Thursday, March 6, 2014

Men of Geri-Action

As published in Issue #50 of F*** Magazine

By Jedd Jong 15/2/14

Liam Neeson, he of the particular set of skills, displays his tough guy prowess once more in action flick Non-Stop. He’s 61. Kevin Costner seems to be following in Neeson’s footsteps in 3 Days to Kill; he’s 59. It turns out that they’re far from the only action heroes who aren’t quite spring chickens to have blazed a trail of bullets and fisticuffs across the silver screen. F*** takes a look at ten such “badass grandpas”. Respect your elders or face their wrath!

Born: 1930

58 in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989)
65 in The Rock (1996)
68 in Entrapment (1999)
72 in The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (2003)

The original cinematic James Bond is the epitome of rough-and-tumble charm, a sexy Scotsman who only got more badass with age. Connery’s filmography is peppered with memorable parts and he made an oh-so-smooth transition from manly heartthrob to wise, seasoned mentor types. He played Indiana Jones’ dad (despite being only 12 years older than Harrison Ford) but turned down the chance to reprise the role in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull because “retirement ish jusht too damned much fun.” He got all the best lines in The Rock as a legendary former spy and the last man to escape from Alcatraz and he wooed Catherine Zeta-Jones, 39 years his junior, as a debonair gentleman thief in Entrapment. He had a miserable time filming the mediocre The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (“It wash a nightmare”) but was still as cool as ever as legendary adventurer Allan Quatermain. And oh, he almost got the parts of Morpheus in the Matrix films and Gandalf in the Lord of the Rings saga, but declined as he “didn’t undershtand the shcript.”

Born: 1940

58 in Logan’s War: Bound by Honour (1998)
60 in The President’s Men (2000)
65 in Walker: Texas Ranger: Trial By Fire (2005)
72 in The Expendables 2 (2012)

Martial artist, actor and former Air Force serviceman Carlos Ray “Chuck” Norris became popular during the martial arts movie boom of the 70s, famously sharing the screen with (and getting defeated by) Bruce Lee in 1972’s Way of the Dragon. Norris created the martial art form Chun Kuk Do and has mostly starred in low-mid budget action vehicles, becoming a favourite of B-movie production house Cannon Group in the 80s. Many of his films were directed by his brother Aaron and were roundly mediocre straight-to-video or made-for-television affairs. He was also the star of Walker: Texas Ranger, which ran on TV from 1993 to 2001. Of course, the resurgence in Norris’ popularity can mostly be chalked up to “Chuck Norris facts”, satirical factoids attributing superhuman feats to the action star. These first started popping up on the internet in 2005, and Norris himself eventually acknowledged the meme onscreen in The Expendables 2 – R.I.P., unsuspecting cobra who bit Chuck Norris. Norris is also a devout Christian and his objection to the swearing in the screenplay almost resulted in a PG-13 rating for The Expendables 2, which was eventually rated R for its violence. Norris still got his way though – of about 100 uses of the f-bomb in the script, only one made it into the movie.

Born: 1930

61 in Unforgiven (1992)
62 in In the Line of Fire (1993)
66 in Absolute Power (1997)
69 in Space Cowboys (2000)
77 in Gran Torino (2008)

He’s the man with no name, the cop with the .44 Magnum, the greatest enemy of empty chairs everywhere: he’s Clint Eastwood, enduring cultural icon, the gold standard of masculinity and a talented, respected filmmaker in his own right. In 1958, Eastwood took on the lead role in the Western TV series Rawhide, but he truly made his mark in Sergio Leone’s 1964 classic, A Fistful of Dollars. Two more films followed in the spaghetti Western trilogy, capped off with The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. In the 1970s, Eastwood’s career soared, as he took on the role of Dirty Harry – and made his directorial debut with 1971’s Play Misty for Me. Eastwood is arguably one of the most successful actors-turned-directors, winning Best Director Oscars for Unforgiven and Million Dollar Baby. Unforgiven, in which Eastwood played a former bandit who reluctantly returns to his old ways to pay off his farm, probably marked the point at which Eastwood cemented his position as “badass grandpa”. Like Connery, Eastwood had no trouble with the ladies, romancing Rene Russo (24 years his junior) in In the Line of Fire. He’s got a softer side too, co-composing the soundtracks for most of his films, but when he says “get off my lawn”, you can bet he means it.

