Bruce Payne

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Bruce Payne
Born Bruce Martyn Payne
(1958-11-22) 22 November 1958 (age 55)
London, England, United Kingdom
Occupation Actor, producer
Years active 1982–present

Bruce Martyn Payne (born 22 November 1958) is an English character actor and producer[1] and was a member of the 1980s Brit Pack. Although he is best known for his villainous roles,[2] Payne has played characters across the spectrum. His notable villainous roles include Charles Rane in Passenger 57, Jacob Kell in Highlander: Endgame and Damodar in Dungeons & Dragons and Dungeons & Dragons 2: Wrath of the Dragon God. Payne notes of his acting approach, "[i]f I'm allowed to in terms of time, I really like to get into the character.".[3]

Early life[edit]

Payne was born in Woking, Surrey, and grew up in New Haw, Surrey. He developed an interest for acting at an early age. In an interview with Impact magazine in 2001, Payne revealed that "I know that my immediate family tell me that when I was very young I saw a play that my brother was in – probably a Peter Pan pantomime because it involved a crocodile – and I apparently shouted out 'That crocodile is going to eat my brother' and ran up on the stage. I don't remember that myself, but if it really happened, I think it shows that from an early age I loved that suspension of disbelief".[4] At the age of 14 he was diagnosed with a slight form of Spina Bifida[5] which by age 16 required surgery to rectify. Payne was hospitalised for 6 months following the operation.

Payne continued school studies, despite a contact with a talent scout during that time. After his graduation, he enrolled in the National Youth Theatre for two seasons. Payne has described this experience as "Four hundred kids thrown together to work on 7 plays."[6] In addition, Payne was occupied with the Edinburgh Festival Fringe for one season. He then auditioned for several fringe acting companies but was told he was too young and lacked experience. However, in 1979 he was admitted to the "prestigious"[7] Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA) acting program. Before being accepted at RADA, Payne worked as a joiner, a salesman and a landscape gardener. Payne graduated from RADA in 1981 with seven major prizes for acting, comedy (Payne won the Fabia Drake Prize for Comedy) and physical presence. Payne was part of a 'new wave' of actors to emerge from the Academy. Others included Jonathan Pryce, Juliet Stevenson, Alan Rickman, Anton Lesser, Kenneth Branagh and Fiona Shaw. Whilst at RADA, Payne wrote and directed himself in an adaptation of William Shakespeare's Macbeth in which he wielded a baseball bat on stage instead of a sword. This was chosen by the Principal of RADA to be performed in front of Queen Elizabeth II, in one of her rare visits to the academy. Payne would later appear on stage in both Julius Caesar and A Midsummer Night's Dream. Payne also played Karsten Bernick in the Henrik Ibsen play The Pillars of Society while at RADA, a production in which Paul McGann also appeared.

Acting career[edit]


Payne's first television role was in the Tales Out of School series. Payne played a PE teacher who 'comes across as more head bully than responsible adult during his classes'.[8] Payne's first major film role came in Privates on Parade (1982) in which he played the singing and dancing Flight Sergeant Kevin Cartwright (the role which Ben Cross had played in the stage version).[9]

In 1983 he appeared in Michael Mann's horror film The Keep, as an unnamed border guard.[10] In the same year Steven Berkoff cast him in his production of West at the Donmar Warehouse. Payne played Les, a member of an East End London gang intent on gaining revenge against the rival Hoxton Mob for the slaying of one of their number. Richard Corliss of TIME magazine stated that Payne bestowed "a frighteningly dynamic performance" in the play.[11] Payne also appeared in Limehouse Films' television adaptation of the play. This was followed by a role in the comedy film Oxford Blues. Payne played Peter Howles in the film, the leader of an Oxford University student society. Payne also appeared in the third ever episode of ITV's long running police drama The Bill as Paul March. Sean Bean also appeared in the first series of the drama.

In 1985 Payne was cast as a "committed",[12] "butch snooker manager"[13] known as 'The One' (also known as T.O.) in Billy the Kid and the Green Baize Vampire. Critic Michael Brooke has stated that Payne gave the "stand out performance" in the film.[14] In the same year Payne played a threadbare undercover drug detective, with stringy hair and filthy clothes,[15] in Bob Mahoney's Operation Julie. He also appeared in an episode of the American action Drama The Equalizer as a "sleazy"[16] music manager named Greg Rivers, who attempts to exploit a young female rock singer.

