We’ve all heard stories of actors known for their villainous roles being the complete opposite of their characters off-screen. Even though we know that actors are often required to do and say things they would never even consider in their private life, such stories still amuse us.
So, when we read about mean on-screen actors being nice, we’re able to feel more grown-up even as we swap one make-believe flattery for another– they’re not monsters, they’re just like us.
However, there are some actors who have headlined very different kinds of stories. Stories from biographies, court documents, or the evening news that paint alarming similarities between them and the villains that they have played; in some cases, the alleged crimes attributed to these actors are even worse than those committed by their characters.
The following list is comprised of such actors who have either been publicly and credibly accused of committing serious offenses or have been found guilty of such offenses in a court of law. As such, the language written for each entry will reflect their respective legal realities.
Keeping that in mind, here are 15 Actors Who Are As Evil As Their Characters.
15. John Wilkes Booth – Marcus Brutus (Julius Caesar)
The assassination of President Abraham Lincoln was a crime so shocking and of such profound political and cultural impact that it completely overshadowed the life and career of its perpetrator, John Wilkes Booth.
Before that fateful night at Ford’s Theatre made his name synonymous with terrorism and treason, Booth was one of America’s most critically-acclaimed and beloved actors, whose good looks and charisma earned him plaudits across the nation in stirring performances of Shakespeare plays.
Among the most notable of these performances, two stand out ominously: Richard III in Richard III and Marcus Brutus in Julius Caesar. Both deeply complex Shakespearean characters, both notorious traitors and kinslayers.
The ties between Booth and Brutus in particular run disturbingly deep: not only was Brutus reportedly Booth’s favorite role, his own father Junius Brutus Booth, himself an accomplished actor, was named after Caesar’s most famous assassin.
Although obviously not the motivator for his infamous crime, it’s clear that Shakespeare’s Brutus– or rather a creative interpretation of his motivations and character– played a big part in informing and justifying it.
14. Christian Slater – Robert Boyd (Very Bad Things)
In a plot that inspired every raunchy Las Vegas comedy ever made, Very Bad Things sees a group of male friends resorting to desperate measures to cover themselves after a bachelor party accidentally ends up killing a stripper.
Most of these increasingly violent measures are undertaken by Christian Slater’s Robert Boyd, a deranged sociopath that doesn’t appear to have ever encountered a single problem that couldn’t somehow be fixed by murder.
Very Bad Things may have received some criticism for its perceived sexist humor– particularly the use of a dead prostitute as the basis of its joke– but at least it was fiction. Slater himself, on the other hand, has a checkered history of physical and sexual assaults against women that have done very real harm.
13. Joan Crawford – Lucy Harbin (Strait-Jacket)
Joan Crawford and her lifelong rival Bette Davis inaugurated a whole new “psycho-biddy” subgenre with What Ever Happened To Baby Jane? In one of the more notable examples of that subgenre, the 1964 thriller Strait-Jacket, she plays a reformed ax murderer who returns to live with her estranged daughter after being released from a psychiatric hospital– only for more people to start violently dying around her.
Although Crawford mercifully never killed anyone, her character’s violence and troubled relationship with her daughter can’t help but evoke the allegations of physical and psychological abuse leveled against the actress by her adoptive daughter Christina in her controversial autobiography Mommie Dearest.
While Christina’s claims were hotly disputed by some of Crawford’s most famous showbiz friends, others have acknowledged that she was, at the very least, prone to violent fits of anger that could have resulted in episodes of abuse.
12. Johnny Depp – Whitey Bulger (Black Mass)
After a string of box-office duds like The Lone Ranger, Transcendence, and Mortdecai, Black Mass seemed to signal Johnny Depp’s return to form.
Starring as feared Boston crime lord and FBI informant Whitey Bulger, Depp terrified audiences with his rasp voice, sallow skin, and pale eyes in a performance that earned a lot of praise despite the film itself drawing mixed reviews. It looked like the world was ready to give him another chance.
Then came the domestic violence allegations from his ex-wife Amber Heard, at which point all goodwill rightly evaporated. Although the actor and his entourage vehemently denied the charges, the video and photos produced as evidence of the abuse are too much to ignore.
11. Wilhelm Von Homburg – Vigo The Carpathian (Ghostbusters II)
Ghostbusters II remains a polarizing sequel among fans, but almost everyone agrees that it boasts one of the franchise’s most memorable villains in the form of Vigo The Carpathian, an evil medieval sorcerer/overlord whose spirit resides in his portrait in the Manhattan Museum of Art.
While Vigo’s voice was provided by an uncredited Max Von Sydow, his face and body belong to Norbert Grupe, aka Wilhelm Von Homburg. So, if this extensive article by Shaun Raviv for Deadspin is to be believed, his life would make the Scourge of Carpathia blush.