Born: 1937

60 in Hard Rain (1998)
68 in Edison Force (2006)
70 in Wanted (2008)
72 in RED (2010)
73 in Oblivion (2013)

He’s the man with the dulcet voice, the go-to narrator who’ll make anything from penguin migrations to the failing war on drugs sound suitably epic. Freeman has carved out a career niche as the all-knowing mentor figure with a twinkle in his eye and while he isn’t the first name that comes to mind when one thinks “action hero”, he’s done more than his fair share of butt-kicking. “Maybe I just gravitate towards gravitas,” he once said. He’s driven Miss Daisy and he’s played God and has also appeared in various action films where he doesn’t get to do much shooting or running (the Dark Knight trilogy, Olympus Has Fallen and Unleashed come to mind). That said, he’s played an armoured truck thief caught in the mother of all thunderstorms, was the coolly vicious head of a cabal of assassins, was an ex-CIA agent labelled “retired: extremely dangerous” and was the leader of a small group of human survivors on a post-apocalyptic earth. And he uttered what is probably the greatest Oscar-related quote ever: “Is there a movie I think I should have won the Oscar for? Yeah. All of them." He’s had his “senior moments”, memorably catching some shut-eye during an interview for Now You See Me, but you can bet that we all get shivers when he yells “shoot this mother**ker!”

Born: 1946

59 in Rocky Balboa (2006)
61 in Rambo (2008)
63 in The Expendables (2010)
65 in The Expendables 2 (2012)
66 in Bullet to the Head (2013)
66 in Escape Plan (2013)

The Italian Stallion skyrocketed to stardom with 1976’s Rocky, which won Best Picture at the Oscars and garnered Stallone Best Original Screenplay and Best Actor Oscar nominations. However, Stallone wasn’t destined to become a feted method-acting star of prestige pictures, but to become an action hero – which is fine by us. After a string of ho-hum action flicks, Stallone proved he had some fight in him yet when he returned to his two most iconic roles, that of Rocky Balboa and John Rambo, in 2006 and 2008 respectively, also directing both films. 2010 saw the release of the first instalment in Stallone’s nostalgia-driven Expendables franchise, an exercise in getting the gang back together. Witnessing the likes of Stallone, Jason Statham, Dolph Lundgren, Jet Li, Terry Crews, Bruce Willis, Arnold Schwarzenegger et al sharing the screen was a thrill for fans of old-school action flicks everywhere. 2012’s The Expendables 2 added the afore-mentioned Chuck Norris to the roster and had Jean-Claude Van Damme pulling villain duty. This year, The Expendables 3 will hit screens, boasting a bigger line-up than ever, with Wesley Snipes, Antonio Banderas and Harrison Ford joining the crew, up against Mel Gibson and Robert Davi as villains. Next to his hand and footprints in the forecourt of the Chinese Theatre in L.A., Stallone wrote “keep punching, America!” and with those ever-bulging biceps, he’s certainly taken his own advice to heart.

Born: 1947

64 in The Expendables 2 (2012)
65 in The Last Stand (2013)
65 in Escape Plan (2013)
66 in Sabotage (2014)
66 in The Expendables 3 (2014)

You know we couldn’t put Sylvester Stallone on the list without giving a tip of the hat to his rival-turned-best-bud Arnold Schwarzenegger. The bodybuilder/politician/actor is arguably even more of a larger-than-life figure than Stallone is. After all, he’s left an indelible impact on popular culture with roles like John Matrix, Dutch Schaefer, Conan the Barbarian and the Terminator, his endless string of quotable one liners, impressive feats of strength, willingness to (often awkwardly) dabble in comedy and the wonder of seeing political commentators say the words “Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger” with a straight face. Most moviegoers readily forgave him for his personal transgressions that made the news when Schwarzenegger left office and leapt back into movies, which is testament to his enduring popularity. His cameo in the first Expendables film was a taste of things to come, and he was given more screen time in the second outing. Plus, 2013 saw Schwarzenegger and Stallone get a proper team-up movie in the form of Escape Plan. He’s not slowing down this year, with action-thriller Sabotage hitting theatres soon and the third Expendables film following that. Schwarzenegger certainly wasn’t lying when he promised “I’ll be back” – rare for a politician!

Born: 1942

59 in K-19: The Widowmaker (2002)
63 in Firewall (2006)
65 in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008)
68 in Cowboys and Aliens (2011)
71 in The Expendables 3 (2014)

With two iconic roles in blockbuster franchises to his name, Harrison Ford is one of the biggest movie stars of his generation. The carpenter-turned-actor is both the charming rogue space pirate (who shoots first) and the adventurer archaeologist who favours a whip and a revolver over a trowel. In addition to those landmark genre parts, Ford is a respectable actor in his own right, snagging an Oscar nomination for Witness. Ford is a badass grandpa in real life and not just in the movies, too. An avid aviation enthusiast, he assisted Teton County, Wyoming authorities on two helicopter rescue missions in his Bell 407. No word on whether he has ever said “GET OFF MY PLANE!” in real life. Ford has built a reputation as something of a curmudgeon, due to the wariness with which he regards overzealous Star Wars and Indiana Jones fans. “Am I grumpy? I might be. But I think maybe sometimes it's misinterpreted,” he said. Ford also angrily confronted Indonesian forestry minister Zulkifi Hasan while making a documentary on climate change. Besides a likely return to the Han Solo role for Star Wars Episode VII, Ford will join the Expendables 3 line-up, replacing Bruce Willis (with whom Sylvester Stallone had a falling out over Willis’ pay). Everyone probably agrees that it’s an upgrade.