In 1986 both Payne and Berkoff appeared in Julien Temple's musical Absolute Beginners . Payne played a psychotic[17] "pompous and pathetic racist"[13] named Flikker who participates in the 1958 Notting Hill race riots. One reviewer argued that Payne was "the only actor to walk off Absolute Beginners with his reputation not only intact but enhanced" and that his portrayal of Flikker "was a headbutt of reality in a fantasmagoria of overkill."[18] One critic stated that Payne gave a "meaty, saving-grace performance" in the film.[13] The film journalist and editor, Ann Lloyd, selected Payne as the most promising newcomer of 1987 for his role in the film.[19] In the same year Payne appeared in the Mel Brooks film Solarbabies, along with fellow British performer Alexei Sayle, as filthy bounty hunters named Dogger and Malice. Payne said of his and Sayle's performances in Vogue that "the old image of an English arch-villain – Boris Karloff, that sort of thing" is turned "upside down. We're just a couple of soaks".[15] Payne also appeared in the Bernard Rose directed film Smart Money as a villain named Lawrance MacNiece, "a hired hand for" several corporations[20] who frames the main character Leon (played by Spencer Leigh) for a computer fraud.

In 1987 Payne appeared in two episodes of the Thames Television Drama Lost Belongings, which was set in Ulster, as a journalist named Simon Hunt. He also appeared alongside Neil Pearson in The Bell Run as a racing driver and as Michael Rafiel (the "sullen son"[21] of a deceased man and "chief suspect"[22] of a previous murder) in a television adaptation of the Miss Marple novel Nemesis. In 1988 Payne played a "mob-hired"[23] "machete wielding-murderer Echo, a steely, mute blonde menace- the incarnation of evil"[24] in the Philip Saville directed film, The Fruit Machine. London's Time Out magazine described Payne's character as a "sicko".[25]

In the same year Payne also appeared as Eddy in the Steven Berkoff directed play, Greek (a retelling of Sophocles' Oedipus Rex), at the Wyndham's Theatre. Charles Osborne, writing for The Daily Telegraph, stated that Payne brought "a cheerful zest to the role of Eddy".[26] Payne directed the same play in 1993 with Adam Ant playing the lead role. Payne also performed in the stage musicals of The Rocky Horror Show, playing Frank 'N' Furter and had the lead male role, the Mathmagician, in Alice, written by Richard Scott and Anthony Phillips, in a production directed by Nicholas Hytner. Payne also appeared the drama Caprice.

In 1989 he was cast in For Queen and Country as a 'drug kingpin'[27] named Colin.[28] Payne and other young British actors who were becoming established film actors such as Tim Roth, Gary Oldman, Colin Firth and Paul McGann were dubbed the 'Brit Pack'.[18] Payne's performances endeared him to Warner Brothers who considered "Bruce Payne as Bruce Wayne" on their "one liner" press marketing PR campaign for the first of Tim Burton's Batman films. Ultimately Michael Keaton acquired the role, playing opposite Jack Nicholson's Joker. Payne has commented that "Warner were fascinated by the similarity" between his name and that of Bruce Wayne. Payne has said that "they drew up a very short shortlist and there I was on it. Obviously, I lost out in the end to Michael Keaton".[29] In the same year Payne appeared as Doctor Burton in the dramatic film Zwei Frauen [30] The film was nominated for Outstanding Feature Film at the German Film Awards.


In 1990 Payne appeared in the ITV detective series Yellowthread Street . Bruce Payne played a detective named Nick Eden in the series, a sleuth who often throws "away the rule book" and "walks on the wild side".[31] The Sunday Magazine stated that Payne "was Britain's answer to Miami Vice heartthrob Don Johnson".[29] Payne also appeared in an episode of the BBC Drama series Bergerac.

In 1991 Payne was cast as the Devil in Switch. Payne was described as a "delightfully wicked Satan" by Film Review.[32] The Providence Journal described him as a "slick devil".[33] Payne also played the vampire R.B. Harker in Howling VI: The Freaks. The film critic Wheeler Winston Dixon stated that Payne gave a "delicious" performance in the film.[34] Payne has appeared in numerous horror films since and is considered a veteran of the genre.[35] In the same year he appeared as Kevin Bacon's lothario "best chum"[36] in the comedy Pyrates.