As a wrestler and boxer who once memorably stared down a reporter on live TV, Grupe spent two stints in prison– one for drug dealing and another for physical assault and activities in prostitution.
However, according to his daughter, his worst crime occurred in 1959 when he sexually assaulted his own stepmother while she was home alone. Such was the life of the Prince of Homburg: allegedly darker and more disturbing than any ghost or sorcerer.
10. Marlon Brando – Stanley Kowalski (A Streetcar Named Desire)
In A Streetcar Named Desire, Marlon Brando burned his way into cinematic immortality with his groundbreaking and authentic portrayal of Stanley Kowalski, a war veteran turned factory worker whose loutish manners and animalistic sexual magnetism both fascinate and repulse his sister-in-law Blanche DuBois.
This combination of sexual tension and class conflict comes to a tragic boiling point in the climax, where Stanley sexually assaults Blanche, traumatizing her into a psychotic state that results in her being committed to an asylum.
Brando was a controversial figure on and off-screen throughout his life, and his messy family affairs played a big part in that. Of particular note was his daughter Cheyenne.
After her relationship with one Dag Drollet ended with her brother Christian murdering him for allegedly abusing her, she publicly accused her father of sexually abusing her before committing suicide in 1995. An accusation that her mother, Tarita Teriipaia, backed up in her memoir Marlon: My Love And My Torment.
9. Yves Montand – Candy Man (Sanctuary)
In Tony Richardson’s 1961 adaptation of William Faulkner’s novels Sanctuary and Requiem For A Nun, French actor and singer Yves Montand plays Candy Man, a Cajun bootlegger who sexually assaults Temple Drake on a drunk night out and keeps her sequestrated in a brothel until his apparent death in a car accident.
In France, as in the rest of the world, Yves Montand is the very model of the French lover archetype: cool, elegant, smooth-talking, and charmingly forthright. So it came as a huge shock when his stepdaughter Catherine Allégret released an autobiography in which she accused the long-dead idol of having sexually abused her when she was five years old.
While the story was soon forgotten by the general public, it makes subsequent viewing of Montand’s romantic roles rather uncomfortable– and makes his turn in Sanctuary feel even darker that it was meant to be.
8. Mark Wahlberg – Daniel Lugo (Pain & Gain)
While still as divisive as Michael Bay’s films tend to be, Pain & Gain‘s satirical Coen-esque humor and self-aware use of commercial aesthetic to comment on American materialism took many critics by surprise.
Loosely based on real kidnapping, torture, and murder cases, the film stars Mark Wahlberg as Daniel Lugo, a shallow ex-con turned gym manager who cooks up a hare-brained scheme to kidnap and torture a wealthy member of his gym out of his possessions.
Before he became known to the world as Marky Mark of the Funky Bunch, Wahlberg was a juvenile delinquent who frequently committed violent hate crimes against racial minorities, most notably against Vietnamese immigrants Thanh Lam and Hoa Trinh.
After serving 45 days for attempted murder, Wahlberg got out of prison and eventually moved on from his life of crime. He apologized to Trinh in 2016.
7. Woody Allen – Doctor Noah/Jimmy Bond (Casino Royale)
In this star-studded James Bond spoof, Woody Allen plays criminal mastermind Doctor Noah, aka Jimmy Bond, James Bond’s jealous nephew.
His plan, as you might expect from a Woody Allen character in a James Bond spoof, is all about improving his chances to get laid– specifically by engineering a germ to make all women beautiful and kill all men over 4’6.
It may make for an amusing evil plan on paper but jokes about Woody Allen’s sexual appetite have recently become tainted by very serious accusations of child molestation leveled at him by his adoptive daughter Dylan Farrow.
Allegations were first floated during Allen’s messy divorce from Mia Farrow in 1992, but it wasn’t until a grown-up Dylan penned an open letter in the New York Times reiterating her story that the world at large took notice of them.
Allen, for his part, has consistently denied any wrongdoing and refused to comment on the matter beyond an open letter of his own.
6. Jeffrey Jones – Principal Ed Rooney (Ferris Bueller’s Day Off)
Although breaking into a suspected truant’s house is an undoubtedly rash and excessive course of action to take, it’s hard not to sympathize with Principal Rooney to some degree. After all, who wouldn’t want to put a smug, self-satisfied rich kid in his place for thinking that his social status entitles him to break the rules as he sees fit?
However, in hindsight, watching Jeffrey Jones obsessively hunting a teenage boy is more than a little disturbing.
In 2002, Jones was arrested by the LAPD after a 17 year-old boy (later reports say he was 14) reported that the actor had solicited him to pose for nude photos. After pleading no contest to the charge of solicitation, Jones was sentenced to five years’ probation and ordered to register as a sex offender for life.
