It's always a treat to discover unusual villain performances that work. Plenty of actors routinely - and convincingly - play bad guys. Jeremy Irons, Christoph Waltz, and Jared Leto are just three examples of stars who often portray antagonists onscreen. We know they're good at it, so we expect solid work when we see them.
Much more surprising is when non-actors play villains and give us chills in the process. There's something incredibly potent about real people acting in villainous ways. The following individuals come from various backgrounds. Some were already famous in non-acting fields. Others were just regular people who managed to get cast in major movies or television shows. Regardless of where they came from, every single one did a masterful job portraying evil characters. They were unforgettable.
Which of these non-actors who played stone cold villains nailed it the most? Your votes will decide.
- 1Photo: Warner Bros.
R. Lee Ermey joined the Marine Corps after being apprehended for criminal mischief. He figured it was a better choice than going to jail. After a 14-year stint, he retired and hatched a plan to become a military advisor on movie sets, then transition into acting.
His big break came with the role of Hartman, the tough-as-nails drill instructor who terrorizes his soldiers in Stanley Kubrick's Full Metal Jacket. The character is best remembered for the long, intimidating strings of profane insults he regularly hurls. Interestingly, most of those insults were written by the actor himself. Ermey said, "You can ask any drill instructor who was down there in 1965 or 1966, that's exactly how the drill instructor's demeanor was. There were no punches pulled."
Hartman indisputably feels like an actual drill instructor, thanks to Ermey's ability to pull from his own experience. That adds exponentially to Full Metal Jacket's power.24211Nailed it?
- 2Photo: Sony Pictures Releasing
Barkhad Abdi's family fled Somalia when he was 7 years old. They made their way to Yemen, then to America, eventually settling down in Minneapolis, MN. As a young man, he worked in the city as a chauffer, driving people around in a limousine.
When the Tom Hanks movie Captain Phillips came looking for Somalis to play the pirates in this harrowing true story, Abdi auditioned with three of his friends. To his surprise, he landed the co-leading role, portraying Muse, the pirate who, in an act of desperation, leads the hijacking of a US cargo ship. The actor gives Muse a frightening combination of rage and fear.
Abdi credits director Paul Greengrass with helping him achieve the intense, Oscar-nominated performance he gave, saying:
At the beginning of the movie, I was really nervous. I was like, "Am I really going to do this big part?"
And you know he said, "Just don’t think about it, you’re going to work at it on a daily basis, and each day you do the best at whatever you’re doing and don’t think about anything."1678Nailed it?
Richard Dawson, The Host Of 'Family Feud,' Also Hosts The Dystopian Game Show In 'The Running Man'Photo: TriStar Pictures
Richard Dawson did some acting prior to playing the villainous game show host in The Running Man. Most notably, he was a co-star on the sitcom Hogan's Heroes. For years, though, his career consisted solely of being a real-life game show host. His tenure on Family Feud lasted from 1976 to 1985, and he returned for the 1994-1995 season. To this day, the program is what he's best remembered for.
Dawson's experience made him a clever choice to play Damon Killian, the host of a deadly game show in The Running Man. He brought an effective double edge to the character. As Roger Ebert put it, "Playing a character who always seems three-quarters drunk, Dawson chain-smokes his way through backstage planning sessions and then pops up in front of the cameras as a cauldron of false jollity." Audiences' familiarity with Dawson on Family Feud lent a sense of authenticity to his performance, making him a credible nemesis for star Arnold Schwarzenegger.9810Nailed it?
- 4Photo: HBO
You wouldn't want to run into Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson in a dark alley. Conversely, you couldn't ask for a better ally in a fight. The 6-foot, 9-inch powerlifter won the title of Iceland's Strongest Man for 10 consecutive years. He was also a regular competitor in Strongman competitions around the world.
Although he had no acting experience, Björnsson certainly had the right look for HBO's Game of Thrones. He was cast as "The Mountain," a massive laconic warrior known for his brutality. It was a part he was physically perfect for, making a fearsome impression in every episode in which he appeared.
Björnsson got the role by demonstrating his strength to the producers during his audition. The actor said, "They asked me if I was strong enough to pick one of the guys up. I gave it a try, and he felt very light. They were surprised at how easily I lifted him overhead."958Nailed it?