Sunday, September 23, 2012

I Heart Powers Boothe

On a recent post I mentioned watching in 1980 the TV movie Guyana Tragedy that starred Powers Boothe as Jim Jones, leader of the People's Temple. While looking at Boothe's film career, I realized just how much I have loved watching this intense actor over the years. Here's some thoughts on Boothe on my favorite roles of his, including a few clips so you can get just a reminder of the man's on-screen charisma.

Some actors can be described by the simple phrase to describe their acting style: bad-ass. Make no mistake about it, Boothe is a bonafide American bad-ass on the screen. When you see the name Powers Boothe in the opening credits, you know you are about to get a role delivered with no-holds barred conviction and it's going to be heavy, tense and full of so much testosterone that you'll want to leave the theatre, eat a rare steak, throw down shots of illegal moonshine and then punch the first person you see in the face. You'll be tempted to repeatedly kick them whilst they are on the ground until your foot is covered in blood and bone, these are the kinds of thoughts that might go through your mind if you watch too many Powers Boothe movies in a, be careful when delving into the world of Boothe!

The first time I saw Boothe was the aforementioned Guyana Tragedy and he unleashes an absolutely chilling portrayal of the cult leader that led 913 people [including 271 children] to the grave in 1978. Boothe won an Emmy for lead performance that year and it's much deserved. When I watched this in April of 1980, I sat riveted in our house as I watched Jones darkly come to life in front of my eyes. Boothe was mesmerizing in this role and here's a clip of him urging his followers to give up their lives for their movement.

A little over a year later, in the fall of 1981, my dad took me to see the R-rated action/thriller Southern Comfort and I quickly realized, "Hey, there's that guy who played Jim Jones last year." I loved Southern Comfort as a twelve year old [and still do, here's a link to a post I did back in 2008] as it is the story about a group of National Guardsman trying to survive being killed by Cajuns in unfriendly swampland. For a twelve year old in 1981--pure awesomeness. Southern Comfort helped create a love of the director Walter Hill and also fellow cast members Fred Ward and Keith Carradine. I've written "I Heart" posts about both of those guys, go here and here to read them. To this day, I get excited about anything those three people are involved in. Southern Comfort is just a full-on fun movie with violence, suspense, a taught-as-a-wire script and tough characters trying to make it out of this situation alive.

Other films Boothe was in during the 1980s that I liked were Red Dawn [1984], The Emerald Forest [1985] and Extreme Prejudice, another Hill directed picture from 1987. The 1990s were a little spotty as Boothe did more character work, but there was Tombstone [1993], Nixon [1995] and U Turn [1997] to keep me happy. The highlight for the 2000s was his three season stint on HBO's Deadwood playing, what else, a tough guy scheming to control the economic and social machinations of the 19th century frontier town. Although I've yet to see it, I'm excited to see Boothe in the recently aired feuding epic Hatfields & McCoys, where he featured a massive beard as one of the Hatfield clan.

Unfortunately, there's not a lot of clips of Boothe on You Tube and I couldn't find the scenes I was hoping to post, but here is one from Tombstone that shows just how economical Boothe is as an actor. He's not going to wow you with flashy, over-the-top acting, but he will nail the reserved, brooding, quietly maniacal all day long. Look what he does in this scene with just two words. Two words. An actor who eat up scenes would have to work extra-hard to top Boothe in how he controls this scene with those couple of words. His career is littered with these kinds of moments, unfortunately not preserved on You Tube evidently.

Here's Boothe in John Milius' mid-80s Cold War propaganda action film Red Dawn [which I love by the way] telling the "Wolverines" about how they found themselves living in the mountains of Colorado as freedom fighters against the Russkies. Speaking of Red Dawn, please don't go see the horrific remake that is soon to be released. Giving Hollywood your money for these shams against original filmmaking only encourages them. Plus, it doesn't have Powers Boothe in it, so why in the world would you want to waste your time when there's already a Red Dawn with him in it?

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