Tributes to Two Genre Giants

I really enjoyed Bill Paxton, and I’m gonna miss him.

Bill Paxton collage

Bill Paxton collage

In case you haven’t been keeping up on current events, Paxton passed away the other day from complications during surgery at age 61. As genre actors go, he was both beloved by fans and, I think, perhaps a bit underappreciated. His resume goes back to the mid-1970s and includes many movies and TV appearances that sci-fi/fantasy and action/adventure fans, along with fans of other genres, will forever remember him for. Some roles were quite brief (e.g., one of three punks who first encounter the T-800 in The Terminator), some were significant supporting roles, and others were terrific starring roles. Good or bad, you could tell he loved his job.

Most recently, Paxton could be seen co-starring with Justin Cornwell in the new “Training Day” TV series. A couple years ago, he did a guest stint on “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.”. I haven’t watched everything he was in, of course. But, of those I have seen, probably my top 5 Paxton roles were: Pvt. Hudson in Aliens (1986), Morgan Earp in Tombstone (1993), Fred Haise in Apollo 13 (1995), Bill Harding in Twister (1996), and, yes, “Punk Leader” from The Terminator (1984). He also appeared in Weird Science, Commando, Predator 2, Trespass, Boxing Helena, True Lies, Titanic, Mighty Joe Young (1998 remake), U-571, a couple of Spy Kids sequels, Edge of Tomorrow, and many more.

Paxton may not have been quite the household name as some of his co-stars, but among many aficionados of TV and film, he was a “big deal”. He provided a lot of entertainment to young and old, and I’ll always enjoy his work. He is gone too soon from this world, and all that is left to say is, “Thank you, sir.” Well, that and…

Game over, man. Well played.

Neil Fingleton

Neil Fingleton / Mag the Mighty

The other “giant” I’d like to pay tribute to was not nearly as well known as Paxton but was a giant of another kind. Former basketball player Neil Fingleton was known as the UK’s “tallest British-born man” at 7 feet 7.5 inches (232.5 cm) in height. He was playing professionally in an American minor league in Europe when he decided to give it up and pursue a career in showbiz.

Fingleton’s name and face may not be very familiar even to genre fans, unless perhaps you saw him on one or the other (or both) of two British TV documentaries he appeared in in 2007: “Britain’s Tallest Men” on BBC Four and “Superhuman: Giants” on ITV. The reasons are 1) at his height, there haven’t been that many roles he fit, and 2) the roles he had involved him being covered in a lot of make-up, prosthetics, and/or armor.

His credits include minor roles in X-Men: First Class and Jupiter Ascending. In 47 Ronin, he played a Lovecraftian Samurai who fought Keanu Reeves’ character. He played the giant “Mag the Mighty” in the epic “Game of Thrones” episode “The Watchers on the Wall”. (Other GoT giants, Dongo and Wun Wun, were played by Ian Whyte (7’1″).) In 2015 he portrayed the scary Fisher King in the “Doctor Who” episode “Before the Flood”. He also did a few stunts and motion capture work for “Ultron” in Avengers: Age of Ultron.

Fingleton died of heart failure this past weekend mere days after turning 36.

One last thing… I watched For the Love of Spock last week. If you haven’t already seen it and were curious, I very much recommend it. It’s a touching tribute to both the character of Spock and the man who first brought him to life, Leonard Nimoy. Certainly, it’s a must-see for Trekkies/Trekkers, and particularly for fans of the Original Series.

Fan-Cast: Bionic Reboot, part 3: Sasquatch

Sasquatch from "The Six Million Dollar Man"

Andre the Giant as “Sasquatch”

Ted Cassidy as "Sasquatch" w/ Lindsay Wagner and Lee Majors

Ted Cassidy as “Sasquatch” w/ Lindsay Wagner and Lee Majors

Today’s “bonus” casting is for one of my (and many other people’s) favorite guest-stars from both “The Six Million Dollar Man” and “The Bionic Woman”: Sasquatch (aka “Bigfoot”)! The original was played by legendary pro-wrestler Andre the Giant (7′) in the TSMDM 2-parter, “The Secret of Bigfoot” (Feb. 1976). Then, Ted Cassidy (6’9″) — “Lurch” from TV’s “The Addams Family” — took over for the 2-part crossover with the TBW, “The Return of Bigfoot” (Sep. 1976), and in the follow-up “Bigfoot V” (Oct. 1977) episode of TSMDM. The big guy, who turned out to be a cyborg like Steve and Jaime, started off as a “bad guy” and later became a friend and “co-worker” of sorts. I don’t think he ever talked — just growled and roared, while crashing through the forest and throwing our heroes (or some other poor suckers) around. But, he communicated so much with those big, soul-piercing eyes…. OK, maybe not that much, but we grew to love the big palooka anyway.

The interesting thing about the original ‘Squatch was that the two guys who played him, both of whom have since passed away (and both at the age of 46!), were of such different builds. Sure, they were both really tall, but Andre was 3 inches taller and much beefier and barrel-chested, thanks to the acromegaly that gave him his height. Cassidy, on the other hand, was not exactly sleight-of-build but certainly more slender than Andre. But, with a bit of padding in that hairy suit, who could tell?