In 1992 Payne was cast in his best known role, opposite Wesley Snipes, as a "real dyed in the wool villain",[37] a "notorious terrorist and hijacker",[38] with a steely, demonic nerve,[39] named Charles Rane, in Passenger 57. Writing about the film, the reviewer Marcus Trower, of Empire magazine, stated that Payne was "a brilliantly disconcerting madman. With his flowing blond Jesus locks, armour-piercing stare and casual sadism, he makes Hannibal Lecter look like a social worker – and like Anthony Hopkins' serial killer, part of the man's menace is in the apparent contradiction between his articulate, well-spoken English and his off-hand brutality."[40] The Radio Times stated that Payne and Snipes both gave "charismatic turns" in the film.[41] The New York Times stated that Payne brought a 'tongue-in-cheek humour to the psychopathic fiend'.[42] A reviewer for People magazine stated that "Bruce Payne steals the plane—and the movie".[43] In an article for the Waterloo Region Record, Jamie Portman described Payne as a "suave and cultivated English actor" playing "a suave and cultivated killer named Charles Rane" and suggested that a "key reason director Kevin Hooks chose him for the role was that he wanted a villain with as much magnetism as the hero".[44] Payne was described as "icily perfect as the villainous Rane" in the Worcester Telegram & Gazette.[45] Julius Marshall stated that Payne was "ideal for his role: charming, dangerous – the kind of evil genius you love to hate".[46] The Star Tribune stated that 'Bruce Payne makes a splendid psychopath, consistently stealing scenes from the likes of Wesley Snipes and Elizabeth Hurley throughout Passenger 57'.[47]

In 1993, Payne turned "total wolf"[48] playing a "charismatic"[49] werewolf named Adam Garou in Full Eclipse Joseph Savitski, who reviewed the film for Beyond Hollywood, stated that "Payne is masterful as Detective Garou, a seductive and evil villain with arrogance and confidence to spare. When he's on-screen, Payne demands the attention of the audience, and you're hard pressed to resist his performance. Payne is also the perfect adversary, the kind you're supposed to hate, but who has the charisma to draw you in nonetheless".[50] The script writer Richard Christian Matheson stated that "most monsters have a sort of grudge against humanity, but I don't think Garou does: he simply dislikes crime. That makes him interesting, and Bruce really brings all of these nuances out. He's a wonderful actor and a very bright man".[51] Matty Budrewicz of UK Horror Scene stated that Payne's performance was 'completely electric..., unleashing a turn of magnetic and seductive evil'.[52]

In 1994 Payne appeared as a "disgruntled man"[53] named Edward De Lapoer in H.P. Lovecraft's: Necronomicon One reviewer said of his performance that "Payne is especially effective because of his suppression of his tortured grief, adding considerable power to his scenes".[54] Another stated that Payne's segment of the film is the best acted due to Payne's 'ability to display loss and regret without overdoing it, or chewing scenery'.[55] The film won the award for the best special effects at the 1994 Fantafestival. In 1994, Payne played General Martin Dupre in The Cisco Kid . The Indianapolis Star described Payne's and co-star Ron Perlman's characters as "hissable foreign villains".[56]

In 1995 he starred as Major Gordon Pruett, in Aurora: Operation Intercept.[57]

Payne appeared in the 1996 film Kounterfeit as a "seasoned former criminal"[58] named Frankie. A reviewer for TV Guide stated that "Frankie's slablike features and seedy-cool demeanor initially makes him just one outsized thug among many, but Payne gradually warms up the protagonist and balances nicely against Hawkes's scenery-chewing Joe Pesci act".[59] Payne also appeared in an episode of season six of the American television series Tales from the Crypt. In the same year, Payne turned his talents to producing the film Lowball which starred Peter Greene.

Payne also played a "rogue FBI agent"[60] named Karl Savak, who has been described as a 'cool wacko cop',[61] in One Tough Bastard. One critic stated that Payne's character, Savak, is one of the most 'entertaining movie villains in low budget action flick history' and that 'so awesome is Karl Savak that some lunatic has created a Facebook page in his honor'.[62] Another reviewer stated that 'Bruce Payne, with his Whitesnake hair and nose ring is slimeball perfection as the villain'.[63]

In 1997 Payne starred as "an intriguing newcomer"[64] In the same year Payne had a lead role in the Horror/Science Fiction film Ravager. Payne's character, Cooper Wayne, was the captain of a spaceship which is forced to land in desolate territory. Payne also appeared in No Contest II (the sequel to No Contest) as a film director who attempts to stop a villain unleashing a lethal nerve gas bomb which threatens the safety of the world.

