?The year was 1998. Toy Biz’s first line of Xena: Warrior Princess action figures had done well enough to merit a second wave, and when the lineup was announced and included the king of thieves Autolycus, fanboys the world over freaked the royal fuck out. At last, a Bruce Campbell figure! We didn’t care if his first plastic representation was that of a rather forgettable character who came off the assembly lines looking like a To Catch a Predator castoff. It was the closest thing we’d ever seen to an Ash figure, and in those days (before NECA, before Mezco, before Slideshow Toys, the days when McFarlane’s most photorealistic figure was Martin Sheen from the Spawn movie), it seemed like the only Bruce figure we’d ever see.
Oh, how foolish we were. Many, many more lil’ Campbells were to come. The sheer number of Ash figures alone that have emerged in the last decade or so borders on the surreal. But sadly, there are still many, many celebs that geeks adore who have only seen their likeness bestowed upon a single action figure or toy… 99% of the time an incredibly shitty one, at that. Here we present the 10 celebs whose lone appearances in forgotten lines are likely the only molds we’ll ever behold.
10) Jim Varney, a.k.a. Ernest P. Worrell
?Right out of the gate, and we’re already cheating, knowhutimean? Jim Varney never received an action figure proper, just this talking Ernest doll released in 1988 in conjunction with the Emmy-winning (truth!) Hey Vern! It’s Ernest! Saturday-morning series. First things first: Varney was an unheralded comic genius and a tremendously warmhearted human being, so no shit-talking. (I can’t be the only guy out there who feels this way, right?) Second, how awesome would an Ernest figure in trademark jeans/vest/cap/gray T-shirt be? No frills, no “prison uniform” or “evil Ernest” variants necessary. Just pure, unvarnished Varney. Well, that and a bulldozer-driving Lyle Alzado figure for him to cold-cock. Bonus points to whatever company offers a catapult playset that launches paratrooper turtles. Ernest haters, think of it this way: Even Jake Busey has a better toy than Jim Varney. Where is the justice?
9) Sting… as Feyd from Dune
?Chances are there a lot of Police fans out there, fans who wouldn’t mind McFarlane Toys taking a crack at all three members in a box set (maybe in greyscale deco to capture the feel of the “Every Breath You Take” video). Because, let’s face it, as much as people love Sting and would love a realistic ’80s-era figure, there’s no way that even many diehard fans are gonna shell out $15 for an individually packed Stewart Copeland. So until some sort of package deal emerges, we’ll have to settle for this surprisingly accurate, if a bit Malcolm McDowell-ish, pet carrier-toting 5-inch version of Baron Harkonnen’s douchey nephew from LJN’s 1984 movie line. (You can always squint and pretend this is the Sting from the Police’s “Synchronity II” clip, even though Andy Summers appears to actually be wearing Feyd-Rautha’s robes.) To add insult to injury, there are actually two separate Kyle MacLachlan figures out there, but you can always make Sting win the knife-fight duel in a rather grisly fashion. At least he wasn’t in the Flintstones movie, right?
8) Bobcat Goldthwait… as Officer Zed from Police Academy
?Another slight cheat, as this figure is based off an animated version of a character played by Bob “Please Don’t Call Me Bobcat, Oh Wait, Never Mind, You Can” Goldthwait in three live-action Police Academy flicks. (He chose to sit out voicing the character for the cartoon.) Still, if you’re a fan of Goldthwait’s freakout stand-up schtick or cult classics like One Crazy Summer and Shakes the Clown, it’s this or nothing. (Full disclosure: There are actually two Zed figs in this line, but they’re pretty interchangeable. Also, this line produced the world’s only pseudo-Steve Guttenberg figure, so…thanks?) Call us crazy, but a toy of Bobcat in the cheap Godzilla suit (with removable head) from One Crazy Summer would look right at home on our bookcase. And that was a sentence that’s never been uttered before, folks.
7) Roy Scheider… as Capt. Nathan Hale Bridger from SeaQuest DSV
?There’s no figure of Matt Hooper from Jaws, no Buddy Russo from The French Connection, no Dr. Heywood Floyd from 2010, or hell, not even a Frank Castle, Sr. from the Thomas Jane version of The Punisher, but yet there’s a figure of Roy Scheider’s character from a show that was sorta okay for like three episodes. And he’s not exactly keeping the best of company in this line, as other figures included a neon-sporting Jonathan Brandis and a dolphin. The grizzled everyman actor deserves far better from an action figure, especially since he spent the last decade and a half of his career earning paychecks for TV flicks and bottom-feeder direct-to-video fare like Dracula III: Legacy. Though we’ll gladly take a figure from that if it means we’re not stuck with a reminder of a show that seemed to have dramatic tonal shifts every week and was consistently beaten in the ratings by Murder, She Wrote.
