A tall (6'3"), strapping and versatile character player of film and TV since the mid-1970s, Brion James, with his malicious smile and leering eyes, quickly became established playing oddball heavies, lowlifes and hicks in genre fare, notably in collaboration with action guru Walter Hill in "Hard Times" (1975), "The Driver" (1978), "Southern Comfort" (1981), "48 Hours" (1982) and "Another 48 Hours" (1990). He may be best known as Leon, a memorably murderous replicant who gives Harrison Ford a hard time in Ridley Scott's "Blade Runner" (1982). James uttered one of the films most memorable lines: "Wake up ... time to die!"
James grew up watching movies in a theater owned by his father in his native Beaumont, California. He moved to NYC where he worked as a cook/butler for celebrated acting teacher Stella Adler. James also appeared in Off-Broadway productions and performed standup comedy. He returned to LA in 1973 and embarked on a full-time acting career. Within two years, James was landing regular assignments in TV and features. This busy and prolific character actor had appeared in over 100 TV shows and 70 features by 1994; his policy was to never turn down a job.
James points to his role as studio executive Joel Levison in Robert Altman's "The Player" (1992) as a career turning point that resulted in his getting cast in a much wider variety of roles. Be that as it may, five of his next six credits (all 1992-93) were direct-to-video thrillers. James' other feature credits include "Striking Distance" (1993), as a detective associate of Bruce Willis, and "Cabin Boy" (1994), as a tough and smelly fisherman.
Cast (Feature Film)
Producer (Feature Film)
Music (Feature Film)
Cast (TV Mini-Series)
Returned to L.A.
Decided to act full-time
Made feature debut in Walter Hill's directorial debut, "Hard Times"
TV debut, one of the last episodes of "Gunsmoke"
Co-starred in "48 Hrs.", directed by Hill
Cast as the replicant Leon in "Blade Runner"
Reprised role in "Another 48 Hrs." which caused him to quip, "This is the first sequel I've ever because I rarely live through a film"
Chosen by Robert Altman to essay the studio head in "The Player"
Portrayed General Munro in Luc Besson's "The Fifth Element"
Last released film, the Dogme 95 feature "The King Is Alive"