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Book Review - BORN TO BE BAD By Timon Singh

die hard villains
Collection of interviews with actors known for their portrayal of action movie antagonists.






Review by Eric Hillis

BORN TO BE BAD By Timon Singh

Like every young tyke who grew up in the 1980s, I watched more than my share of that era's action movies. It was at this time that I realised I might be taking this whole movie geek lark a bit too seriously, as I would get a tingle of excitement not when Sly, Arnie or Bruce appeared on screen, but when character actors like Brion James, Billy Drago and David Patrick Kelly showed up, always in villainous roles of course.

Timon Singh, author of Born to be Bad, clearly enjoyed a similar childhood, and developed the same obsession for bit part players and 'that guy' henchmen. He's taken that passion and channeled it into his new book, which collects interviews with a variety of actors, athletes and stunt performers whose names are synonymous with screen villainy.

The interviews range from respected British thespians like David Warner, Paul Freeman and Steven Berkoff to bodybuilders and martial artists like Sven-Ole Thorsen, Benny 'The Jet' Urquidez and Matthias Hues, and Singh even devotes a section to actors who played terrorists in Die Hard. Speaking of that action classic, screenwriter Steven E. De Souza contributes an introduction to Singh's book.

All the interviews are meaty, with most spanning a dozen or so pages, and Singh knows his action movies, surprising some of his interviewees with his film buff facting. His interviewing style is professional but with a palpable giddy joy running throughout, and all of his subjects happily indulge his questioning, with several expressing surprise that someone would show such interest in their careers.

The interviewees spin some delightful anecdotes. The Karate Kid's Martin Kove reveals how he shot two movies for Roger Corman two decades apart, only for the notoriously tight-fisted producer to reuse footage from the first movie in the second, resulting in Kove chasing his younger self at one point in the movie. Superman II's Jack O'Halloran shatters Christopher Reeve's nice guy image while his co-star Sarah Douglas discusses her naivete regarding the predatory nature of Hollywood's treatment of attractive female stars. Urquidez tells a frightening tale of becoming unwittingly involved in an underground fight to the death while in Hong Kong, a story that would form the basis of the Jean Claude Van Damme actioner Bloodsport.

If there's one thing most of the interviewees agree on, it's that Steven Seagal is, well, a bit of a dick. Several of Singh's subjects mention the action star's ego-fuelled bad behaviour towards his fellow cast members and stunt performers.

If you're just as interested in the guy who played the AT-AT pilot as the guy who played Luke Skywalker, or the bloke who played the terrorist hacker as the bloke who played John McClane, Born to be Bad will give you hours of pleasure. It truly is a hive of scum and villainy.


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