In 1998, Payne played Cecil Hopper in the film Sweepers, a Doctor who teams up with Dolph Lundgren's character, Christian Erickson, to disarm mine fields in a humanitarian minesweeping operation in Angola. Unbeknownst to Erickson, Hopper established a "rehabilitation clinic as a cover for his covert munitions dealing".[65] In 1999, Payne replaced fellow British actor Julian Sands as the Warlock in Warlock III: The End of Innocence. Payne and Sands were often mistaken for one another[1] and had appeared together in both Privates on Parade and Oxford Blues. Richard Scheib, writing for The Science Fiction, Horror and Fantasy Film Review Database said that "as the Warlock, Bruce Payne, an actor who has magnificently theatrical charisma and presence is actually better in the part than the perpetually overwrought Julian Sands.".[66] The film critic John Fallon stated that Payne gave "a charismatic, subdued scary performance" in the film and that he "couldn't take" his "eyes off him" as he was "all charm".[67] The director of the film, Eric Freiser, stated that "in the first two movies, Julian was very smooth as the character, but Bruce makes for a scarier villain. You feel he is capable of more evil than Julian".[68]

In the same year, Payne was cast in Cleopatra. Payne played Cassius, who conspired with Brutus (Sean Pertwee) and Casca (David Schofield) to assassinate Caesar (Timothy Dalton) "with knives on the Ides of March".[69] This was followed by another television role, as Doctor Baker, in Britannic, which was directed by Brian Trenchard-Smith.


Payne portrayed the villain Jacob Kell in Highlander: Endgame (2000), the third sequel to the original Highlander film. One reviewer said of Highlander: Endgame that "the one in the cast that seems to be having the most fun is Bruce Payne. Traditionally Highlander villains give performances that go completely over-the-top and well into the stratosphere. Payne contrarily gives a performance where he enunciates every syllable with relish and dramatic weight, resulting in a performance that is entirely captivating whenever he is on screen."[70] Andrew O'Hehir, who reviewed the film for, stated that "playing Kell as a cockney thug with triple crucifixes embedded in the heels of his Doc Martens, Payne is more fun than either of the stars".[71] A reviewer for Trash City stated that "Endgame is pretty good, largely thanks to Bruce Payne's efforts as the bad guy, who is right up there with Clancy Brown's original decapitator", the Kurgan.[72] Marke Andrews, writing for The Vancouver Sun, stated that Payne provided the "focal point" in the film and that he dived "into his role with gusto". Andrews also stated that Payne's 'facial expressions rival Jim Carrey's in The Mask'.[73] Cherriece Wright, who reviewed the film for The Dispatch, stated that it contained "brilliant performances by Christopher Lambert and Bruce Payne". Wright stated that Payne "delivers a great performance as Jacob Kell blending smoothly the malicious vindictiveness of the embittered immortal with a sarcastic wit that provides needed humor".[74]

In the same year Payne played Damodar in Dungeons & Dragons, henchman of the malevolent Profion (played by Jeremy Irons). Although the film was critically panned, Payne's performance was reviewed favourably. One reviewer said that "Bruce Payne (Damodar) as Profion's nefarious assistant in his power hungry schemes was the stand-out performance of all the actors in the film. Payne has a true lock on how to play a character that is menacing even without any show of power. His portrayal of Damodar calls to mind Doug Bradley's portrayal of Pinhead in the Hellraiser films, so coldly, coolly arrogant and confident is his character. Above and beyond the grade I give to this film, Payne has earned himself an A+ in my gradebook."[75] Another reviewer stated that Payne's performance proved that he is "one of Hollywood's more reliable villains".[76] Branden Chowen, who reviewed the film for Indie Pulse, stated that "the standout in the film is the man who returns for the sequel: Bruce Payne. His character is written to be one-note throughout, but Payne still manages to create an excellent villain. Once the audience gets past his blue lipstick, which is no small feat, Payne is a formidable and passionate force".[77] The Charlotte Observer stated that "menacing Bruce Payne gives the film's one potent performance".[78] Abbie Bernstein, who reviewed the film for Audio Video Revolution stated that Payne was "enjoyably evil as the secondary baddie in charge of capturing the rebels"[79]

In 2001, Payne appeared in the horror film Ripper as a 'world renowned'[80] "wimpish"[81] University lecturer, Marshall Kane, whose students are targeted by a serial killer attempting to emulate Jack the Ripper.

