Open main menu

Brion Howard James (February 20, 1945 – August 7, 1999) was an American character actor. Perhaps best known for his portrayal of Leon Kowalski in Blade Runner, James portrayed a variety of colorful roles in popular films such as Southern Comfort, 48 Hrs., Another 48 Hrs., Silverado, Tango & Cash, Red Heat, The Player and The Fifth Element.

Brion James
Born
Brion Howard James

(1945-02-20)February 20, 1945
Redlands, California, United States
DiedAugust 7, 1999(1999-08-07) (aged 54)
Malibu, California, United States
OccupationActor
Years active1973–1999
Spouse(s)
Maxine James
(m. 1965; div. 1996)

James' commanding screen presence and formidable physique at 6 feet 3 inches (1.91 m) tall[1] usually resulted in his casting as a heavy, appearing more frequently in lower-budget horror and action films and TV shows throughout the 1980s and 1990s. James appeared in more than 100 films before he died of a heart attack at the age of 54.

Contents

Early lifeEdit

James was born in Redlands, California, the son of Ida Mae (née Buckelew) and Jimmy James.[2][3] He spent his early years in Beaumont, California, where his parents owned and operated a movie theater; James had said, "My story is like Cinema Paradiso. Every night in my life since I was 2 years old... I ran movies".[4] After graduating from high school in 1962,[citation needed] James attended San Diego State University as a Theater Arts major. Migrating to New York, James immersed himself in the theatre scene, taking on bit roles here and there. He also served in the United States Army National Guard.

CareerEdit

In 1975, James landed a small role in the made-for-television film, The Kansas City Massacre, playing John Dillinger gang member Homer Van Meter. Higher profile roles followed in 1976, with his casting in Nickelodeon and Harry and Walter Go to New York. James also appeared in the acclaimed television miniseries Roots and popular 1970s shows such as Gunsmoke, The Incredible Hulk, Mork and Mindy, Chico and the Man, and CHiPs.

James' career took a sudden upturn in the early 1980s with several sharply defined character roles in films such as Southern Comfort and 48 Hrs. (which were both directed by Walter Hill), but it was his performance as Leon Kowalski in the 1982 film Blade Runner that gave him his greatest, most lasting fame. Even though his memorable performance threatened to typecast the intense yet versatile actor as a movie villain for the remainder of the decade, James continued to pile up a prolific acting resume, playing significant roles in Enemy Mine, Flesh + Blood, A Breed Apart, Silverado, Armed and Dangerous, Red Heat, Steel Dawn, Red Scorpion, Tango & Cash and Showdown (portraying an obnoxious high-school vice-principal, Kowalski, whose name was probably an inside joke inspired by Blade Runner). James continued his strong work on the small screen as well, with guest spots in Benson, Quincy, M.E., The A-Team, Little House on the Prairie, The Dukes of Hazzard, Matlock, Miami Vice, Sledge Hammer!, and Dynasty. In the 1990s, he appeared in Highlander: The Series, and as Sheriff Bowman in the Millennium season 2 episode "Luminary". He lent his voice to the character of Parasite in Superman: The Animated Series. In 1982, he was in the made-for-TV-movie Hear No Evil as Billy Boy Burns.[5][6][7]

James starred in the low-budget 1989 supernatural horror film The Horror Show (aka House III), where he played serial killer "Meat Cleaver Max" Jenke. This was his all-time favorite role. The character was initially expected to spin off into other films. James was relieved that he was not asked to reprise the role, as he said he did not want to make a career out of something so schlocky[citation needed].

In 1994, he played a grouchy sponsor who became a victim of the gruesome goings-on during a 1939 radio show in the film Radioland Murders. Another of his memorable roles came near the end of his career, as the amiable General Munro in The Fifth Element (1997). Two months before his death, James reprised his role as Parasite in Superman 64, a video game based on the critically acclaimed Superman: The Animated Series.

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."[8]

DeathEdit

James died in 1999 from a heart attack in Malibu, California. He appeared in five feature films that were released posthumously. The last of these was Phoenix Point (2005).

