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R.I.P. Charles Napier

I know everyone is talking about the passing of Steve Jobs, and certainly without him I would probably never have been in a position to write these words to you… but someone else passed yesterday, as well.

Charles Napier was one of my favorite actors. I noticed decades ago that he was in a lot– a LOT– of movies and TV shows I adored, usually playing the villain, or at least some kind of a hardass. It took years for me to learn his name, but I always knew who he was.

For any kind of growling authority figure, Napier was the guy. He owned that role for decades: cops, generals, whoever.

I wasn’t alone. Everyone knew him, even if they only knew him as “oh, yeah, THAT guy.” But he also did a lot of voice-over work in comic-book adaptations and other stuff… usually playing military guys, or other folks who were in charge.

Of COURSE he was General Hardcastle on SUPERMAN. Who else is there? The Simpsons I hadn't known about, but sooner or later Charles Napier was in EVERYTHING.

What qualifies him for mention here, apart from the various voice-over jobs he did, is the interesting little bit of trivia that in live-action roles, Napier fought the Hulk three times (well, sort of– he usually just got hurled into a pile of boxes or something) playing a different role each time… and in the last one he took on Thor too.

Getting to fight Thor and the Hulk with Tim Thomerson strikes me as a really AWESOME resume item, even if it was in a terrible movie.

Here’s something a lot of people don’t know– in addition to playing villain roles on the old Hulk series, Napier also (along with Ted Cassidy) actually recorded Hulk growls for the show that they used to dub Lou Ferrigno. So on The Incredible Hulk you could say that Napier got to voice both the hero and the villain. That always tickled me.

And, of course, he was immortalized for Trekkies everywhere as Adam the space hippie.

It's one of the worst episodes of STAR TREK they ever made but Napier's performance has never failed to make me smile whenever I saw this, for the last forty years.

Napier also was in “Little Green Men” for Deep Space Nine (playing a military guy, of course) but it’s Adam that everyone remembers. Some wonderful person cut together a bunch of clips from that episode here. Napier singing and playing his crazy space guitar in that was always good for a smile. “Gonna crack my knuckles and jump for joy, got a clean bill of health from Dr. McCoy!”

Whatever you think of that particular Star Trek episode– and it was admittedly awful– Napier is just fearless in it. It was kind of his signature– no matter how silly the thing was that he might be in, he got in there and sold it and made it work. A pro’s pro.

I always enjoyed seeing him pop up in something I was watching. He rarely got star billing, so it was usually unexpected; it was like having an old friend drop in and say hello. He’ll be missed.

Even by the zillions of people who only knew him as “that guy.”

Rest in peace, Mr. Napier.

24 Comments

I was just watching the Justice League episode Fearful Symmetry just the other day, where we get to see the final fate of General Hardcastle.

I will have to watch Blues Brothers this weekend just to see Napier’s Good Old Boys role.

I first noticed him in “BJ and the Bear” where he played (big surprise) a rival trucker. He must’ve been some kind of friend of Jonathan Demme because he’s in pretty much every one of his movies. (my fav is the hair dresser in “Married to the Mob”) He never got the notoriety that a lot of film actors get, but he had a great career.

I admit that I enjoyed “The Trial of the Incredible Hulk” and found that version of Thor to be great fun. I’m sorry it didn’t turn into a series.

One of my all time favorites, I was always glad to see him show up onscreen. RIP Mr. Napier.

I first noticed him in “BJ and the Bear” where he played (big surprise) a rival trucker.

I had to look that up when I saw your comment, because I was thinking, wait, was this guy Hammer? And he was!

Wow.

Rest in peace, indeed.

Whatcha gonna do about that? You gonna stop us,? Stein?

movieartman@yahoo.com

October 6, 2011 at 9:11 am

very sad
loved him in the little seen alien rip off DEEP SPACE (1988) witch was probley fred olen rays’s best movie)
and plenty of other films
R.I.P

rw castro-miller

October 6, 2011 at 9:12 am

Mr. Napier was also Jay Sherman’s boss Duke on the Critic. Man, he had some hilarious moments on that show. His speech to high school grads: “I just drank two bottles of tequila, my wife doesn’t know I’m here…any of you girls over 18?” Priceless.

Where’s the picture of Duke Phillips from THE CRITIC? That was, arguably, the best role he ever had.

I’m almost surprised at how sad this news makes me. And yes, he was everywhere – although hats off to Rob for mentioning the Blues Brothers. That was the first role of his that popped into my head, followed quickly by the Adam in that Star Trek episode (which, by the way, is a personal favorite – c’mon, space hippies. What’s not to like? It’s almost as funny as the tribbles episode…)
Anyway, RIP Mr. Napier, you’ll be missed.

In absoloutely every US import I watched as a child.

