No this isn’t the list where I include actors like Mr. T and Chuck Norris, we know that already. These are the people who are often left out of said lists. Actors who are actually badass, not just actors who have served their country. Prepare your eyeballs for the onslaught they’re about to receive.
Biggest no brainer of all-time. Christopher Lee is a man who needs no introduction. He mastered six languages, trained as a classical singer, was fascinated by public executions in history to the point where when he was alive he could recite the names of every official executioner in England dating back to the 15th century, and was a World Champion Fencer. He played Dracula, a James Bond Villain, pretty much every notable role ever – twice. He’s one of the most renowned actors to ever be seen on the silver-screen appearing in both Star Wars and The Lord of the Rings. He was knighted making him Sir Christopher Lee. The only actor who ever was a member the most prestigious golf country club in the world: Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers. AND he served as a British Commando attached to the Long Range Desert Patrol the precursor unit to the SAS during WWII. I’m out of breath typing so much awesomeness.
Cary Grant – “The greatest leading man Hollywood had ever known”
Cary Grant has the longest Wikipedia page I ever read. That’s when you know you must be a legend. He was a big time actor who dabbled in both screwball comedies and dramatic roles earning Academy Awards for Penny Serenade (1941) and None But the Lonely Heart (1944). Later he was recruited by the FBI to spy on his second wife Barbara Hutton, who was suspected of sending money to the Nazi’s. He served in the US looking for Nazi sympathizers. Hollywood later offered him the role of James Bond.
He turned it down.
Marlene Dietrich – Hated Nazis
One of Germany’s most famous actresses but hated the Nazi’s guts. Marlene donated her entire salary from the film Knight Without Armour ($450,000) to setup a fund to help Jewish refugees escape Germany during the Second World War. Recruited by the Morale Branch of the OSS (Office of Strategic Services – precursor to the CIA) and was the only performer to know that her recordings would be used as propaganda. Her song “Lilli Marlene” was translated by her into German and was beloved by both sides involved in the war. Wild Bill Donovan, Acting Director of the OSS during WWII, sent a personal message to Dietrich stating, “I am personally deeply grateful for your generosity making these recordings for us”.
Dietrich was awarded the Medal of Freedom in 1947 as well as the Légion d’honneur by the French Government for her efforts of being a badass. As well as numerous other medals from other countries.
Sterling Hayden – “The Beautiful Blonde Viking God” – I’m not joking that was actually what people called him and I now want you to call me that as well from here on out.
Before jumping into fascist controlled Croatia as a member of the OSS and receiving the Silver Star for gallantry in action in the Balkans and Mediterranean, Hayden sailed around the world after dropping out of high school and eventually earned the moniker “The Most Beautiful Man in Hollywood”. He mostly did Supporting Actor roles and was seen getting shot playing a police officer in critically acclaimed The Godfather. He stated he hated to act and only did it to pay for his voyages, ships, and Indiana Jones-esque adventures. He wrote two acclaimed books detailing them: Wanderer (1962) and Voyage (1976) that should probably be bought and later turned into a movie.
Blake Clark – Farmer Fran from The Waterboy alongside Adam Sandler
Clark is also known for Slinky the dog in Toy Story among other smaller roles throughout the years. Clark served as a platoon leader during Vietnam with 5th Infantry Division. In an interview with TMZ Clark stated, “I’m not a socialist, I killed socialists.” He went on to say, “I was a platoon leader, so my job wasn’t to shoot people, although I did. Mine was to command the platoon in combat, call in artillery, mortars, and airstrikes.”
Clark was asked whether he would appear in a role during Vietnam and said, “A lot of times directors don’t want somebody (with actual war experience) because they think I would try to direct the movie…which I wouldn’t.” Next time you see Farmer Fran and Slinky the Dog, remember that the actor is a badass.
