Of both German and Irish descent, Lauter was born and raised in Long Beach, New York, the son of Sally Lee, a 1920s Broadway actress and dancer, and Edward Matthew Lauter. After graduating from high school, he majored in English Literature in college and received a B.A. degree in 1961 from the C.W. Post campus of Long Island University. While in college, he played basketball.
Lauter’s first acting role was a small part in the Broadway production of “The Great White Hope”, a boxing drama, in 1968. Before that, he was a stand-up comedian. His screen acting debut was in a 1971 episode of the television series Mannix. His first theatrical film role was in the Western Dirty Little Billy in 1972. As a character actor, Lauter was known for his 6’2″ height and balding looks.
He starred with Bruce Dern, Barbara Harris, Karen Black and William Devane in Alfred Hitchcock’s final film, Family Plot. Hitchcock was impressed by Lauter and asked him to play a major role in the romantic espionage thriller he planned as his next film; the director’s failing health and eventual death in 1980 meant that The Short Night never went into production. Lauter appeared in many films, including half a dozen in 1972 alone. Among Lauter’s most prominent film roles were The Longest Yard (a.k.a. The Mean Machine) (1974), King Kong (1976), Magic (1978), Death Hunt (1981), Timerider (1982) Death Wish 3 (1985), My Blue Heaven (1990), The Rocketeer (1991), Seraphim Falls (2006) and The Artist (2011).
Lauter’s TV appearances included the role as the villain sheriff Martin Stillman in the How the West Was Won TV series and guest-performances on The New Land, Psych, The X-Files (as Mulder’s childhood hero, Gemini astronaut Col. Marcus Aurelius Belt in the season 1 episode “Space”), Kojak, The A-Team, Miami Vice, Magnum, P.I. (episode Operation Silent Night), Booker, Charmed, Highlander: The Series, Law & Order, Star Trek: The Next Generation (as Lt. Cmdr. Albert in the season 5 episode “The First Duty”), The Equalizer and ER (with a recurring role as Fire Captain Dannaker).
On October 16, 2013, two weeks before his 75th birthday, Lauter died of mesothelioma, a rare form of cancer, having been diagnosed five months earlier in May. Married four times, he is survived by his fourth wife, Mia Lauter, and his four children from previous marriages. He continued to work until a few months before his death, completing roles in several films still to be released after his death. To honor his work, the Ed Lauter Foundation is being established, which will award a scholarship yearly to aspiring young actors.
- October, 30, 1938
- Long Beach, New York
- October, 16, 2013
- Los Angeles, California
Cause of Death