Napier was also great in numerous Rockford Files episodes, I think my favorite was ‘The Queen of Peru’, just a classic!

@rw castro-miller
Vote for Duke…Vote for Duke…VOTE FOR DUKE!

Charles was raised in my home town of Scottsville, KY. When I was a small child, he, Billy Wood (my cousin) and Tommy Long were always together! They played basketball and also worked on my Aunt and Uncle’s farm in the summer time in the Holland, KY community. I recall many summer nights on their back porch watching the three of them turn the hand crank ice cream machine. I really thought I was “big stuff” to hang around with these guys. He was a good person, a good teacher and I loved his smile.

May his memories linger on and be cherished.

I’ve been watching the Hulk series start to finish over the last couple weeks.
Napier is a hoot to watch anytime he’s on screen. He never mugs for the camera, but really seems to dig his job and you can tell the other actors like having him around.

such a voice, and the build to back it up.

Very saddened to hear this news. Big fan. Because – like everyone has said – he was in everything we watched as kids.

He had the lead in a 1978 pilot called “Big Bob Johnson and His Fantastic Speed Circus” with Maud Adams and Constance Forslund, which is where I first learned his name. After that I was always glad to see his name pop up on the Guest Cast credits. One of the great character actors.

‘fearless is the perfect word. Never saw this man give less 100% in anything (not matter how weak the script). Been meaning to watch Outlaws for ages. I think I might pop the pilot in tonight.

RIP Charles Napier, thanks for everything.

Groucho Marx died the same day as Elvis, so practically no-one heard about it. True story.

@Spike Same thing with Farrah Fawcett and Michael Jackson.

He bore a striking resemblance to Brian Dennehy at one point, but I could tell Charles apart from Brian because Charles was always more bad ass. He was in everything from movies to TV to animation at every point of my life. That Hulk/Thor team-up? He made the movie for me along with Thomerson. As mentioned here, Charles could make any role his own and have it stand out in any project. His tough guy roles were so cool that I always wondered why he didn’t get his own series. Charles was a true pro all the way and it’s comforting to know that so many others feel the same as I do. RIP, Charles, and thanks.

Charles was my friend from before those college days; before those plays; during those plays; through the trials of life and his careeer. Let’s get the book out, Big Guy!

When you think about it, there wasn’t a major action show in the 80′s or 90′s that Mr. Napier did not at least have a cameo in….

Greg summed it up best with whatever role he got, he sold it and made it work!

Nothing further needs to be said for me….

A pro’s pro, Charles Napier Rest in Peace!

Yes sir. We loved him in everything he did, which he did well. He fit the bill for certain types of roles.

We thank you, Charles. Rest in Peace.

Napier was a friend of my cousin Angelo. They met in Florida at Universal Studio where Angelo was a driver. Anyway Ang came out to visit me in Arizona late 70s early 80s maybe. Angelo told me when he got there that some movie star was going to come for a visit and did I mind. Asked of course who it was and it was Chuck. Turned out Chuck could not make it and asked Ang and I to meet him in Blythe CA. For any of you that know Blythe… It is pretty much of a sh1thole. We took off to Blythe and meet Chuck at a friend of his that had a farm and crop dusting business. Swan and got to fly a two man ultralite. Scared me to death having never flown a thing let alone with 20 minutes of instruction. Later we made it to a bowling alley cocktail lounge. Of course Chuck started drawing attention. My cousin Ang is about 6’3 and 325 at the time. A guy that had too much to drink thought he was the Incredible Hulk and then thought I was Eric Estrada, hilarious. We were supposed to camp out by the Colorado River that night. Being too loaded, we could not find the river and had to sleep on a canal bank. What an experience… Angelo kept in touch with Chuck throughout the years and he always asked how I was. Chuck was an outgoing crazy individual and a real man’s man. From the short time we all spent together he not only drew a crowd because of his familiarity… But because of his personality. See you on the other side Chuck. Jimmy

PATRICIA SARGENT

November 22, 2011 at 2:01 pm

YES,, HE WAS “A REAL MAN”S MAN……..”DEARLY-LOVED BY SO MANY!”…….”TO KNOW HIM IS TO LOVE HIM” “INCREDIBLY HONORABLE AND HONEST, CARING AND LOVING!”….THE-MISSING WILL GO ON……….OF COURSE, HE WAS ONE OF THE (GREATEST ACTORS EVER-BORN) SHOULD HAVE HAD MANY LEADING ROLES, HE WOULD HAVE DEFINITELY OUT-SHOWN THE OTHER LEADING CHARACTERS…….”AN-ACTOR OF “ACTORS!!”……”CAPTIVATING!!–MOMENT BY MOMENT!!”..”.MISSING YOU “……..”WHEREVER YOU ARE, MAY THE “GREATEST” “HAPPINESS”…”.BE-WITH-YOU! “

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