Bob Gunton – The legendary Warden from Shawshank Redemption
Received worldwide recognition for his role as the warden in Shawshank Redemption and also appeared in Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls, Patch Adams, The Perfect Storm as well as numerous roles over his 35+ years of performing. Gunton served from ’69-71 in Charlie Company, 2nd Battalion, 501st Infantry, 101st Airborne Division patrolling the area near A Shau Valley. Gunton noted that he thought he was lucky to of survived the war and that he had what he thought was a Guardian Angel protecting him. He kept a notebook to document his experiences.
“I kept notebooks, reams of them, while everyone else humped crotchbooks and extra cans of beer.” Gunton said that unlike many vets from ‘Nam, he didn’t have a hard time adjusting after the war because he had an emotional connection to theater and knew he could pursue what he truly dreamt to accomplish.
He awarded the Bronze Star for Valor in Vietnam.
James Arness – Gunslinger in the Wild Wild West and in WWII
Arness most notable role was as Marshall Matt Dillon on the popular TV Series Gunsmoke. Arness spent 20 years as the lead until the shows end in 1975. Arness is so rad that he literally hitchhiked his way to Hollywood. According to my parents, hitchhiking was something people did back in the day and didn’t think twice about the possibility of being murdered by a sociopath with an axe. Arness would be the wrong dude to pick on because he kicked the shit out of Nazis with revolvers setting him up for quite the career as a western gunslinger. He did so standing an impressive 6 foot 7 inches tall and was quite the target.
During the famous battle of Anzio in Italy during WWII where 3rd Infantry Regiment suffered unimaginable losses, Arness was right in the middle of it. He earned a Bronze Star for valor and a Purple Heart after being severely wounded on the mountain. The battle of Anzio is the same location where the First Special Service Force earned it’s name as The Devil’s Brigade.
Douglas Fairbanks Jr – Old school actor, organized a Special Warfare Unit known as the Beach Jumpers, and earned pretty much every foreign award for valor in WWII
Fairbanks was the second lead in Moby Dick, began acting at the age of 13, has 3 stars on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame and was buried in a Tomb with his father.
Inspired by British Commando tactics implementing sonic deception on raids against the Nazis, Fairbanks recruited 180 officers and 300 enlisted men to make up the highly classified unit known as the Beach Jumpers during WWII. They specialized in deception and psychological warfare. During a high level conference, the purpose of the Beach Jumpers was said to “scare the be-jesus out of the enemy”, which later was termed the “BJ factor”. The goal was to make the enemy think their was a larger force conducting a beach invasion.
Fairbanks earned awards for valor from the UK, France, Italy, Brazil, and the Silver Star from the US. He retired from the military in 1954 as a Captain and is known as “The Father of the Beach Jumpers”.
Charles Bronson – One of the few actors who was both a tough guy in real-life and played an action star on screen.
Bronson is probably the most famous actors on the list appearing in Once Upon a Time in the West, The Dirty Dozen, The Great Escape, The Magnificent Seven, Death Wish Series, The Battle of the Bulge, and many other popular roles. He was mostly casted as gunslinging cowboys, renegade police officers, and vigilantes during his career.
He served as an aerial gunner in the Army Air Corps and in 1945 was assigned to fly in a B-29 Superfortress where he conducted combat missions over Japanese islands in WWII. He flew 25 missions and was wounded in battle. He received the Purple Heart.
- Ice-T – Rapper, Law & Order Special Victims Unit (SVU), Army Ranger ’79-81
- Rudy Boesch – Won the first season of Survivor because of course he did, Ret. 45 years as a Master Chief BullFrog Navy SEAL
- Kris Kristofferson – Country Music Singer, appeared as Whisler alongside Wesley Snipes in Blade, Blade II and Blade Trinity, Captain in the Army as a Helicopter Pilot flying in West Germany during the Cold War ’60-65, graduated Ranger School.
- Jason Everman – Not an actor, but was a guitarist in the bands Sound Garden and Nirvana, became an Army Ranger and Green Beret, then to the CIA.
- Pat Sajak – Wheel of Fortune Game Show Host – Served as a disc jockey in Vietnam as one of the many radio hosts working for the show “Dawn Buster” and inspired the film Good Morning Vietnam starring Robin Williams.