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Jun 29, 2009

Familiar Face - Unknown Name #15 - Brion James

Call them what you want - character actors, "That Guy(s)," scene stealers - I don't care. This is a regular feature where I spotlight one performer, whether they be longtime veterans like J.K. Simmons or Barry Corbin, or a fresher face just making their way up the stardom ranks. For previous FF-UNs, click here.

Today's Familiar Face-Unknown Name:

Brion James

Where You've Seen Him (high profile): Blade Runner, most famously. Also, 48 Hrs., Another 48 Hrs., The Player, and The Fifth Element.

Where You've Seen Him (not-so-high profile): Another Bruce Willis vehicle in Striking Distance. Any number of TV shows (Hunter, Silk Stalkings, The A-Team, The Dukes of Hazzard), but mostly in a bunch of sci-fi or action B Movies, judging by the titles (Steel Dawn, Red Scorpion, Mutator, Scanner Cop, Spitfire, and my favorite by a country mile, Pterodactyl Woman from Beverly Hills).

Character Specialties: Dirtbags and their cousins, scumbags. Shifty-eyed psychopaths. "From Wikipedia: "Concerning his talent for playing villains in films, he stated in an interview in Fangoria magazine, "'I consider myself a classical character actor like Lon Chaney, Wallace Beery, Charles Laughton. I always like to play bad guys. I'm real good at psychotic behavior."

My favorite role: First of all, I'm a little ashamed to say that I really haven't seen all that much of James' highest-profile work. I don't even think I've seen all of 48 Hrs. Haven't seen Tango & Cash. I've seen Red Heat, but it's been forever. Surely haven't seen the cadre of B movies. Easy as it might be to pick Leon from Blade Runner, I'm going with General Munro from The Fifth Element. For what really wasn't an essential role to the movie, he took hold of it and made it a ton of fun. A rare time where I can recall him getting a chance to smile.

Little Known Facts: Did a healthy dose of voice work (Superman and Batman animated TV shows, amongst other things).

Acted in five Walter Hill films (48 Hrs., Another 48 Hrs., Red Heat, Hard Times, and Southern Comfort).

Here's a sad story via IMDb: "[on his part in Another 48 Hrs. (1990) being heavily cut down] Total Recall (1990) came out a week before Another 48 Hrs. that summer, it made 25 million. The studio panicked. My stuff was in there until one week before the film opened. They cut 25 minutes out of that movie, a week before it opened. It went from around 140 to down to around 95 minutes. They said cut all the behavior, action, comedy, done. I lost every major scene I had. That's the last time I ever cared about a movie because I went to the press screening and it was like getting kicked in the stomach, seeing what's not there. I'm the third lead and I looked like a dress extra. All the stuff that they had in the set-up, stuff in the trailer, all those scenes were gone."

The saddest story of all, though, and one made sadder by the fact that I was completely unaware of it...James died 10 years ago come August 7th. He died of a heart attack in 1999 at the age of 54.

On Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brion_James
On IMDb: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0001397/

5 people have chosen wisely: on "Familiar Face - Unknown Name #15 - Brion James"

Nick said...

Wow, I didn't know he died.

Yeah, I recognized him from The Fifth Element, as well.

wiec? said...

Brion James was the man! agreed Bladerunner and the Fifth Element is some of his best work.

that stuff about Another 48 Hrs makes some sense considering the plot twist involving him at the end was very sudden. i can't believe i want to see a director's cut of Another 48 hrs. but now i kinda do.

and you should see Tango & Cash. it's a pretty crappy 80's action movie but Kurt Russell is in it and James plays an Australian hitman. it's also chock full of familiar faces and unknown names.

Tommy Salami said...

I was a little Blade Runner fanboy from day one, so I followed him. He was also the psycho slaver in Enemy Mine, another David Peoples script. He had great crazy eyes, but Fifth Element showed that he had some range. Sad that he died so young. He still has some of the best lines in Blade Runner:

Wake up! Time to die.

Daniel Getahun said...

I know I've seen that guy, but I feel like I can only place him in Blade Runner. It doesn't make it easier that the IMDB and Wiki pages show completely different pictures of him.

Kind of bizarre that he had a movie released 6 years after he died (though I see it was film in '98).

Fletch said...

Nick - and don't you feel terrible? I do. I'm supposed to know when people like this die. And it's been 10 years!! I suck.

cool evil - well damn. I mentioned in my Big Lots! post that I passed over a Stallone 2-pack with Cobra and Tango & Cash. Might have to go back and get it. I really need to cross those off the unseen list (and Tequila Sunrise while I'm at it, I suppose)...

Daniel - yeah, 6 years is a whole lotta post-production. Eraserheadish...