Sadly, Billy Drago died on Monday in Los Angeles at the age of 73.
Drago was the quintessential bad guy, having appeared in 100 films, many of which cast him in the role of the villain. Among the actors who faced his wrath and other qualities were Clint Eastwood, Michael Jackson, Chuck Norris and Takashi Miike.
His list of credits over the span of four decades is long. Among his most memorable turns on the silver screen was his role as hitman Frank Nitti in Brian De Palma’s 1987 film The Untouchables. His character stood out not only because of his role as an assassin, but also because he chose a distinguishing fashion statement — a white suit — which was ironic since he was the bad guy.
As IMDb pointed out with one of his quotes, Drago enjoyed being cast as the person everybody hates.
“I enjoy villains. I’ve figured out how to get paid for doing what they tried to throw me in jail for when I was a kid. Besides, I’m never going to be the boy next door. That’s not who I want to be. So I try to put a little of the dark side into my good guys and a bit of gentleness into my heavies.”
Drago played a drug lord in 1990’s Delta Force 2: The Columbian Connection. In the remake of The Hills Have Eyes, he took on the lofty role as leader of the muted nomads.
On television, Drago was frightening as Barbas, the demon of fear, in Charmed. He also played opposite Norris in featured guest star roles on the popular program Walker, Texas Ranger.
In 2014, Drago came together with Rain Phoenix, Taryn Manning, Flea, Glenn Close and Elle Fanning to appear in Lowdown. The biographical film was about musician-pianist Joe Albany and his fight against drug addiction.
IMDb listed Drago’s trademarks as his “evil eyes” and “a deep menacing voice.” The site also said the late actor maintained a “slender frame with prominent cheekbones.” He was just short of six feet tall.
Drago did not start his career in Hollywood. In fact, the man who was born William Eugene Burrows in Hugoton, Kansas, worked as a stuntman in his native state before attending University of Kansas. After that, he worked as an Associated Press stringer and as a radio host.
In the 1970s, Drago — his stage name taken from his mother’s maiden name — was bitten by the proverbial acting bug and joined a community of actors that served as a stepping stone to making this avocation into his occupation. His next step was to make his way to New York City before heading West, where many roles well suited this prolific thespian.
Sadly, the actor’s career was cut short when he died due to complications from a stroke on June 24.
RIP, Billy Drago.