Paul "Big Show" Wight

Paul “Big Show” Wight

"Giant Silva"

“Giant Silva”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
To be consistent, I think we need to stick to a minimum of 6’9″ when casting for this role. You would think that the number of choices for this part would be pretty slim, then, given the size requirements. But, since “Sasquatch”/”Bigfoot” does little-to-no speaking, we don’t really need someone with a lot of acting experience, and there are several (current and former) athletes and stuntmen who do a bit of acting. (Still, it would be nice if he could convey some emotion via the eyes and body language.) It has been suggested that Paul Wight (7′), another professional wrestler sometimes billed as “The Giant” (aka “The Big Show”), would be perfect casting for the role. I can see that. In fact, Wight played a guy dressed in a “Bigfoot” suit in an episode of “Psych”. Another candidate from the wrestling arena is Paulo César da Silva (7’1″or2″or3″), aka “Giant Silva”, who even looks sort of like Andre.

Robert "Kurrgan" Maillet

Robert “Kurrgan” Maillet

Conan Stevens in "Spartacus"

Conan Stevens in “Spartacus: War of the Damned” (?)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you want someone with a bit more muscle, then Robert “Kurrgan” Maillet (6’10″or11″ or 7′) might be a better choice. He has had parts in movies (e.g., 300, Sherlock Holmes, Immortals, Pacific Rim) and TV shows (e.g., “Merlin”, “Once Upon a Time”, “Transporter: The Series”). Another former wrestler with some acting experience is Tyler Mane (6’8″or9″), aka “Big Sky”, probably best known to genre fans as “Sabretooth” in the first X-Men movie and “Michael Myers” in the Halloween reboot movies. Of course, Mane has been in other stuff — e.g., Joe Dirt, Troy, “Monk”, “Chopper”. Another possibility is Conan Stevens (7’1″), who played “Gregor Clegane” in 2 episodes of “Game of Thrones”, “Bolg” in The Hobbit: The Unexpected Journey, and “Goliath” in “The Bible”/Son of God, as well as appearing in several films in the Asian market. Oh, he was also the “Man-Thing” in the 2005 movie of that name. (Note that Alex O’Loughlin, one of my suggestions for “Steve Austin”, played a deputy in Man-Thing.)

Robert Mukes in costume w/ axe

Robert Allen Mukes

Nathan Jones as Boagrius

Nathan Jones as Boagrius in “Troy”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A couple other possibilities are Robert Allen Mukes (6’10”) and Ian Whyte (7’1″). I recently saw Mukes as a biker-dude in an episode of “Person of Interest”. He has also appeared in several TV series, movies, and a short called “Waiting for Sasquatch”. Mukes looks quite imposing, but if you want more muscle-mass & definition, Whyte may be a better choice. Whyte played “Gregor Clegane” (and a couple other characters) in 6 episodes of “Game of Thrones”, the big white (hah!) alien (aka “Last Engineer”) at the end of Prometheus, and he was a “predator” in the two Aliens vs. Predator movies. Then, of course, there is the Australian ex-wrestler (aka “Megaman”) and rugby player Nathan Jones (6’11”), who has been in such movies as Troy, Jet Li’s Fearless, and the recent Conan the Barbarian remake.

Dalip "Great Khali" Singh

Dalip “Great Khali” Singh

Kevin Shand

Kevin Shand (sorry, no pics available that show his height/build out of costume)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lest you think we’ve got too many white (Wight? Whyte?) boys,… we can’t forget Dalip Singh (7’1″) (aka “The Great Khali”). Singh has appeared in The Longest Yard, Get Smart, and MacGruber. We also have a couple basketball players to throw into the mix: Kevin Shand (6’10.5″) and, of course, Shaquille O’Neal (7’1″). Shand has recently been seen, sort of, as an alien named “Raiga” on the sci-fi TV series “Defiance”, based on the computer game. (A non-talking, shaggy, ape-like beast. Sounds familiar.) And everybody knows megastar Shaq, who also starred in the forgettable Kazaam and Steel movies.

neil fingleton next to phonebooth

Neil Fingleton

Finally, if we want to go really tall, the late wrestler Jorge González (7’6″, aka “El Gigante” or “Giant Gonzales”) would have been great. But, with him having passed away, our choices really are quite limited, since people of such extreme heights typically have health & mobility issues. The only one I am aware of in this height bracket who is young and healthy enough to take on such a physical role and has also done a little film work (e.g., 47 Ronin and Jupiter Ascending) is former UK basketball player Neil Fingleton (7’7.5″). He does not have quite the bulk of some of the others. But, he is an athlete, and he could probably put on a bit of mass, if necessary. Plus, the costume department can always add padding to the “Sasquatch” suit, as they probably did for Ted Cassidy and for the late Kevin Peter Hall (7’2.5″or4″), who played “The Predator” in the first two Predator movies, lovable bigfoot “Harry” in Harry and the Hendersons, and several other characters both in and out of makeup.

So, we have at least 10 giants in the running. I tend to lean toward wanting a more muscular Sasquatch, but a lot of mass & definition really isn’t necessary. He’s an inhuman creature, possibly alien, possibly bionic, fer cryin’ out loud! More than that, though, I would also prefer the creature be at least 7′ tall. A little “acting” experience would be nice, too. Given those two parameters, I guess we could narrow it down to Wight, Maillet, Stevens, Whyte, maybe Singh, and Fingleton. But, I honestly can’t decide. Put any of these guys in a sufficiently believable fur suit (hopefully better than the original), add some makeup and contacts, and we’ve got ourselves a giant Sasquatch to throw down with our new Steve Austin and/or Jaime Sommers. Cool! Maybe they should have a “‘Squatch Off!” competition….