Born: 1949

58 in Iron Man (2008)
60 in Tron Legacy (2010)
60 in True Grit (2010)
63 in R.I.P.D. (2013)
63 in Seventh Son (release delayed to 2015)

Jeff Bridges has been acting for over five decades, coming from a family of actors including father Lloyd, mother Dorothy and brother Beau. To get an idea of the scope of his career, take a gander at this factoid: at 22, Bridges became one of the youngest actors ever nominated for an Oscar, for The Last Picture Show. And at age 60, he became one of the oldest actors to win, taking home Best Actor for Crazy Heart. His most famous role is probably that of Jeff “The Dude” Lebowski in the Coen Brothers’ cult favourite comedy The Big Lebowski, and traces of the Dude can be found in most of his performances since. Bridges suited up as the supervillain Obadiah Stane/Iron Monger, taking on Robert Downey, Jr.’s Tony Stark in Iron Man. He revisited the role of Kevin Flynn from 1982’s Tron in the 2010 sequel Tron: Legacy. By way of visual effects wizardry, Bridges also played Flynn’s physically younger doppelganger Clu. He reunited with the Coen Brothers for the remake of True Grit, taking on the Rooster Cogburn role famously inhabited by the Duke himself, John Wayne. Bridges played a trigger-happy cowboy again in R.I.P.D. (it was a hammier performance). Bridges has completed filming the fantasy action flick Seventh Son, in which he plays a powerful wizard.  The film has been delayed multiple times and will eventually be released in February 2015. Married to his wife Susan for 36 years, Bridges had this to say, “Sticking with a marriage. That's true grit, man.”

Born: 1921

63 in Death Wish 3 (1985)
65 in Death Wish 4: The Crackdown (1987)
66 in Messenger of Death (1988)
71 in The Sea Wolf (1993)
72 in Death Wish V: The Face of Death (1994)

The late Charles Dennis Buchinsky, better known as Charles Bronson, is a bona fide old-school cinematic tough guy, famously describing his appearance as “like a quarry someone has dynamited”. When he died in 2003 at the age of 81, Bronson had left behind a legacy of silver screen badassery in an array of Westerns, war movies and, of course, revenge flicks. Bronson served in the U.S. Army Air Forces in the Second World War and received a purple heart. A memorable early appearance was in the horror flick House of Wax (no, not the one with Paris Hilton. The original!) as the silent henchman to Vincent Price’s sculptor/serial killer. He hit the big time with war movies The Great Escape and The Dirty Dozen, but truly became an icon with the role of vigilante Paul Kersey in the Death Wish films. “Audiences like to see the bad guys get their comeuppance,” Bronson said and boy, Kersey sure gave it to them. Bronson would play the architect-turned-gun-toting-avenger in four more films. Like Chuck Norris, Bronson starred in many low-budget movies for Cannon Films. The notorious British prisoner and bare-knuckle fighter Michael Peterson changed his name to “Charles Bronson” on the advice of his fight promoter, in spite of Peterson having never seen a Charles Bronson movie.

Born: 1944

58 in Once Upon a Time in Mexico (2003)
65 in Machete (2010)
67 in Bad Ass (2012)
68 in Dead in Tombstone (2013)
68 in Machete Kills (2013)

With over 250 movie and TV roles to his name, Danny Trejo is undoubtedly a B-movie icon, and the guy just keeps trucking. Tough, grizzled and unfazed, Trejo isn’t just putting on a tough guy façade for the camera: he was a teenage drug addict, bank robber and convict before turning over a new leaf as a drug counsellor – in fact, that’s how he got his first acting role in Runaway Train, counselling a kid working on the film when he was approached to be an extra. “I just totally got hooked. I found my calling…For the first half of my life, I went to prison for being a bad guy. Now they’re paying me to be a bad guy,” Trejo said. After years of playing bit parts, Trejo took the title role in Machete, continuing his long-time collaboration with director (and second cousin) Robert Rodriguez. Machete had its origins as a mock-trailer in the throwback exploitation double bill Grindhouse, and it played on Trejo’s image as a violent, nigh-superhuman Federale agent, gifted with the bladed weapon that is his namesake. He has seven films coming out in 2014, ranging from Muppets Most Wanted to vigilante thriller Bullet. Rodriguez has said that he views Danny Trejo as something of a Mexican Charles Bronson and he certainly wouldn’t be too far off.


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