The Emmy-winning Texas-born actor boasted a long and varied resume.
The Cowboys & Indians outfit would like to extend prayers and condolences to the family, friends, and fans of Powers Boothe, the prolific and prodigious Texas-born actor who passed away in his sleep Sunday morning in Los Angeles at age 68.
Among the outstanding credits on his lengthy resume: Nashville, the Music City drama that cast him for two seasons as power broker Lamar Wyatt; Deadwood, in which he played Cy Tolliver, owner of the Bella Union saloon; Tombstone, the enduringly popular 1993 western that had him riding on the wild side as Curly Bill Brocius; and Hatfields & McCoys, the acclaimed miniseries in which, as Judge Valentine “Wall” Hatfield, he memorably bellowed: “By God, I will gut-shoot the next agitator that disrespects my courtroom!”
A native of Snyder, Texas, Boothe earned a degree in theater arts from Southwest Texas State University, and studied in the graduate program at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, before making his Broadway breakthrough in 1979 in Lone Star, a pair of one-act dramedies written by Louisiana-born playwright James McClure. In 1980, he played cult leader Jim Jones in the CBS miniseries Guyana Tragedy: The Story of Jim Jones, and earned an Emmy Award for his chillingly persuasive lead performance.
Trouble is, he may have been a bit too persuasive in the part. “I didn’t ever consider the ramifications of being typed necessarily as that guy,” Boothe told me during a 1987 interview. “But when it was all said and done, it became a massive reality to me when I started being offered every villain imaginable, all over the world. And I just refused to do them.
“Look, the play [Lone Star] that brought me to the attention of the film people in the first place, that brought me to Hollywood, was a comedy. Before that, I did seven years of Shakespeare in New York. I think I’m a good actor. That’s what I do: act. But you can only do what you’re offered, unless you’ve got enough conviction and save enough money to say no. That’s what I tried to do.”
His perseverance paid off: During a movie career that spanned five decades, Boothe worked with such notable filmmakers as Oliver Stone (Nixon, U-Turn), Walter Hill (Southern Comfort, Extreme Prejudice), John Boorman (The Emerald Forest), Tony Richardson (Blue Sky), and Robert Rodriguez (Sin City, Sin City: A Dame to Kill For). For Home Box Office, he played the lead role as author Raymond Chandler’s legendary detective in Philip Marlowe, Private Eye (1983–86) and an ex-LAPD detective whose search for his missing daughter brings him into contact with a white supremacist cult in Into the Heartland, a 1987 film directed by Lesli Linka Glatter (Homeland). Boothe also appeared opposite Matthew McConaughey in Frailty, the acclaimed 2002 thriller directed by and costarring Bill Paxton, and Brandon Lee in the 1992 action drama Rapid Fire. And he demonstrated all-too-rarely utilized flair for straight-faced self-parody opposite Will Forte in the wild and crazy 2010 comedy MacGruber.
Were there any regrets along the way? Back in 1987, Boothe admitted to me he had mixed feelings about having turned down a role in Stone’s Platoon. He was sorely tempted to take part in what proved to be an Oscar-winning drama. At the time, however, he figured that, as a family man with a young son, it wasn’t worth the risk of going on location in the Philippines during the final days of the Ferdinand Marcos regime.
“I chose not to do Platoon,” Boothe said, “because I didn’t want to go into the middle of a revolution. I mean, who knew? In your wildest imagination, given the history of Marcos and the Philippines, did you think he would just walk away? No. Nor did I. I thought you were going to see the largest bloodbath that we’ve had since God knows when. And, having a child, I thought the greatest movie ever made is not worth my walking into that.”