In the first of what will be (hopefully) a weekly feature, Eric reflects on the greatness of actor Michael Ironside in the form of a Top Ten list.
In his thirty three year career, B-actor extraordinaire Michael Ironside has been nothing short of prolific. Appearing in 170+ films and television shows (not to mention video games) since 1977, old Ironsides has been one of cinema’s most underrated and consistent villains (and the occasional hero, of course). While most viewers know him for his work in the Paul Verhoeven blockbusters Total Recall and Starship Troopers, many also might be familiar with his extensive television work that includes Superman, ER, Seaquest DSV, and Young Blades. Scoping his filmography at The Database, I’m surprised that I was actually able to come up with 10 things I’ve seen him in, given the relative obscurity of the majority of his work. This of course reinforces (in my book) how awesome of an actor he really is (i.e. I haven’t seen him in that much, but god damn, I remember him always). It’s also worth noting here that Ironside was slated to play Robocop, but apparently his build was not cohesive with the technicalities of the Robosuit (he was too buff…and tough; Jesus. Think about how bad he would beat up Peter Weller in a fight). So without further ado, in honor of an under-appreciated actor of unrivaled intensity (and a man who looks excellent in any sort of military and/or space suit), the top 10* Michael Ironside films/performances:
10. Splinter Cell (Sam Fisher) … 2002-Present
Ironside gets to utter more one-liners in one V.O. session for the Splinter Cell games than he has in all of his other work combined. That, and he gets to have his voice attached to a guy hanging from a pipe and breaking his enemys’ necks with his legs, something Ironside would probably do in real life, if given the chance.**
9. Free Willy (1993) … Dial
It only makes sense that a film so popular in my formative days as a youth would have Ironside playing an evil, whale-hating son of a bitch. Genius.
8. Top Gun (1986) … Jester
I was hesitant to put this on here, but, well, hey. Jester!
7. Highlander 2: The Quickening (1991) … General Katana
Nemesis-from-the-past General Katana (Ironside) travels into the future to kill MacLeod and destroy his ozone-protecting shield. I mean, seriously? Seriously.
6. The Glass Shield (1994) … Baker
Charles Burnett’s highly political tale of a corrupt Los Angeles sheriff’s department couldn’t have been complete without Ironside as the sleazy veteran detective Baker (and the partner of M. Emmet Walsh, no less!). It’s no coincidence the film’s most intense scene involves an unhinged Ironside violently shoving a pistol in the mouth of hero J.J. (Michael Boatman).***
5. McBain (1991) … Frank Bruce
When McBain (Christopher Walken) recruits his old Vietnam buddies to avenge the death of his friend and Colombian revolutionary Santos, one of them happens to be Ironside (the rich one!). Commence violently overthrowing corrupt government.
4. Extreme Prejudice (1987) … Major Paul Hackett
A match made in heaven on all accounts. Directed by Walter Hill, written by John Milius, starring Nick Nolte as a Texas ranger, Powers Boothe as a drug kingpin, and Ironside as the CIA-funded paramilitary hunting them both down. I’m overwhelmed just thinking about all the toughness.
3. Starship Troopers (1997) … Lieutenant Jean Rasczak
For those worried about the status of Ironside’s arms in a post-Recall world, his re-teaming up with Paul Verhoeven would put those worries to rest: motherfucker’s got metal arms in this one. I’ll never forget the post battle party when Ironside unloads the space keg. “Gentlemen ……. here’s the beer!”
“See you at the party, Richter!” These are the immortal words spoken by Quaid/Hauser/Schwarzenegger as he uses ultra-steroid strength to rip off the arms of poor Ironside. Richter’s maniacal pursuit of Quaid is one of the film’s many fine achievements, and Mars would still be ours if it wasn’t for that faux heroic Governor bullshit.
1. Scanners (1981) … Darryl Revok
The film that started it all (i.e. introduced Ironside to The World). Back when he still had hair, Ironside took the cinema world by storm by doing what every audience member wanted to do for the entirety of Scanners: set Stephen Lack on fire with his/her mind. Also, let’s not forget that Ironside is personally responsible**** for what is now the most well known head explosion in cinema history:
*And sadly the only 10 I could muster. I’ve seen Falcon and the Snowman, but his part is hardly enough to characterize the film as an “Ironside Classic”.
**Written by Ted, as I’ve not played this so-called video game series.
***Note: Free Willy and The Glass Shield star both Michael Ironside AND Lori Petty. Go figure.
****[Ed’s note: Eric understands that, no, Michael Ironside the actor is not personally responsible for the exploding head. He does not have telekinetic powers in real life. Yet.]