See It Instead: Billy Drago Edition
When you needed a villain that oozed danger and charm in the 90’s you went with Christopher Walken. If he was taken you went with Billy Drago. After his passing this week, we remember the chilling smile behind many of the rogues I encountered on TV as a kid.
Some actors you just associate with an era. From just before the 90’s to a little into the 2000’s, Billy Drago was synonymous with “TV Bad Guy” to me. If there was any long running series on TV that I watched, I just assumed sooner or later he was going to show up as a baddy. He had such an iconic look, and a delivery that would lead you to believe he was Jareth’s long lost Goblin-King brother. He was so ubiquitous that I even imagined him in series he wasn’t in. If he had put a gun to my head and in that silky drawl asked me “was I in Highlander?”, well, I’d have a new breathing hole in my head.
Unfortunately, time is undefeated, and Billy passed away this week. As a tribute to a man that will probably have some long legs in our “Movies That Ruined My Childhood” feature, we take a look at three projects Mr. Drago was an indispensable part of.
The Serious Pick: The Untouchables (1987)
Billy Drago made bloodlust, well, lusty with his evil smile and flashing eyes. And if you need someone that you’d believe enjoys giving Sicilian neckties and a good old car bombing or ten, Billy’s character Nitti was your man. While the G-men in The Untouchables get most of the celluloid, the reason everyone was rooting for them was the baddies they put away. And while not as high up on the food chain, seeing Ness give Nitti a long dive into a concrete pool was very satisfying.
The Lighthearted Pick: The Adventures of Brisco County Jr. (1993-1994)
It’s a tough job finding someone iconic enough to rival Bruce Cambell’s chin. Billy Drago was up to the challenge as John Blye, the notorious gunslinger who did in Brisco County Sr. While Billy Drago had a longer run on the equally excellent series Charmed, and turned in a fantastic performance in an episode of The X-files, this was no contest. Brisco County Jr. was a fantastic show with an amazing cast. And Billy Drago was no exception. And if you didn’t know that, you don’t know Jack.
The “Must have been a rough patch for TV Villains” Pick: Tie! Monkey Business and Soccer Dog – The Movie (1998-1999)
Egad. Someone really needed a paycheck. It’s hard to pick which one’s worse. I’ve seen enough horrible dog movies to cringe at Soccer Dog: The Movie, and Billy was playing the evil dog catcher. Yeesh, what a double whammy! But I’m not here to diss the man, I’m here to celebrate him. So I’m going to go with Monkey Business. Sure, it may be a B-movie knockoff of Monkey Trouble (which is a badge of dishonor no movie should have), but Billy Drago gets higher billing in the movie than Shia LeBeouf. That’s a win folks!