?For the better part of four decades, character-actor Brad Dourif has played some of the creepiest sons of bitches to ever slither their ways onto both the big and small screen. He’s made a name for himself portraying psychopaths, serial-killers, and full-blown 12-cylinder wackaloons. He’s mastered the art of being both chilling and charismatic — and while one couldn’t really count him among Hollywood’s “A-List”, he’s worked steadily since the 1970s, playing strong supporting characters in blockbuster films, and leads in a number of smaller movies.
While he might be best known for his role as Doc Cochran in the acclaimed HBO series Deadwood, he’s also managed to carve a niche with his portrayals of a number of characters well-known and loved by nerd-dom including some very well-interpreted literary figures and a few quite notable guest appearances on some of our favorite sci-fi programs — not counting his recent appearance in the recent season finale of Fringe (since he didn’t get to do much except tear a few holes in reality).
So today, we present you with Mr. Dourif’s seven most exceptional contributions to nerdity.
7) Sherrif Leigh Brackett, Halloween
In 2007, when Rob Zombie rebooted the franchise that all but invented the modern slasher flick, Brad Dourif was cast in the role of Sheriff Leigh Brackett (originally played by Charles Cyphers). This character was the Model-T of what would become the standard Incredulous Authority Figure in your typical serial killer film. It’s odd to see Mr. Dourif in the role of a stable, non-murderous individual… almost to the point that this performance is actually more perverse than his standard work.
6) Brother Edward, Babylon 5
?Dourif’s guest-starring role on one of nerd-dom’s most beloved programs has him returning to his standard, eerie form. He plays Brother Edward, a monk of the Cistercian Order who was once known as the Black Rose Killer — a Jack the Ripper-esque murderer of women. He was sentenced to “death of personality,” a punishment that replaced the death penalty and involves essentially erasing and restructuring a criminal’s psyche. Unfortunately, some family members of his victims considered this a less than adequate punishment, and had a Centauri telepath restore his original memories — so he’d remember his crimes before dying. It’s a fascinating concept, and offers a lot to ponder on the subjects of redemption and forgiveness, and Dourif handles it masterfully.
5) The Gemini Killer, Exorcist III
In 1989, Exorcist III was one of the best films no one saw. Originally titled Legion and based on a novel by Exorcist author William Peter Blatty (who also directed), it was modified and re-titled in order to serve as an Exorcist sequel since the studio was convinced it wouldn’t sell on its own. Trouble is, Exorcist II will live in cinematic infamy as one of the absolute worst sequels ever made. And since conventional wisdom states that part 3 is always worse than part 2, no one wanted to see a third Exorcist flick. Brad Dourif shines as The Gemini Killer, a psychotic serial-murderer whose spirit now inhabits the body of Father Damian Karras, the Exorcist who seemingly died at the end of the first film. Above, Dourif as Gemini gives an absolutely chilling monologue about the fine arts of human exsanguination and decapitation. Seriously, if you don’t watch any other video on this list — watch this one!
4) Charles Lee/Chucky, Child’s Play
Surely we couldn’t forget everyone’s favorite homicidal children’s plaything! Dourif voiced the slash-happy doll for five films, but it all started with an ordinary, everyday human strangler named Charles Lee Ray. In the above clip, you can observe the police shootout and voodoo ritual that embedded a murderer’s black soul in an unsuspecting Good Guys doll. The films would progressively devolve from true horror to black comedy over the years, but Mr. Dourif’s voice-acting kept us coming back for more.
3) Crewman Lon Suder, Star Trek: Voyager
There’s an unwritten law that an actor or actress cannot be accepted into the ranks of Nerd Luminaries until he or she’s done a guest spot on a Star Trek series, and Mr. Dourif’s no exception. A sociopathic Betazoid with no telepathic or empathic abilities, Suder joined the Maquis as a means of sating his bloodlust. Once he and his cohorts were assimilated into the Voyager crew, he no longer had an outlet for his violent urges, and later killed a crewmember in cold blood. Tuvok mind melds with him in an attempt to understand his condition, only to be nearly overtaken by Suder’s impulses. He’s sentenced to be confined to quarters indefinitely, where Tuvok attempts to teach him Vulcan meditation techniques. He later gives his life to save the ship from the Kazon when he’s accidentally left on board after the crew is stranded by Seska . Dourif is simultaneously unsettling and sympathetic as a man wrestling with terrible personal demons, and Voyager was a weaker show for the loss of this character.
2) Piter De Vries, Dune
Recently, TR presented a list of ten things David Lynch needlessly added to Dune. (link) And while Lynch’s film had flaws above and beyond this short list, the cast was by no means one of them. Dourif’s casting as Harkonnen-employed Mentat Piter de Vries was nothing short of inspired, and while he was somewhat under-utilized, he brought his customary menace and unsettling charisma to this interpretation of Frank Herbert’s original character. Piter was what the Dune universe calls a “twisted” Mentat — a human computer that, along with being trained to perform feats of logic, has been conditioned for such tasks as murder, assassination, and torture. They also come with a tendency towards compulsive and addictive behavior, a trait that allows their masters to control them more completely than standard Mentats. We imagine that as soon as Lynch saw that there was a role in his film for a vicious, brilliant, devious, sadistic killer, only one name came to his mind.
1) Grima Wormtongue, Lord of the Rings
It’s been stated that Dune is to science fction what LOTR is to fantasy. Thus, it’s hardly surprising that when Peter Jackson needed an actor for a role not dissimilar to Piter, Mr. Dourif would be called upon to serve. His portrayal of the slimy, duplicitous Rohan traitor, Grima Wormtongue, was a highlight of LOTR‘s already superlative cast. Although the character is pretty one-dimensional — he’s a court advisor called Wormtongue, for goodness’ sake — Dourif brings considerable depth to the character, showing his genuine love and disturbing lust for Eowyn, as well as even an impressive amount of regret with Theoden offers forgiveness in the extended editions.