6) Kris Kristofferson… as Whistler from Blade
?Speaking of grizzled badasses, legendary singer/songwriter/hell-raiser Kris Kristofferson actually has a pretty awesome figure when compared to many of his compatriots on this list. (Would you believe his brother-in-beard Sam Elliott already has two figures? Three if you count Caretaker from Ghost Rider.) Sculpting and articulation had come a long way by 1998 when the first Blade flick was released, so the vampire hunter’s mentor looks tougher than 10 Johnny Paycheck album covers while on display. (If you’re trying to impress a cougar for some reason, just say it’s a Michael McDonald figure.) And thanks to SOTA Toys’ Johnny Cash release from a few years back, it’s now possible to own two of the Highwaymen in plastic form. Who knows? By this time next year, we may have three; it’s easy to imagine that someone, somewhere, is close to getting Willie Nelson to sign off on his likeness by putting the dotted line on some rolling papers.
5) Winona Ryder… as Call from Alien Resurrection
?Before you cry foul, YES, we realize that we counted Bobcat Goldthwait’s cartoon counterpart as an actual Bobcat Goldthwait figure, and we haven’t done the same for Winona Ryder even though there was an animated Lydia Deetz PVC toy offered as part of a Burger King Beetlejuice cartoon promotion. We just think that’s way more of stretch to call it a Winona Ryder figure, that’s all. Meaning the only action figure representation of America’s most adorable clothing thief is that of Call from Kenner’s 1997 Alien Resurrection line. And it is… not flattering in the least, unless you’d call “Elijah Wood in pink lipstick” flattering. (Ladies? Would you?) Winona got off easier than the ugly single-figure treatment that Laura Linney (Congo), Denise Richards (Starship Troopers) and Elisha Cuthbert (24 Mini-Mates) have been saddled with, but here’s hoping NECA decides to add a Kim Boggs to their Edward Scissorhands line. Just not the old-age makeup version, please.
4) The Multi-Millionaire Man-Children, a.k.a. Adam Sandler, Ben Stiller and Vince Vaughn
?They’re all buddies in real life and have appeared in each others’ movies, but even the combined box-office clout of Frat Packers Sandler, Stiller and Vaughn has resulted in just a couple of figures. Hard as it may be to believe, there are only two Adam Sandler figures out there, and they’re both from McFarlane Toys’ astoundingly ill-conceived Little Nicky line. (X-Toys planned to make an Operaman figure in a second wave of Saturday Night Live 25th anniversary figures that never materialized.) Stiller saw his mug slapped on a Mr. Furious figure in Playing Mantis’ Mystery Men line, which of course was yet another flick no one could bring themselves to pay for. Vaughn may have had better luck at the box office a few years earlier thanks to The Lost World, but as his Nick Van Owen figure serves to remind us, “skinny Vince Vaughn” is just as extinct as an ankylosaurus. Even with just a crappy Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back inaction figure and an Elf bobblehead to his credit, we imagine Will Ferrell’s still having the last laugh.
3) Morgan Freeman… as Azeem from Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves
?Despite high-profile roles in comic adaptations like Red, Wanted and Christopher Nolan’s Bat-flicks, authoritative old fart Morgan Freeman has been visited by the Action Figure Fairy but once. Granted, Prince of Thieves is arguably the only flick where Freeman has actively been a badass, handily disposing of all manner of degenerates with that scimitar. (Though he was certainly no less imposing in Street Smart, as Christopher Reeve looks like he’s about to shit his pants every time Freeman comes around.) But having Freeman in an action-figure line that also boasts the world’s only Christian Slater toy is just cruel. So, toy companies, the onus is on you…we’ll take the dogged detective from Se7en, the dogged loyal best friend in Unforgiven, or the other dogged loyal best friend who inexplicably reads CrossGen comics in Million Dollar Baby.
2) George Carlin… as Rufus from Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure
?While there may not be much of a demand for toy versions of stand-up comics who revolutionized the field, we’re still happy to have this goofy keyboard-playing Rufus. (Why doesn’t he come with a guitar, though? Rufus could shred!) Carlin himself probably got a kick out of his presence in Kay-Bees across the country as well, no doubt fully aware of the inherent ridiculousness of kids playing with the plastic version of the guy made famous for the controversy that erupted over his “Seven Dirty Words” routine. Or maybe he just saw it as yet another sign of humanity’s imminent self-destruction. Or, like us, maybe he realized the inherent ridiculousness of being included in a line of toys that also had what will likely be the only Al Leong figure to be mass-produced. Genghis Khan, you are keeping mighty fine company, my friend.
1) Jean-Claude Van Damme… as Col. Guile in Street Fighter
?Rarely has there been an action star as action-figure ready as the Muscles from Brussels. And yet, there seems to be only one official toy bearing any sort of passing resemblance to the guy. One with blond hair, at that. From one of the worst movies ever made. Hell, I had to double-check this multiple times, as I’d convinced myself that part of his amazing soliloquy in JCVD involved him talking about repeatedly becoming an action figure to please his audience. But there’s only been this 12-inch Col. Guile doll from 1994’s ill-fated Street Fighter live-action movie, which featured no fighting in the streets. (Sadly, it’s not a talking doll that endlessly repeats Van Damme’s hilarious delivery of the line, “It’s equipped with the latest in stealth technology.” Add the movie to your Netflix queue just for that.) So, to conclude, Chuck Norris gets a merchandising blowout for the incorrectly spelled Karate Kommandos, but the star of Cyborg, Kickboxer, Universal Soldier and Timecop gets a hand-me-down G.I. Joe mold and accessories. Oh well. At least he got to party with Hammer and Deion Sanders…