The motion picture The King Is Alive (2000) was dedicated to him.[citation needed]

FilmographyEdit

FilmEdit

Year Title Role Notes
1975 Hard Times Uncredited
1976 Harry and Walter Go to New York Hayseed
1976 Treasure of Matecumbe Roustabout
1976 Bound for Glory Pick-Up Truck Driver at Border
1976 Nickelodeon Bailiff
1977 Blue Sunshine Tony
1978 Corvette Summer Jeff (Wayne's Carwash Henchman)
1980 Wholly Moses! Guard at Banquet
1980 The Jazz Singer Man in Bar
1981 The Postman Always Rings Twice Crapshooter
1981 Southern Comfort Trapper
1981 Soggy Bottom, U.S.A. Defalice
1982 Blade Runner Leon Kowalski
1982 48 Hrs. Ben Kehoe
1982 The Ballad of Gregorio Cortez Captain Rogers
1984 A Breed Apart Peyton
1985 Crimewave Arthur Coddish
1985 Flesh & Blood Karsthans
1985 Silverado Hobart Uncredited
1985 Enemy Mine Stubbs
1986 Armed and Dangerous Anthony Lazarus
1987 Steel Dawn Tark
1987 Cherry 2000 Stacy
1988 Dead Man Walking Decker
1988 D.O.A. Detective Ulmer
1988 The Wrong Guys Glen Grunski
1988 Red Heat Streak
1988 Death Street U.S.A. (aka: Nightmare at Noon) The Albino
1988 Red Scorpion Sgt. Krasnov
1989 The Horror Show Max Jenke
1989 Mutator David Allen
1989 Circles in a Forest Mr. Patterson
1989 Tango & Cash Requin
1990 Enid Is Sleeping Trucker
1990 Street Asylum Reverend Mony
1990 Another 48 Hrs. Ben Kehoe
1991 Mom Nestor Duvalier
1991 Ultimate Desires Wolfgang Friedman
1992 The Player Joel Levison
1992 Wishman Staten Jack Rose
1992 Nemesis Maritz
1992 Frogtown II Prof. Tanzer
1993 Time Runner Neila
1993 Brainsmasher...A Love Story Brown Video
1993 Striking Distance Det. Eddie Eiler
1993 Showdown Vice Principal Kowalski
1993 The Dark Paul Buckner
1994 Cabin Boy Big Teddy
1994 Future Shock Jack Porter
1994 F.T.W. Sheriff Rudy Morgan
1994 Savage Land Cyrus
1994 Art Deco Detective Jim Wexler
1994 Radioland Murders Bernie King
1994 The Soft Kill Ben McCarthy
1994 Hong Kong 97 Simon Alexander
1995 Spitfire Tough guy Uncredited
1995 The Nature of the Beast Sheriff Gordon
1995 Steel Frontier General J.W. Quantrell
1995 Dominion Lynwood
1995 Cyberjack Nassim
1995 Indecent Behavior III Mr. Cowed Uncredited
1996 Precious Find Sam Horton
1996 American Strays Oris
1996 Evil Obsession Stavinski
1996 Marco Polo: Haperek Ha'aharon
1996 Billy Lone Bear Walsh
1997 The Killing Jar Dr. Vincent Garret
1997 Back in Business Emery Ryker
1997 The Fifth Element General Munro
1997 Snide and Prejudice Hermann Goering
1997 The Setting Son Junior
1997 Pterodactyl Woman from Beverly Hills Salvador Dalí / Sam
1997 The Underground Captain Hilton
1997 Bombshell Donald
1998 Jekyll Island Lawton Goodyear
1998 Deadly Ransom Bobby Rico
1998 In God's Hands Captain
1998 Border to Border Card Shark
1998 Heist Caz
1998 Brown's Requiem Cathcart
1998 Kai Rabe gegen die Vatikankiller Mönch
1998 Joseph's Gift Frank Childress
1998 Black Sea 213 Captain Killick
1998 A Place Called Truth Hank
1999 Malevolence Warden Walker
1999 Foolish Ruben Reyes, Talent Scout Uncredited
1999 Diplomatic Siege Gen. Stubbs Posthumous release
1999 Dirt Merchant Detective Harry Ball
2000 Farewell, My Love Renault
2000 The Operator Vernon Woods
2000 The King Is Alive Ashley
2000 The Thief & the Stripper Shoe
2005 Phoenix Point Spider Rico Posthumous release
Final film role

