Veteran character actor Ed Lauter dies at age 74

photo Ed Lauter, right, and his wife, Mia, arrive at the premiere of "The Number 23" in Los Angeles in this 2007 file photo.

LOS ANGELES - Veteran character actor Ed Lauter, whose long, angular face and stern bearing made him an instantly recognizable figure in scores of movies and TV shows during a career that stretched across five decades, died Wednesday. He was 74.

Lauter died of mesothelioma, a rare form of cancer most commonly caused by asbestos exposure, said his publicist, Edward Lozzi.

Whether he was an irascible authority figure, a brutal thug or a conniving con man, Lauter's presence made him all but impossible to miss in any film he was in. That was so even on those occasions when he was playing a character more bumbling than menacing, although menacing was clearly his forte.

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