Most of the time, they’re not headlining movies nor TV shows. They’re not regulars on TMZ, Entertainment Tonight nor other Hollywood hype machines. And they’re not reality show attention whores who are famous for simply being famous…or trying to be famous. What they are is all too frequently the unheralded; the people whose solidly consistent work affects and often delights us. They’re the ones who don’t always get the credit when the credit is due. We aim to change that.

Nick Chinlund / Bruce McGill / J.T. Walsh / Keith David & David Keith / Brion James / Al Leong / Anthony De Longis / Mykelti Williamson / Tony Todd / Kim Coates / CCH Pounder / Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa

Steve JamesName: Steve James

Vital Stats:

– Date of Birth: February 19, 1952
– Date of Death: December 18, 1993
– From: New York City
– 6′ 1″ (1.85 m)


Official Site

Notable Roles: Cpl./Sgt. Curtis Jackson, Baseball Fury, Black Martial Artist, The Soldier’s Force, Odell, Jeff Rice, Bobby, Boogaloo Brown, Robinson, Kung Fu Joe

Career Hiccup(s): Weekend at Bernie’s II

Notable Quotes:

  • “Watchu gonna do with that hose, huh? You gonna play with yourself?”
  • “It’s time for action. Let’s go!”
  • “Now look, my man. I told you I don’t have what you’re lokking for, So why don’t you make it easy on yourself…[draws a knife on Masters] and just shag your ass out of my crib! Now you be a printer! Go get some ink, ant start printin’ some more of that shit!

Why We’re Saluting: For being a memorable, if usually secondary presence in notable martial arts films of the 1980s.  All too frequently, Steve James made his mark by being second fiddle to some of the decade’s better known action heroes such as Michael Dudikoff and Chuck Norris, as well as as utility players in projects like Bloodfist 5, Hero and the Terror, The Delta Force, Avenging Force, To Live and Die in L.A., and especially, the first three American Ninja films.  In fact, it’s easily that franchise for which he’s best remembered.  As Cpl. / Sgt Curtis Jackon, James brought an easy likability and a goofy machismo to the partner of Michael Dudikoff’s Joe.  It’s a character that got progressively more hammy as the series went to the third movie, and it’d be easy to see if Michael Jai White got some inspiration for Black Dynamite from him.  It’s easy to say that those films, fun and ’80s cornball as they were, wouldn’t have even approached those levels of entertainment without Curtis Jackson by Joe’s side.  James also appeared in comedies such as I’m Gonna Get You Sucka, and Hollywood Shuffle in small parts.  He sported an impressive physique, was a stunt man and martial artist, who studied fu jow pai (tiger claw) kung fu.

Steve James never really cracked the next level to leading man status beyond a film or two, but he did quite a bit with the roles that he landed and proved true the old Hollywood adage “there are no small roles, only small actors.”  There certainly was nothing small about James, except for the time he had both in the biz and in life.  But to those of us who remember his work, that small time made an impact.

Mr. James, CHUD salutes you.

Steve James Factoids

  • James was held in high esteem by director William Friedkin, who called him, “one of the…nicest, toughest and [most] professional actors I’ve ever worked with.”
  • Was in  pilot for the TV show, M.A.N.T.I.S, which aired a few weeks after his death.
  • James was due to portray Jax in Mortal Kombat.