Torn said he had to play Arthur with that mentality because "in showbiz, producers legendarily have to be not only two-faced, but 10- or 12-faced people to get things done. And (they are) going to tell anybody what is needed to get the job done."
The role earned him six consecutive Emmy nominations for outstanding supporting actor in a comedy series, and he took home the Emmy in 1996.
As an actor, Torn early on earned a reputation for being volatile and difficult.
"David Susskind (the producer) once told me that I didn't work more often because of my temperament," Torn said in a 1976 interview in The Times. "But that's why I didn't become a banker!"
One role Torn famously did not play was George Hanson, the alcoholic ACLU lawyer in director Dennis Hopper's 1969 counter-culture classic "Easy Rider."
Torn was set to play the part that launched Jack Nicholson to stardom.
But, Torn told Playboy magazine in 1993, he was told he'd be working for minimum, about $400 a week at the time. Because he had a tax lien against his bank account for $3,500, he said, "I asked them for $3,500 for six weeks' work and never heard from them."
Torn's peripheral connection to "Easy Rider" surfaced three decades later when Hopper, during a 1994 appearance on "The Tonight Show," said that Torn was turned down for the role of Hanson because he had pulled a knife on Hopper during an argument.
But, according to Torn, who filed a suit against Hopper for slander, it was Hopper who had pulled a knife on him. Torn won a $475,000 judgment against Hopper, to which another $475,000 in punitive damages were later added.
Torn's reputation wasn't helped by a notorious scene in the Norman Mailer-directed, improvisational 1970 film "Maidstone," in which Mailer plays a movie director who is being considered as a presidential candidate: Torn improvised an attack on Mailer with a hammer to his head. In the ensuing scuffle, Mailer bit Torn's ear.