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Ed Lauter, character actor, dies at age 74

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Ed Lauter attends the "Hitchcock" gala screening as part of AFI Fest in Los Angeles on Thursday, Nov. 1, 2012. (Photo by John Shearer/Invision/AP) Ed Lauter attends the "Hitchcock" gala screening as part of AFI Fest in Los Angeles on Thursday, Nov. 1, 2012. (Photo by John Shearer/Invision/AP)

JOHN ROGERS | AP

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- 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, has died at age 74.

Lauter's publicist, Edward Lozzi, said the actor died Wednesday of mesothelioma, a rare form of cancer most commonly caused by asbestos exposure.

Lauter's presence as an irascible authority figure, a brutal thug or a conniving con man made him all but impossible to miss in any film he was in.

He was the brutal prison guard who was Burt Reynolds' nemesis in the 1974 comedy-drama "The Longest Yard" and the sleazy gas station attendant in Alfred Hitchcock's last film, "The Family Plot."

His TV appearances included "The Office," "ER," "Murder, She Wrote" and "The Rockford Files."

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