In 2002 Payne appeared with his friend Steven Berkoff in Gérard Pirès' first English-language film Steal as a "crazed"[82] corrupt "hardboiled cop",[83] Lieutenant Macgruder. Payne also appeared with Richard Harris in the Christian film Apocalypse Revelation as the Roman Emperor Domitian. Payne also appeared in the final episode of second season of the BBC drama Spooks as an assassin named Mickey Karharias who is ostensibly hired to kill the main character Tom Quinn. Payne also made guest appearances in the police drama Dragnet as a member of the Russian Mafia and in the second episode of Keen Eddie as an asthmatic criminal named Yellow.

In 2003 Payne appeared in the horror film Asylum of the Damned Payne played Doctor McCort, 'a doctor with a devil-may-care exterior',[84] who specialises in treating mentally ill patients at an asylum. In 2004 Payne appeared as the 'bizarre'[85] Neighbour (who "dabbles"[86] in producing kinky virtual games[87] "by acting out the scenes with various partners"[88]) in the dystopian horror mystery[89] Paranoia 1.0. Alexandra Nakelski, who reviewed the film for Fangoria, stated that "Bruce Payne clad in S&M leather is so sexy it's no surprise all the women he comes in contact with want to be a part of his virtual reality porn game".[90] Payne also made a guest appearance in the twelfth episode of the sixth season of The WB Television Network supernatural drama Charmed as the leader of a nefarious order which attempts to kidnap Wyatt Halliwell, the son of one of the main characters.

In 2005, Payne returned to the role of Damodar in Dungeons & Dragons: Wrath of the Dragon God. Payne was the only member of the original cast in the sequel[91] which was reviewed more favourably than the original.[92] One reviewer stated that Payne's "performance is still the highlight of this one".[93] Another reviewer stated that Bruce Payne "steals the show".[94] In 2006 Payne helped to launch the National Youth Theatre's 50th anniversary programme along with Sir Ian McKellen, Timothy Spall, Diana Quick, Paula Wilcox, Jonathan Wrather, newsreader Krishnan Guru-Murthy and Little Britain's Matt Lucas and David Walliams.[95]

In 2007, Payne played a forensic pathologist named Doctor Robert Goldring in the psychological thriller Messages.[96]

In 2008, Payne appeared in the psychological drama Brothel, which was directed by Amy Waddell. In the film, a young couple buy an old house in Jerome which used to be a brothel. The husband commits suicide and the wife, Julianne (played by Thomas), attempts to come to terms with her loss and modernise the house. She 'finds the building is still inhabited by the ghosts of prostitutes' and 'that she is being stalked by Death himself (Payne)'.[97]


In 2011, Payne appeared in the horror film Prowl. Payne played a "blatantly untrustworthy"[98] "hillbilly truck driver"[99] named Bernard in the film. Matt Withers, who reviewed the film for stated that "Bruce Payne shows up as a trucker in a throwaway role that he makes anything but".[100] Payne also appeared in Carmen's Kiss (an adaptation of the Georges Bizet opera Carmen).

In 2012 Payne voiced a demon in the found footage horror film Greystone Park (also known as The Asylum Tapes).

In 2013, Payne appeared in the Warner Bros. action film Getaway.[101] Payne also appeared in the action film Vendetta as a sinister Whitehall Mandarin named Mr. Rooker.[102] One reviewer of the film gave it eight out of ten and stated that Payne 'nearly steals the movie with a plum role as the icy head of British black ops'.[103] In addition, Payne portrayed Nazi Deputy Führer Rudolf Hess in the French film Victor Young Perez, which concerns the life of the Tunisian Jew flyweight boxer Victor Perez.

Payne has appeared in two horror films (Re-Kill and Asylum) produced by After Dark Films, which are yet to be released. Payne plays Winston in Re-Kill. Payne stars as Lieutenant Sharp in Asylum [104] In addition, Payne has been cast as Carlos, a crime boss,[105] in Falconman.

Personal life[edit]

In November 2005, Payne was arrested at Heathrow Airport after disembarking a flight from Los Angeles and was later cautioned for using "threatening behaviour".[106] Payne's lawyer stated that Payne had simply argued with another passenger who refused to stop using their mobile phone after being asked to do so by flight crew.[107]





  • Lowball (1997) (executive producer)

TV appearances[edit]




  • Greek (1993)
  • Macbeth (1982)


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