Sonny Landham, a veteran actor whose work included notable roles in such films as Predator and 48 Hrs., has passed away at age 76. The actor’s career began in the early 1970s, and had more than 50 credits throughout the years. He started with roles earlier in his career in such films as The Warriors and the original Poltergeist, before his breakthrough part as Billy Bear, a criminal on the run opposite Eddie Murphy and Nick Nolte in 48 Hrs. in 1982.
The actor was born William Landham on February 11, 1941, in Canton, Georgia. According to Variety, Landham passed away from congestive heart failure Thursday in Lexington, Kentucky.
The publication says that Landham acted in several X-rated films in the early 1970s before he started working in mainstream movies. Landham’s big break came when director Walter Hill cast him as a police officer in the gang thriller The Warriors, which led to his work under the direction of Hill again in 48 Hrs. The film got Landman noticed, leading to guest roles on TV’s The A-Team, Hardcastle and McCormick, The Fall Guy and Miami Vice, as well as a film role opposite Chuck Norris and Louis Gossett Jr. in the action/adventure comedy Firewalker in 1986.
Landham is perhaps best known for his role as Native American tracker Billy Sole opposite Arnold Schwarzenegger and Carl Weathers in director John McTiernan’s Predator in 1987. Landham had a powerful but calm presence in the film, although in one scene featuring Billy and Hawkins (played by Shane Black, who is directing the upcoming Predator reboot), Hawkins managed to get Landham’s stone-faced character to crack-up laughing after a dirty joke.
Landham went on to star in several other action films after Predator, including Action Jackson opposite Weathers and Lock Up opposite Sylvester Stallone. The actor worked steadily in Hollywood throughout the 1980s and most of the 1990s, and had a 10-year gap in his career from 1997 to 2007, when he returned to for the low-budget horror thriller Disintegration. He only had one more acting credit, in the indie horror film Mental Scars, in 2009.
Variety reports during his break from Hollywood, Landham launched a campaign for the governor of Kentucky in 2003, but came up short in his bid for the Republican Party’s nomination. Landham also unsuccessfully pursued a seat in the Kentucky State Senate in 2004, and earned the Libertarian Party nomination in a bid for the U.S. Senate in 2008. The nomination was rescinded shortly after, however, as a result of some comments the actor made on a political radio show, Variety reports.
Landham, is survived by two children: a son, William, and a daughter, Priscilla.
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