Phillip Thompson

Crime Fiction writer

I mentioned Walter Hill in my last post, so while it’s fresh on my mind … Hill has directed, produced and/or written some of the top movies of the last 25 years or so. If you like solid R-rated action movies, Hill’s your guy. As I mentioned, one of his best was The Long Riders.

I first became aware of Hill when I saw The Warriors (his third movie), still a can’t-miss movie in my book. It’s at the top of the stack of movies I have at home. It holds up even today, as evidenced by the fact that my son and I watched it together and he loved it as much as I did. Who would have ever thought that a 1979 movie about NYC gangs would span a generation?

Through the years I noticed Hill’s name on a lot of the movies I really enjoyed, and then I started noticing something else: if you were an actor in a Walter Hill movie, you tended to get more work. In fact, Hill seems to have his own troupe of “go to” actors that are connected to his movies in interesting ways.

For example:

The Warriors stars a heretofore unknown James Remar (as Ajax, the Warrior who gets arrested after assaulting a female police officer) and David Patrick Kelly, who plays the unforgettable Luther (“Warriors…come… out to plaaaa-eeeee-aayyy!”).

He next directed The Long Riders, in which James Remar played Sam Starr. The movie also starred Keith Carradine (as Jim Younger). And a character actor, Peter Jason.

In 1981, he directed Southern Comfort, which starred … Keith Carradine and Powers Boothe, among others.

The next year, he directed 48 Hours, Eddie Murphy’s biggest movie up until then. It also starred Nick Nolte and … James Remar (Albert Ganz) and David Patrick Kelly as, oddly enough, Luther. And Peter Jason.

Next came movies very atypical of Hill, Streets of Fire first among them. One of the stars in that movie (besides a 17-year-old Diane Lane) was Bill Paxton, and Peter Jason made an appearance as a cop. Then, he directed Crossroads, a very good movie about blues legend Robert Johnson (even if it did star Ralph Macchio) and Brewster’s Millions (Richard Pryor) – Peter Jason again.

In 1986, he came back to form with Extreme Prejudice, starring … Nick Nolte and … Powers Boothe. He directed the Arnold Schwarzenegger/Jim Belushi flick Red Heat that also starred Ed O’Ross (with Peter Jason). He also directed Mickey Rourke and Ellen Barkin in Johnny Handsome, a movie with little-known Scott Wilson (who you now know as Hershel on The Walking Dead) – with Peter Jason. Ed O’Ross then had a part in Hill’s 1990 sequel, Another 48 Hours. In 1992, he directed Trespass, which starred … Bill Paxton. His 1993 Geronimo had a host of stars, including Jason Patric, Matt Damon and Robert Duvall and … Scott Wilson.

In 1995, he directed Jeff Bridges in Wild Bill. Who else? Diane Lane, old pal James Remar, Keith Carradine, Bruce Dern and Ellen Barkin – and Peter Jason. This was followed by Last Man Standing, starring Bruce Willis, with Bruce Dern, David Patrick Kelly (not playing a character named Luther), William Sanderson (best-known for his role on the Newhart show) and a host of others.

Then came Deadwood, HBO’s outstanding series set in the Dakota Territory in the years following the Civil War. Hill served as an executive producer, but occasionally directed. The series certainly had his trademarks all over it. Early in the series, Keith Carradine played Wild Bill Hickock. You’ll recall that Carradine starred in Wild Bill, in which he played Buffalo Bill Cody. William Sanderson played sleazy “businessman” E.B. Farnum, Powers Boothe as Cy Tolliver and … Peter Jason as Con Stapleton.

I know. I watch way too many movies.

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