Prolific character actor Miguel Ferrer passed away on Thursday, January 19th at the age of 61 after battling throat cancer.
Ferrer was born into a showbiz family. His father was the equally prolific actor Jose Ferrer and his mother was singer/actress Rosemary Clooney (making him a cousin to that other famous Clooney fellow). After a brief flirtation with a career as a session musician (when he was only nineteen, he played drums on Keith Moon’s Two Sides of the Moon), he followed his father’s footsteps into the world of character acting and compiled an astonishing number of credits over a career that spanned 36 years and appearances in films, TV shows, and off-Broadway theatre.
After numerous guest spots on shows like Magnum, P.I., CHiPs, Cagney & Lacey, and Hill Street Blues in the early ’80s, Ferrer made his first huge impression in Paul Verhoeven’s ROBOCOP. Given the juicy role of Bob Morton, the slimy OCP junior executive who heads up the program to create the titular character, Ferrer stole every scene he was in and made a meal out of the second most famous quote in an endlessly quotable movie: “I fuckin’ love that guy!”
After the success of ROBOCOP, Ferrer started to balance his still busy career in television with more film appearances, increasingly working in genre fare like DEEPSTAR SIX, Tony Scott’s REVENGE, and William Friedkin’s THE GUARDIAN. With his gravelly voice and no-nonsense expression, Ferrer became typecast as the same intense, sarcastic, and sleazy character from ROBOCOP, but in 1990, David Lynch saw the comedic potential in Ferrer and cast him as FBI Agent Albert Rosenfeld on Twin Peaks. The role barely tweaked Ferrer’s well-worn onscreen personality—the main difference was Rosenfeld’s morally upright demeanor—but it made him a viable comic relief as the outsider everyman exasperated by the quirky residents of the town. His sarcastic putdowns and eye-rolling reactions are still some of the best bits in the original run of the series (he reprised his role in TWIN PEAKS: FIRE WALK WITH ME and the upcoming revival of the series).
After the cancellation of Twin Peaks, Ferrer’s star as a reliably charismatic character actor who could do both drama and comedy rose in the ’90s. John Sayles cast him as a regular in his lone foray into series TV, the short-lived legal dramedy Shannon’s Way. He snagged a juicy role in the sprawling miniseries adaptation of Stephen King’s The Stand as a conflicted right-hand-man to villain Randall Flagg. He cashed a couple of paychecks as the heavy in Disney family comedies BLANK CHECK and MR. MAGOO. He even managed to break out of supporting roles with lead turns in flawed but interesting horror films like THE HARVEST and THE NIGHT FLIER.
Despite becoming a series regular on long-running procedurals like Crossing Jordan and NCIS: Los Angeles, Ferrer retained the work ethic of the consummate character actor, continuing to appear in projects at an astonishing pace. He was a standout in the ensemble for Steven Soderbergh’s TRAFFIC, made his obligatory Marvel Films appearance in Shane Black’s entertaining IRON MAN 3, did a ton of voice work for animation and video games, and had guest spots on everything from Will & Grace to Desperate Housewives.
At this point, it is uncertain just how big of a role Ferrer’s Agent Rosenfeld is going to play in the Twin Peaks revival. While his life has been cut down far too short, it seems fitting that one of his most recognized roles will wrap up his career.