TelevisionEdit

Year Title Role Notes
1974 The Waltons Henry Ferris Jr. Episode: "The Birthday"
1975 Gunsmoke Joe Barnes Episode: "Manolo"
1977 Roots Slaver TV mini-series
1977 The Rockford Files Clamshell Episode: "The Battle of Canoga Park"
1978 Kiss Meets the Phantom of the Park Second-in-command park security TV movie
1978 The Incredible Hulk Al Episode: "Alice in Disco Land"
1978 Mork & Mindy George Episode: "Mork's Greatest Hit"
1978 Chico and the Man Hog Episode: "Waiting for Chongo"
1979 B. J. and the Bear Bomber / Patrol Officer 2 episodes
1979–1981 CHiPs Ackerman / Monk 3 episodes
1980 Galactica 1980 Willy Episode: "Galactica Discovers Earth: Part 1"
1980 The Jeffersons Dirty Dog Episode: "The Arrival: Part 2"
1981 Benson Axe-Man Episode: "The Grass Ain't Greener"
1982 Little House on the Prairie Amos Episode: "A Faraway Cry"
1982 Quincy, M.E. Henry Muller Episode: "Sleeping Dogs"
1982 Hear No Evil Billy Boy Burns TV movie
1982–1984 The Dukes of Hazzard Captain Slater / Jenkins 2 episdoes
1983 The Gambler: The Adventure Continues Reece TV movie
1983–1985 The A-Team David Plout / Ryder 2 episodes
1985 The Fall Guy Episode: "The King of the Stuntmen"
1985 Amazing Stories Willie Joe Episode: "Mummy Daddy"
1986 Dynasty Hawkins 2 episodes
1986 Annihilator Alien Leader TV movie
1986–1988 Sledge Hammer! Don Merrill / Felix Ridel 2 episodes
1987 Matlock Mr. Grock Episode: "The Author"
1987 The Hitchhiker Lionel Episode: "Best Shot"
1988 Miami Vice Edward Reese Episode: " Borrasca"
1988–1991 Hunter Thomas Duffy / Lt. Jeff Wadsworth 2 episodes
1991 Tales from the Crypt Steve Dixon Episode: "Split Second"
1992–1993 Batman: The Animated Series[9] Irving Voice
2 episodes
1993 Renegade Eli Starke Episode: "Moody River"
1993 Rio Diablo Jake Walker TV movie
1994 Silk Stalkings Rupert Tarlow Episode: "T.K.O."
1994 Knight Rider 2010 Jared TV movie
1994 Highlander: The Series Armand Thorne Episode: "The Cross of St. Antoine"
1996 Aaahh!!! Real Monsters[9] Big Orderly / Chimera Voice
2 episodes
1996 Assault on Dome 4 Chairman TV movie
1996–1997 Superman: The Animated Series[9] Rudy Jones / Parasite Voice
3 episodes
1997 Walker, Texas Ranger Rafer Cobb 2 episodes
1997–1999 Todd McFarlane's Spawn Voice
6 episodes
1998 Millennium Sheriff Bowman Episode: "Luminary"
1998 Men in White General TV movie
1998 Men in Black: The Series Drekk Voice
2 episodes
1998–1999 The Magnificent Seven Stuart James 2 episodes

Video gamesEdit

Year Title Role Notes
1997 Blade Runner Leon Kowalski Voice
1999 Superman 64 Parasite Voice

BibliographyEdit

  • Craig Edwards (Spring 1995). "Brion James; Interview by Craig Edwards". Psychotronic Video. 20: 60–64.

ReferencesEdit

CitationsEdit

  1. ^ "Brion James Height - How tall". celebheights.com. 2015. Retrieved August 17, 2015.
  2. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on April 2, 2015. Retrieved February 13, 2013.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  3. ^ "Buckalew Family Association". oocities.org. Retrieved August 17, 2015.
  4. ^ Zekas, Rita (May 27, 1993). "His familiar face changes with every new film script". Toronto Star. Retrieved August 17, 2015.
  5. ^ Terrace 1985, p. 188.
  6. ^ "Hear No Evil". Turner Classic Movies. United States: Turner Broadcasting System. Retrieved March 13, 2018.
  7. ^ Terrace 2011, p. 445.
  8. ^ "Brion James". Psychotronic.com.[permanent dead link]
  9. ^ a b c https://www.behindthevoiceactors.com/Brion-James/

SourcesEdit

External linksEdit