In the pantheon of great movie stereotypes, truly only one can reign supreme. You have your heroes; you have your damsels in distress; you have your power hungry villains, your tough talking, ass-kicking chicks, your wise old African-American mentors, and of course, your comic relief sidekicks. All are excellent tropes to rely on when you're either too bored, uncreative or stupid to create a truly original three-dimensional character. But none are nearly as awesome or as ripe with limitless potential as the cream of the one-dimensional crop.
I am talking about, of course, the badasses.
Actor's aren't normally known for being badasses in real life. They're artists and poets, which, while cool, doesn't really strike fear into anyone's hearts. Thus, while many actors have played badasses onscreen, few have completely managed to embody such roles with the fervor and realism that such roles require.
As the saying goes, if you want something done right, you must do it yourself. Or, in this case, if you want a badass onscreen, get a badass in real life to play him.
Here then are five Hollywood actors whose dastardly, violent, and all around badass roles in the cinema, are nothing compared to their real life experiences. Serious. Real. Badass.
Danny Trejo, perhaps best known for his role as the scariest looking man in any movie he ever appears in, ever, is a badass.
Plus, he has wicked formal wear.
Born in Los Angeles in 1944, Trejo spent the majority of his childhood roaming the streets of his city with his uncle, committing petty crimes, scaring the general populace, and getting addicted to heroin. While this isn't generally acceptable behavior (Trejo himself will attest to that now), it still isn't the type of childhood you normally attribute to a Hollywood actor.
Eventually, Trejo seemed to grow tired of the thug life he was leading, (as well as his numerous arrests) and decided to try his hand at boxing - a reasonable enough career change, I suppose. Unfortunately, said career changed was momentarily sidelined when he was invited to San Quentin State Prison to serve a lengthy sentence. I say "momentarily" of course, because Danny Trejo wasn't going to let anything as small as being sent to state prison stand in the way of his dreams.
What's more badass than being a boxer with enough talent, skill and toughness to take on opponents in the real world? How about being a boxer who only fights hardened state criminals? How about being a boxer who only fights hardened state criminals, and routinely wins?
You can't really tell, but he's also sharpening a machete here.
And "routinely" might be a bit of an understatement. Trejo not only continued to excel at boxing in the rumble tumble arena known as prison, but was also crowned the California State Prison champion in both the lightweight and welterweight divisions. He accomplished this while serving his time and simultaneously attending a twelve-step program, which helped him, overcome his drug addiction - which in itself is pretty badass.
Nowadays, Danny Trejo can be found badassing it up in countless films and television shows, playing anti-heroes, sidekicks, villains and general no-goodniks. While he seems to excel at these roles, his real passion lies in talking to kids and schools about avoiding the mistakes that he made as a kid - saving troubled young teens from the pitfalls and bad decisions of his childhood.
Currently he can be seen in the direct-to-DVD action epic "Death Race 2", portraying Luke Goss's sidekick. There's a pretty sweet online contest for the movie as well - you can learn to death race yourself. It won't make you nearly as badass as Danny Trejo, but it's a start.
One need only look at the disfigured mass of pulpy red flesh, gross scar tissue and vein-y lumpiness that Mickey Rourke calls a face to come to the conclusion that he is, in fact, a badass.
Also, any actor who can emote that well without the use of his face - badass.
Raised in Schenectady, New York, Rourke, like Danny Trejo, initially took to boxing as a possible career choice - winning his very first match at the tender age of 12. (For the record, that was about the same age I was when I won my first match in "Goldeneye").
Rourke's boxing career was short, though, as he kept suffering form concussions. In 1972, he temporarily retired after compiling 20 wins - 17 by knockout. Not too shabby, that.
Then came his movie career which was fun, I guess, and garnered him much praise and accolades and whatever. All very standard stuff. Luckily, we are not dealing with a standard man, and it didn't take Mr. Rourke long to decide that his real passion was boxing, not acting. Fearing that he was self-destructing, Rourke decided to take a break from acting and allow others to help destruct him. He returned to boxing in 1991, going undefeated for his first eight fights. (Though his face certainly tells a different story). Oh, and he was trained by a former Hell's Angel.
Rourke was raised as a Roman Catholic, and still practices his faith to this day. He attributes that faith, as well as his love of dogs and his relationship with some therapist he calls "Steve" as being the things that saved him, and eventually allowed him to re-enter society after a lengthy, face-smashing hiatus. Not necessarily badass, that, but after seeing just what got him there, you gotta give the guy some credit.
Most recently, Rourke was seen hamming it up as the villain in "Iron Man 2" alongside Robert Downey Jr. Not bad for a guy who most people had completely written off by about 1993.
