John Heard Dead At 72
By Ray Cunneff
July 22, 2017
John Heard died Friday of undetermined causes following "minor back surgery". The veteran actor starred in some of the most beloved films of the 1980's and '90's.
He played Tom Hanks' co-worker in “Big” and co-starred with Bette Midler in “Beaches.” He was an Emmy Award nominee for a guest role in "The Soprano's". More recently, Heard appeared in films like “Gladiator,” “White Chicks” and “The Great Debaters.”
Although best remembered for the original "Home Alone" films, for me his most memorable role by far was his ferocious, funny, heartbreaking performance as Alex Cutter in 1981's "Cutter's Way".
Although not widely seen at its original release, it's only in later years that it found its niche as a "cult classic" with audiences and a "masterpiece" by critics who gave it a second look.
I've seen this film dozens of times and I'm still finding hidden treasures in its brilliant performances, dialogue, direction, cinematography and music score. It's a haunting and unique film that has to be seen more than once to be fully appreciated. The experience gets richer, with each viewing.
From a 1985 re-review by Johnathan Rosenberg:
A powerful, erotic thriller with remarkable performances from all three of its leads (Jeff Bridges, John Heard, and Lisa Eichhorn), Cutter’s Way never made the impact it should have when it was released. Originally titled Cutter and Bone, after the novel by Newton Thornberg on which it is based, it quickly became a studio write-off in the immediate wake of Heaven’s Gate. Not even a brace of rave reviews and a couple of film festival prizes could save it. Re-released a few months later as Cutter’s Way, the film went on to acquire an enthusiastic cult that continues to appreciate its sensitive, offbeat mood and its indelible portrait of disaffected America.
The film is tightly scripted by Jeffrey Alan Fiskin and directed by the Czech expatriate Ivan Passer, best known for his bittersweet Czech feature Intimate Lighting, as well as such American features as Born to Win, Law and Disorder, and Silver Bears. Cutter’s Way is an in-depth portrait of the complex relations between three disaffected people. The fact that all three are in some way losers is clearly what endears them to Passer, as well as to us. They wear their marginality like crowns.
Although the movie has more than its share of suspense, the focus is on character and atmosphere, and as the multiple ambiguities accumulate, the viewer’s involvement undergoes many sea changes. Missing an arm and a leg from his stint in Vietnam, Cutter moves about in a perpetual rage and, despite the alienating aspects of his behavior, we come to care about him deeply, just as our sense of Bone as a simpleminded jock gradually shifts.
Shot on location in Santa Barbara, the light and texture of Cutter’s Way has a luminous quality. Whenever two or more of the central characters are on screen at once, one has a sense that almost anything could happen. The legacy of the sixties seems to hover behind Passer’s doomed threesome like a half-remembered dream, and the haunting musical theme by Jack Nitzsche, performed on a glass harmonica and a zither, slides over the action like an eerie hallucination.
A passionate story about friendship, love, and commitment among three powerless people caught in a maelstrom, Passer’s masterpiece plays like a forties film noir transplanted to a wholly contemporary setting. the darkness of the theme is all the more gripping because it belongs to the world we live in today.
"Every scene in this gem is a keeper, with dialogue and situations as deep or deeper than anything in Stone, Lynch, or Tarantino’s output."
- Glenn Erickson
"I've seen it perhaps 30 times – it may be my favourite American movie – and, unlike its three broken leads, I have still yet to hit bottom. For once, the word is appropriate: masterpiece."
- John Patterson - The Guardian