That Actor Whose Name You Don’t Know: Marshall Bell

If you don’t recognize Marshall Bell then you probably haven’t been watching enough movies since this guy has been in so many movies it’s hard to count them all and to be clear, he’s still acting well into his 70s. He definitely has the kind of look that you can’t help but think is perfect for manic, kind of less than reputable characters that might be good guys but are still somewhat hard to trust. Bell was actually interested in acting at the age of 13, but it sounds as though the opinions of others got to him and he didn’t end up acting again for another 20 years when he was well into his 30s. Once he got rolling though he didn’t appear interested in stopping since he’s been the type of actor that has starred in several movies per year. It’s not too hard since a lot of his parts are pretty short when it comes down to it, but the point is that they’re memorable considering that he typically plays characters that help to advance the plot and are able to offer up something other than a guest role. Too many extras and supporting actors tend to find themselves stuck in the story and don’t get to advance anything, meaning that there’s really no point to have them there. There are a couple of roles that might be able to be labeled as such that he’s taken on, but for the most part, his characters are almost always pertinent to the part of the story he’s found in.

One fun memory of Bell is when he played the character of Webster, the hitman, in Twins with Arnold Schwarzenegger and Danny DeVito. He was probably the only smart bad guy in the entire movie since the others that challenged Vincent and Julian came at Julian face to face, while Webster picked his shots and struck when he had the advantage. But like all bad guys he didn’t take the shot when it counted the most since he could have had the money, killed the twins, and been gone. But then we wouldn’t have had such a happy ending with the two brothers and their respective wives and kids and…oh the sugary sweetness of it all is just cloying. Anyway, another fun but short role was that of Warden Bates from Diggstown with James Woods and Louis Gossett Jr., a movie about hustling, boxing, and who can pull the biggest and longest con. He didn’t get a lot of screentime, but he played a bad guy again that wasn’t entirely effective but was essentially needed just because there was bad blood between his character and that of the hustler played by Woods.

I’ll admit I’m going through favorites, such as George, the rebel leader who had the alien, Kuato, attached to his abdomen in Total Recall, the Schwarzenegger version, not the Colin Farrell remake. It was a bit creepy to see the little mutant poking out of his belly, but apparently, it was necessary for the movie since he had to find a way to help Doug Quaid start up the reactor that would liberate Mars. The role of Carl Mace in Airheads with Brendan Fraser, Adam Sandler, and Steve Buscemi was hilarious since he was such a gung-ho individual that he wasn’t willing to listen to anyone but was willing to tell his life story to a captive that the trio of musicians, who were armed with squirt guns that looked like real automatic pistols, had locked in the radio station. Mace was an extremist without a doubt since he was ready to go in guns blazing and put the Lone Rangers, yeah, that was the band’s name, and not worry too much about anyone else. But the trick is that the gun one of his people managed to slip to the captive that he’d been talking to was confiscated and it ended going off and driving them back from the building. It’s still hilarious to think about really. Another hilarious moment came during Starship Troopers when he played the part of General Owen, the last survivor of an outpost that had been overrun with the elephant-sized bugs that were seen tearing people apart throughout the movie.

Owens’ crazed demeanor was kind of understandable since he’d probably seen the brain bug suck out the brains of his comm specialist, but the fact that he was out of his mind with fear was kind of ridiculous. It wasn’t to last though since a flying bug that was clipped in the wing by a burst of fire ended up taking Owens out and leaving a bloody smear behind before the troops were able to escape. Honestly, it was kind of funny but in a morbid sort of way. The point is that Bell, as good as he is, tends to play very shifty or weak characters that are hard to like but easy to believe since he plays them so well.

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