Steve James (actor)

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For other people named Steve James, see Steve James (disambiguation).
Steve James
Born February 19, 1952
New York City, New York
Died December 18, 1993(1993-12-18) (aged 41)
Burbank, California
Occupation Film, television actor

Steve James (February 19, 1952 – December 18, 1993) was an American actor, stuntman and martial artist. He starred mostly in action films such as the American Ninja series, The Delta Force (1986), The Exterminator (1980), and Enter the Game of Death (1978). James also portrayed Kung Fu Joe in the 1988 comedy/spoof film I'm Gonna Git You Sucka, and its 1990 television pilot spinoff Hammer, Slammer, & Slade.


Steve James was born and raised in New York City. His father was trumpet player Hubie James. His uncle was James Wall, who played Mr. Baxter on the children's television series Captain Kangaroo. His godfather was Joe Seneca who, among many roles, played Danny Glover's father in Silverado. Joe Seneca was instrumental in Steve becoming interested in action films as he took him to movies on 42nd Street when he was a child. He graduated from Power Memorial Academy in 1970, then attended C.W. Post College as an Arts and Film major. Upon graduating, he became involved in stage work and TV commercials. James started his film career off as a stuntman for such New York based film productions as The Wiz, The Warriors, and The Wanderers. He also practiced martial arts and was an expert in Fu Jow Pai, a system in Tiger Claw Kung Fu.

Steve was married to Christine Pan James in Hawaii. During their honeymoon, he was cast for a role on Raven which was being shot in Hawaii on the old Magnum, P.I. studio lot.

Steve was close friends with director William Friedkin, who described him as "One of the nicest, toughest and professional actors I've ever worked with." Steve and his friend and co-writer John A. Gallagher were in the process of writing several scripts as well as working on a comic book superhero character with another friend.

Some speculate the character "Jax" of Mortal Kombat was based on his appearance in the first three American Ninja movies.

Personal life and death[edit]

On December 18, 1993, James died of pancreatic cancer[1] in his home in Burbank, California at age 41. He is survived by his wife, Christine Pan James and his daughter from a previous marriage, Debi James. His widow is a writer and actor, his daughter a model and singer.

His last roles were in the feature film Bloodfist V: Human Target with Don "The Dragon" Wilson and the pilot for the TV series M.A.N.T.I.S.. The pilot first aired on Fox just a few weeks after his death. He was also scheduled to star as Jax Briggs in 1995's Mortal Kombat until his death. Eulogies at Steve's funeral service were delivered by Sidney Poitier (as his widow, Chris, was employed by Mr. Poitier), his father Hubie James, his friend John A. Gallagher and Christine Pan James. His urn resides on the mantle of his home in Burbank, California.[2]


Year Title Role
1994 M.A.N.T.I.S. Antoine Pike
Bloodfist V: Human Target Marcus/Drew Washington
1993 Weekend at Bernie's II Henry
1991 McBain Eastland
Mister Johnson Aliu
1990 Hammer, Slammer, & Slade Kung Fu Joe
Street Hunter Logan Blade
1989 Riverbend Maj. Samuel Quentin
American Ninja 3: Blood Hunt Curtis Jackson
1988 I'm Gonna Git You Sucka Kung Fu Joe
Johnny Be Good Coach Sanders





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