Lee Marvin, who once starred in a Western romantic comedy musical with Clint Eastwood, is a badass.
Anyone who can still look threatening wearing that outfit...badass.
Like most ultimate badasses, Lee Marvin started young. As a strapping young teen, Marvin used to hunt deer, wild turkey, bobwhite (which is some kind of adorable bird) and fucking pumas in the (then completely uncharted) Florida everglades. (For the record, I once got lost in my own backyard and had my wallet stolen by a toad. This guy was in dangerous swamplands, hunting pumas - presumably for the hell of it).
Not content to just shoot wild and dangerous animals in Florida, Marvin eventually joined the United States Marine Corps, serving as a (you guessed it) sniper. During the WWII Battle of Saipan, most of his platoon were killed – Marvin himself was injured after being shot in the ass. With a machine gun. For this he would earn the purple heart, and perhaps even more notably, inspire the events of Forrest Gump. (I’m just guessing at that last one).
Marvin would later go on to star in countless films, usually as a tough and grizzled cowboy, cop, veteran, or general badass. Perhaps his most famous role was in the classic The Dirty Dozen – though, one can not discount his appearance in "Paint Your Wagon" where he received billing over Clint Eastwood. He also sang a lot in that one, without a hint of self-consciousness. Bad. Ass.
Sadly, Marvin suffered a heart attack and died in 1987, at the age of 63. He is interred at Arlington National Cemetary.
Dolph Lundgren, star of "Masters of the Universe", "Rocky IV" and "Universal Soldier", is a bad ass, though perhaps not quite as bad ass as everyone else on this list. But he's close, and it gives me an excuse to post what is quite possibly the greatest video of all time, so I'll let it slide.
While not a complete badass like Danny Trejo or Audie Murphy, Dolph does still sport some considerable credentials. He is apparently trained in judo, Goju-ryu and Kyokushin karate, which other than the word "judo" and "karate" are things that I don't understand. He even holds the rank of 3rd black belt in Kyokushin, and won the European championships in 1980 and 1981. He also won a heavyweight tornament in Australia, and was the captain of the Swedish Kyokushin karate team. What this all means in layman's terms, is that Dolph could pretty easily kick your ass - and probably the asses of everyone else on this list. Perhaps he's not such a lightweight badass after all.
Ah, but there's more to Dolph than his ass-kicking abilities! The man has a brain as well - and a considerable one at that. Not content to just be perfect in the body, Dolph has focused on increasing his mind's ass-kicking prowess as well. Lundgren possesses a master's degree in chemical engineering from the University of Sydney and was awarded a scholarship to MIT in 1983 - but quit to pursue acting. While I'm sure he's more than happy with his career choices, one has to wonder if missing out on a chance to go to one of the most prestigious schools in the world was really worth a starring role in "Red Scorpion".
Clearly, it was.
All of this mind and body stuff is fine and dandy, sure. But it is Dolph Lundgren's soul that pushes him over the edge and into clear cut badassedry. He may be smart; he may be buff; but can he sing and dance while busting out karate moves and wicked drum solos? I mean, after all, that's the real test, isn't it?
Well played, Lundgren.
AUDIE "Goddamn" MURPHY
All of the above actors are, indeed, badass. But none of them even come close to the glorious badass-capades that encompassed Audie "Goddamn" Murphy. Sure, Danny Trejo and Mickey Rourke can box. Sure Lee Marvin hunted pumas in his free time (I'm speculating here, but probably with his bare hands) and sure Dolph Lundgren can righteously kick your ass while reciting the periodic tables.
But none of these feats hold a candle to Audie "Goddamn" Murphy.
Why, he's adorable!
He is known as the most decorated soldier in the US military, having compiled a list of military accomplishments that is as mind-boggling as it is badass - perhaps his most incredible feat of of holy-shitness being when he single fucking handedly fought a German squad for nearly an hour, utilizing the machine gun on an abandoned (and on fire) tank to hold them at bay.
The fact that he accomplished this at all is incredible. But when you take into account that both his age and his size (about 5'5") nearly kept him out of action to begin with (he had to lie about his age and overcome his size) really drives the point home.
Murphy eventually wrote an autobiography about his time at war (appropriately titled "To Hell and Back") which was made into a movie in 1955. When it came time to cast Murphy in the film, the filmmakers were hard pressed to find any actor who could effectively portray Murphy's rampant levels of badass onscreen.
So, obviously, they cast Murphy. And the movie became Universal Pictures highest grossing film of all time - a record it held until 1975, when "Jaws" was released. That's right. The only thing Hollywood could come up with in twenty years that could possibly unseat Audie Murphy as the ultimate badass, was a giant killer shark.
Which Audie Murphy probably would have destroyed, with his teeth, within the film's first five minutes.