With his varied work experiences, this rough-hewn character lead excels at playing blue collar types and working class heroes. Ward worked in mime and masque theater and performed in cabarets in Europe and Northern Africa before moving to Rome where he translated spaghetti Westerns and appeared in two TV-movies directed by seminal Italian neorealist filmmaker Roberto Rossellini--"The Power of Cosimo" (1974) and "Cartesia" (1975). After some lean times in LA (where he supported himself selling jewelry on the street), Ward made his feature debut as a jailbreak buddy of the even craggier Clint Eastwood in Don Siegel's "Escape From Alcatraz" (1979).
Ward's rugged looks worked well in action adventure films: Walter Hill's "Southern Comfort" (1981), a creepy tale of macho part-time National Guardsmen facing peril in the Louisiana bayou; "Timerider: The Adventures of Lyle Swann" (1982), wherein he played a motocross bike racer transported to the Old West; and "Uncommon Valor" (1983), as a member of Gene Hackman's crew of commandos on a rescue mission in Laos. He received positive notices as astronaut Gus Grissom in Philip Kaufman's "The Right Stuff" (1983) and went on to work regularly in films and TV throughout the 80s and 90s. Ward starred in "Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins" (1985). Directed by veteran Bond helmer Guy Hamilton ("Goldfinger" 1964), this was a failed but valiant attempt to start an action franchise. He was also Kevin Bacon's partner in "Tremors" (1990), a jaunty 50s-style monster flick. Ward starred in and served as co-executive producer on "Miami Blues" (1990), a cop thriller/black-comedy which featured dynamic performances from co-stars Alec Baldwin and Jennifer Jason Leigh. Ward reteamed with Kaufman to play Henry Miller in the controversial "Henry and June" (1990). He appeared in three ambitious 1992 films: Michael Apted's "Thunderheart"; Robert Altman's "The Player" (as the studio security head); and Tim Robbins' "Bob Roberts" (as a news anchor). Ward also played an underworld kingpin in Alan Rudolph's quirky mystery, "Equinox" (1993).