He later got three more years of probation in 2010 for failing to update his sex offender status.
5. Bill Cosby – Barney Satin/Satan (The Devil And Max Devlin)
Now largely forgotten, The Devil And Max Devlin is a 1981 Disney-produced fantasy comedy starring Elliott Gould as an unscrupulous landlord who goes to hell after getting killed in a hit-and-run.
Luckily for him, Satan offers him a chance to save his soul by exchanging it for three others in two months. Co-starring as the Devil himself is none other than Bill Cosby, playing against his family-friendly image.
Or so it seemed at the time. Rumors of Cosby drugging and raping young women have abounded for decades; Cosby himself creepily joked about it as far back as 1969, and a 2005 civil lawsuit filed by Andrea Constand against Cosby ended with an out-of-court settlement.
However, it wasn’t until Hannibal Buress publicly called him out on it that more alleged victims began to speak out and be listened to. After an initial mistrial, Cosby faces a re-trial for his alleged crimes starting on November the 6th of 2017.
4. Stephen Collins – Priest (Penance)
Although he has appeared in films such as Star Trek: The Motion Picture and Blood Diamond, Stephen Collins is best-known for his role as Reverend Eric Camden in faith-oriented drama series 7th Heaven.
Though he had his flaws and the odd crisis of faith, Camden embodied proper, old-fashioned values held dear by conservative Christians worldwide. So when he appeared in the 2014 short film Penance as an unnamed pedophile priest called upon to counsel a troubled young man, film festival audiences probably thought it a clever piece of subversive casting.
Later events that same year, however, would cast his role in a much creepier light, as TMZ released a tape of Collins admitting to molesting underage girls to his ex-wife Faye Grant and his therapist. Collins has since resigned from his position on the National Board of the Screen Actors Guild and his career appears to be over.
3. Mike Tyson – Frank (Ip Man 3)
Like all great public pugilists, Mike Tyson is as much a performer as he is a fighter, so it’s no surprise to see him in films riffing on the “scary lunatic turned mellow butt-kicker” image he’s acquired over the years.
The best-known of these appearances are, of course, his cameos as himself in the first two Hangover movies, but he also played a substantial antagonist role in Ip Man 3. As honorable Triad gangster Frank, Tyson gets to face off against Donnie Yen in a three-minute fight that many fans saw as the highlight of the film.
Frank’s not exactly a nice guy, but his crimes aren’t quite as heinous as the ones for which the actor went to prison. In 1991, Tyson was arrested for the sexual assault of 18 year-old Miss Black Rhode Island winner Desiree Washington and sentenced to a six-year sentence, of which he served less than half.
2. Roman Polanski – Man With Knife (Chinatown)
In one of the most memorable director cameos not performed by Alfred Hitchcock, Roman Polanski shows up in his noir masterpiece Chinatown as a hired thug who catches Jake J. Gittes trespassing on the Oak Pass Reservoir and slashes his nose as a warning for what happens to “nosy fellas.”
Polanski makes for a surprisingly intimidating figure… and knowing that Polanski has proven himself capable of the same kind of crime as his character’s only adds to the creepiness.
Indeed, the Roman Polanski sexual assault case is arguably the most controversial scandal to emerge from Hollywood in modern history. After having been arrested in 1977 for drugging and raping 13 year-old Samantha Gailey, Polanski pled guilty to unlawful sexual intercourse, only to flee to France to avoid prison.
1. Klaus Kinski – Don Lope De Aguirre (Aguirre, The Wrath Of God)
Whether he was in B-horror flicks, spaghetti westerns, or the films of Werner Herzog, Klaus Kinski played freaks, monsters, and psychopaths with rarely-matched intensity.
In Aguirre, The Wrath Of God, he simmered that intensity down to frightening effect as the title character– a mad conquistador who violently takes over an expedition to the mythical city of El Dorado and dooms the entire crew to violent deaths as he succumbs to delusions of grandeur.
In the film’s unforgettable final shots, he stands alone on his raft surrounded by corpses, ranting about his plan to marry his (dead) daughter and found a new empire with their new bloodline.
As it turned out, this role was far closer to the real Kinski than most would have dared to imagine. In 2013, his eldest daughter Pola revealed that her father subjected her to repeated sexual abuse from childhood to young adulthood.
Her accusations were backed up by her younger sister Natassja, who confirmed that her father had also tried to assault her. Kinski was always known for being unpredictable, volatile, and dangerous but the true extent of his monstrosity far outstrips that of any character he ever played.
Can you think of any other actors who are just as evil as the characters they portrayed in movies or TV shows? Let us know in the comments.
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