the non-Equity theater alive.
“In contrast to other theaters in town, we do put life on the stage,” he said, proudly noting that television regularly raided his casts. “It may not be polished, but there is life. That’s born of the fact that the actors love what they’re doing.”
Jordan made his film debut in “Lawman” in 1970, and went on to do such films as “Trial of the Catonsville Nine,” “The Friends of Eddie Coyle,” Woody Allen’s “Interiors,” “Rooster Cogburn,” “Old Boyfriends,” “Raise the Titanic,” “A Flash of Green,” “Dune,” “The Mean Season,” “Romero,” “The Hunt for Red October,” “Shout” and “Posse.”
His television productions include “The Bunker,” “Les Miserables,” “The Murder of Mary Phagan,” “Breakdown,” “The Equalizer” and “Killer Angels.”
He recently directed Raul Julia, with whom he had starred in “Romero,” in “Macbeth” at the Public Theatre in New York.
An avid gardener and master carpenter, Jordan once jokingly told The Times that as a New Yorker accustomed to bitter cold winters, he relished the outdoor life in California and would simply “grow flowers and get ready for the big change, the earthquake.”
Jordan is survived by two children, Nina and Robert Jordan; his mother, Constance Morris; a brother, Eban Jordan; three sisters, Christine Jordan, Frances Morris and Martha Jordan States, and his longtime companion, Marcia Cross.