His big break came when he appeared in Hitchcock’s “Family Plot” in 1976, with Bruce Dern, Barbara Harris, Karen Black and William Devane.
The legendary director was so impressed with his work, he asked Lauter to take the lead role in his next film, “The Short Night.” But Hitchcock’s health faltered and he died in 1980 without making the picture.
“The Short Night” was, perhaps, Lauter’s best chance of becoming a lead actor in Hollywood. After that, he was relegated largely to secondary roles. He never became a well-known actor, but his face was instantly recognizable to millions of moviegoers.
He played villains, cops, firemen, gangsters and other movie characters. He once described himself as a “turn” actor, because movie plots usually turned when his characters appeared.
Lauter never lacked for film work. He most recently appeared in 2012’s “Trouble with the Curve,” with Clint Eastwood and Amy Adams.
He also appeared in this year’s “Blind Pass” and will appear posthumously in “The Town That Dreaded Sundown, “Becker’s Farm” and “The Grave” in 2014 and 2015.
Among his other notable films are “Leaving Las Vegas,” Academy Award winning “The Artist,” “Born on the Fourth of July,” with Tom Cruise and both the original and remake of “The Longest Yard.”
Lauter was born into a showbusiness family in New York. His mother Sally Lee was a Broadway actress and dancer in the 1920s and he was related to actress Elaine Stritch. After graduating from college in 1961 with a degree in English literature, he turned to acting.
While he wasn’t well known, he lived a Hollywood life. He was married four times and had four children, who survive him along with his current wife Mia.
Lauter died from a rare form of cancer known as mesothelioma, said publicist, Edward Lozzi. It’s most commonly caused by inhaling asbestos fibers over a long period of time.