Veteran screen bad-guy Billy Drago passed away on Monday at the age of 73, with early word that it was from complications from a recent stroke.
The chances are, if you’re a die-hard action star, or even if you just watched any television show from the 1980s forward, you’ll have seen one of the screen’s premiere bad-guys and henchman in action… and that actor was Billy Drago. The actor, born William Eugene Burrows Jr., actually appeared in more than a hundred roles over his career, often essaying the sleazy, violent bad-guy who was doomed to a bad end when he faced down the hero at some point in the proceedings. Many mainstream audiences will know him as the sadistic hitman Frank Nitti in 1987’s The Untouchables – the guy that Kevin Costner throws off a building and hurtling into the traffic below. (When asked by his colleagues where Nitti is, the memorable quip “He’s in the car” leads to a shot of the body in just that situation).
Over the years he worked with everyone from Clint Eastwood (in Pale Rider) to eastern supremo Takeshi Miike (Masters of Horror: Imprint) to Jeff Bridges (Cutter’s Way), Ronny Yu (China White), Cynthia Rothrock (Lady Dragon 2) and he wasn’t afraid to play to or send up his tough-guy image as needed. He appeared in three Chuck Norris movies Invasion U.S.A., Hero and the Terror and Delta Force 2: The Colombian Connection. Television appearances included Hill Street Blues, Moonlighting, Walker Texas Ranger, Nash Bridges,Trapper John M.D., TJ Hooker, The Fall Guy, Hardcastle and McCormick, The Adventures of Brisco Country Jnr., The X-Files and as Barbas in multiple episodes of the original Charmed. He was also an unlikely presence in rock videos for Michael Jackson (You Rock My World) and as an alien visitor for Mike and the Mechanics (Silent Running – On Dangerous Ground).
Though his wife, actress Silvana Gallardo passed away in 2012, he is survived by his sister, brother, two sons and several grandchildren.