Brion James

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Brion James
Brion james.jpg
Brion Howard James

(1945-02-20)February 20, 1945
DiedAugust 7, 1999(1999-08-07) (aged 54)
Malibu, California, U.S.
Years active1973–1999
Height6 ft 3 in (1.91 m)

Brion Howard James (February 20, 1945 – August 7, 1999) was an American character actor. He portrayed Leon Kowalski in Blade Runner and appeared in Southern Comfort, 48 Hrs., Another 48 Hrs., Silverado, Tango & Cash, Red Heat, The Player, and The Fifth Element. James was frequently cast as an antagonist, 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.

Early life and education[edit]

James was born in Redlands, California.[1] He spent his early years in Beaumont, California, where his parents owned and operated a movie theater; James said, "My story is like Cinema Paradiso. Every night in my life since I was two years old... I ran movies".[2] After graduating from high school in 1964,[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.


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 television miniseries Roots and popular 1970s shows such as Gunsmoke, The Incredible Hulk, Mork and Mindy, Chico and the Man, CHiPs.

James's career took a sudden upturn in the early 1980s with roles in 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. James followed this up with roles in Enemy Mine, Flesh + Blood, A Breed Apart, Silverado, Armed and Dangerous, Red Heat, Steel Dawn, Red Scorpion, Tango & Cash, and Showdown. James had guest spots in the television shows Benson, Quincy, M.E., The A-Team, Little House on the Prairie, The Dukes of Hazzard, Matlock, Miami Vice, Hunter, along with the Hunter take off 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.[3][4][5]

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. 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. Near the end of his career, he appeared as the amiable General Munro in The Fifth Element (1997), a rare non-villainous role. Two months before his death, James reprised his role as Parasite in Superman 64, a video game based on 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."[6]


James died in 1999 after suffering a heart attack at his home in Malibu, California.[7] 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.[8]



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
1978 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 Cajun Trapper
1981 Soggy Bottom, U.S.A. Defalice
1982 Blade Runner Leon Kowalski
1982 48 Hrs. Inspector 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 Tony 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 Nightmare at Noon (aka: Death Street USA) The Albino
1988 Red Scorpion Sergeant Miroslav 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. Inspector Ben Kehoe / The Iceman
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 Professor Tanzer
1993 Time Runner US Senator John Neila
1993 Brainsmasher... A Love Story Detective Brown Video
1993 Striking Distance Detective Eddie Eiler
1993 Showdown Vice Principal Kowalski
1993 The Dark Paul Buckner
1994 Cabin Boy Teddy "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 Julius "J.W." Quantrell
1995 Dominion Lynwood
1995 Cyberjack (aka: Virtual Assassin) Nassim
1995 The Marshal Chief Marshal Ollie Mathers
1995 Indecent Behavior III Mr. Cowed Uncredited
1996 The Lazarus Man Tom Halloran
1996 Precious Find Sam Horton
1996 American Strays Oris
1996 Evil Obsession Stavinski
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 General 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


Year Title Role Notes
1974 Get Christie Love! Trenton TV movie/Pilot
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 Guard 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 "Billy Boy" Burns TV movie
1982–1984 The Dukes of Hazzard Captain Slater / Jenkins 2 episodes
1983 The Gambler: The Adventure Continues Reece TV movie
1983–1985 The A-Team David Plout / Ryder 2 episodes
1985 The Fall Guy Unknown 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 / Lieutenant 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 Unknown Voice
6 episodes
1998 Millennium Sheriff Bowman Episode: "Luminary"
1998 The Sentinel Warren Chapel Episode: "Mirror Image"
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 Games[edit]

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


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



  1. ^ "Brion James". AllMovie. Retrieved December 31, 2019.
  2. ^ Zekas, Rita (May 27, 1993). "His familiar face changes with every new film script". Toronto Star. Retrieved August 17, 2015.
  3. ^ Terrace 1985, p. 188.
  4. ^ "Hear No Evil". Turner Classic Movies. United States: Turner Broadcasting System. Retrieved March 13, 2018.
  5. ^ Terrace 2011, p. 445.
  6. ^ "Brion James Interview by Craig Edwards on December 1, 2010". Archived from the original on 15 July 2011.
  7. ^ "Character Actor Brion James Dies at Age 54". The Washington Post. 19 August 1999. Retrieved 5 May 2020.
  8. ^ Allan Hunter (2 June 2000). "The King Is Alive". Screen Daily. Retrieved 5 May 2020.
  9. ^ a b c "Brion James (Visual voices guide)".


External links[edit]