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.

Name: Brion Howard James

Vital Stats:
– Date of Birth: Feb. 20, 1945.  Date of Death: Aug. 7, 1999.
– From: Redlands, CA / Beaumont, CA
– 6’3″ tall

Brion Hames IMDB Page

Notable Roles:
Leon Kowalski, Gen. Munro, Max Jenke, Cajun Trapper, Ben Kehoe, Hobart, Stubbs, Streak, Big Teddy, Krasnov, Requin, Joel Levison, Det. Eddie Eiler, Rudy Jones/Parasite.

Career Hiccup(s): Galactica 1980, Kenny Rogers as The Gambler: The Adventure Continues.

Notable Quotes:
– “Wake up! Time to die!”
– “You fucking wanker!”
– “It real simple… we live back in here… dis is our home, and nobody don’t fuck with us.”
– “Let me tell you about my mother.”
– “Don’t look now, but your family’s dead… just kidding.”
– “Piss off! Bollocks to Plan A! I like this! The view’s great up here! Heh, heh!”
– “You belong on the river, you fuckin’ rat!”
– “I’d… like to take a few pictures… for the archives.”
– [Regarding the electric chair]: “All that did was give me a hard on!”

Why We’re Saluting:

James probably said it best himself: “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.”  Good at psychotic behavior indeed he was.  Known as one of the best and most physically imposing bad guys and character actors of the last 30 years, Brion James racked up an impressive amount of film and television credits in thew ’80s and ’90s.  Although he was frequently known for playing heavies and occasionally dumb and brutish types, this San Diego State theatre arts major was a skilled thespian who did theatre for eight years and studied with Stella Adler.  He believed in learning his craft and building character.  And although he was usually the bad guy, he brought a fun versatility to them. 

A favorite of director Walter Hill, he had sizable roles in five of his films: Hard Times, Southern Comfort, 48 Hours, Red Heat and Another 48 Hours.  He also did four films with director Albert Pyun: Nemesis, Spitfire, Brainsmasher: A Love Story and Hong Kong 97.  Numerous TV credits included roles on Benson, The A-Team, Little House on the Prairie, The Dukes of Hazzard, Matlock, Miami Vice, Sledge Hammer!, Dynasty, Vengeance Unlimited, Walker, Texas Ranger,M.A.N.T.I.S., Silk Stalkings, Amazing Stories, The Fall Guy, CHiPs, The Rockford Files, Roots,  Highlander: The Series and Millennium among others.  I personally liked his take on Parasite / Rudy Jones in three episodes of Superman: The Animated Series.

For all his credits, it’s the blankly menacing Leon Kowalski in Ridley Scott’s seminal Blade Runner for which James will probably always be best known.  That was the film that invariably came up in any interview he did.  And on the subject, James had some interesting tidbits to offer (via BladeZone from 1998): Ridley thought it would be a good idea to have a fly crawling around me [in the opening scene]. The wrangler had flies in a bowl of milk and sugar so they would be drugged out. So they put a colorless sugar trail on my face. So I’m sitting there in the scene and the guy underneath the table would take a Q tip and put the fly on my face. They would start stumbling up, walking along and I can’t pay attention to them. So it took a couple of takes before I could keep my eyes off them. The fly would get to a certain point and then fall off. They would yell cut cut cut. Then they’d get another fly and star again. We did that for about six hours one day. It was wild.

And regarding the big fight with star Harrison Ford (via the same BladeZone piece): Yeah..I took a lot of drugs for that. It was a night scene. We spent three or four nights doing that scene. Since very early in my career, I have always did my own stunt fighting. Gil Combs was Harrison Ford’s stunt man and we were getting ready to do the wide shot. Harrison say me in there and said, you do everything yourself. And I said sure. When he realized that I was going to do it, then he did it too. There’s an interesting thing that happens when you’re doing film. You get caught up in that moment because we were not really sure how to end that fight. I somehow came up with the energy and the adrenalin was going, so I threw Harrison on the car window and then picked him up with one hand and then slammed him down. He weighed 135 pounds. So I was supposed to pick him up then put him down and then slap him. We didn’t know how to end the scene so I said, look I’ve almost beaten this guy to death so let me wake him up and tell him that I’m going to kill him. Therefore the line came out of me, ‘Wake Up, Time To Die.'”

Other roles in films such as The Jazz Singer (1980), The Postman Always Rings Twice (1981), Flesh & Blood (1985), Enemy Mine (1985), Armed and Dangerous (1986), Steel Dawn (1987), Cherry 2000 (1987), Tango & Cash (1989), Red Scorpion (1989), The Player (1992), Nemesis (1992), Striking Distance (1993), Cabin Boy (1994), Steel Frontier (1995), Assault on Dome 4 (1997) and The Fifth Element (1997) showed his consistency in portraying colorful or dependably supportive characters.  James’ probable only true starring role was as Max Jenke in the 1989 horror film, The Horror Show (aka House III).  He was at his maniac best in that film.  Oddly enough, it was part of the Hollywood tradition of dueling concepts (in this case, killers who come back after getting the electric chair) when Wes Craven’s Shocker came out the same year.  James had some 20 film and TV credits just in the last two years of his life.  Unfortunately, he died suddenly of a heart attack in August of 1999. 

He closed out the above BladeZone interview by stating: “I worked with all of the big guys because I play a good villain. And the better villain, I am, the better they look.”  He did make a lot of guys look good; but mostly, he made himself look good.  And we enjoyed watching him do it.

Brion James Factoids: Was good friends with actor Tim Thomerson as they were in a tank company in the Army during the Vietnam War, although they didn’t deploy there.

Brion James David Homework:

Mr. James, we salute you.