Some actors were just born to play villains, they just had that aura of menace, animalistic charm and the kind of personality that lent itself to baddies. That can definitely be said of Billy Drago, a reptilian character actor with a slinky, measured voice and a gaze that could pierce walls. Of the hundred or so credits he racked up over his career I’d say about three to five were not antagonists, he made a living and legendary work out of embodying badasses and troublesome dudes. He’s passed on now but these are my top ten of his performances!
10. Drake in Seven Mummies
This is a pitiful From Dusk Dawn rip-off that doesn’t even have one mummy in it, never mind seven. However, Billy hams it up spectacularly as the maniacal ghost of an evil sheriff, decked out with supernatural powers, cackling like a madman and having a ball.
9. John Bly in The Adventures Of Brisco County Jr
He takes centre stage as the main villain in this cult SciFi western series as Bly, a deadly, treacherous outlaw gang leader who proves to be quite the adversary to Bruce Campbell’s hero.
8. Edward Anthony Heller in Freeway
A frightening, bible quoting mass murderer, Heller prowls the urban highways in a big black Lincoln looking for victims to maim and authorities to fire his rocket launcher at while hard boiled detective James Russo races to find and stop him. This is one of those villains who is heard for awhile before being seen, and Drago’s evil zealot’s fervour in delivering fire and brimstone passages before brutally killing people is something else.
7. Barbas The Demon of Fear in Charmed
Charmed was a dope show from what I saw, and benefited greatly from Billy’s intermittent presence as a spooky, otherworldly entity who controls the very essence of fear. Clad in black and scenery chewing like nobody’s business, it’s one of his most memorable TV guest arcs.
6. Asmodeus in Demon Hunter
Another demon! This time instead of fear it’s sex, and although in classic mythology the physical manifestation of this guy isn’t exactly Billy’s type, he rocks the charisma here, hanging on every hissed syllable and seductive boob grab. This is a terrific little TV B movie produced by the legendary Stephen J. Cannell and starring one half of the Boondock Saints, Sean Patrick Flanery as a sort of Constantine like badass.
5. Charles Thibodeaux in Dark Moon Rising
Finally a good guy!! This is a low budget but fun werewolf flick set in the New Mexico desert. Billy plays an ex homicide detective gone rogue, hunting down the vicious beast that murdered his wife years before. There’s a mournful, nothing to lose attitude to his character here, even in more heroic roles he always inflected the work with a trademark edgy darkness.
4. Ramon Cota in Delta Force 2
Billy played villains opposite Chuck Norris a few times but none were as terrifying and over the top, WTF crazy as Cota. Columbia’s nastiest drug lord, he’s got a fucking gas chamber in his living room that he uses to dispatch enemies, disloyal cohorts and basically anyone he doesn’t like the sight of, and he watches it go down too.
3. Frank Nitti in Brian De Palma’s The Untouchables
Slick, evil enforcer to Robert DeNiro’s Al Capone, Frank is a straight up psychopath who laughs in the face of Eliot Ness (Kevin Costner) after killing one of his best friends and taunts him like a true monster. It’s a supremely evil turn that outshines every other villain on scene including DeNiro’s cultured Capone.
2. Orel Peattie in The X Files
He’s an antagonist here but one with an understandable perspective and tragic backstory. Orel is a Gypsy with mysterious voodoo powers who has targeted a Doctor (James Morrison) that he deems responsible for the death of his daughter years before. Both these characters are hurt, Orel lashes out by casting creepy spells on the guy and one can sense the seething hatred and sorrow in Billy’s excellent performance.
1. Danny Bench in Cyborg 2: The Glass Shadow
Man this sequel is just so much better than the shitty first one with Jean Claude Van Damme. Bench is a psychotic renegade bounty hunter employed by a corrupt corporation to hunt down their asset, a rogue cyborg (Angelina Jolie) and the army man (Elias Koteas) she’s run away with. He’s a scary, imposing villain with ties to Asian occult, an arsenal of savage weapons and a bad case of the crazy.