Four times Powers Boothe was incredibly intimidating on screen

Texas-born actor Powers Boothe died May 14 of natural causes at the age of 68.

Powers Boothe as Cy Tolliver


The gifted character actor, who hailed from Snyder, slithered into the public consciousness in 1980 playing cult leader Jim Jones in the TV movie “Guyana Tragedy: The Story of Jim Jones.”

And I do mean slithered — over the years, Boothe cultivated a gift for being slick, snake-like and often extremely scary. Here are a few examples:


Here is Boothe as Rev. Jim Jones. It’s a star-making turn; check out the way he says “All marriages….are dissolved.”  Doesn’t hurt, I suppose, that he was playing one of the most horrific Americans of the past 40 years — it’s a meaty, hideous role and Boothe made the most of it.

And then there’s the time that Boothe, in spite of wearing a completely ridiculous red shirt, was creepy as Curly Bill Brocius in the 1993 Western “Tombstone.” His line at :38 is probably in the meme hall of fame

Here is Boothe in an Austin production, as the beyond-corrupt Sen. Roark in Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller’s “Sin City.”

Boothe’s signature performance of the 21st century was as Cy Tolliver, owner of the Bella Union saloon and brothel in the still-stunning HBO series “Deadwood.”

Boothe seemed born to play this part, a mixture of viciousness, oily faux-class, increasingly desperate ambition, vain cowardice and fits of savage violence that can only come from the worst of the above. However awful Al Swearengen could be, Tolliver was always worse and Boothe was great at making that worse sing.

We’ll perhaps skip the scene where he all but beats to death a very young-looking Kristen Bell and instead focus on Tolliver matching wits with the genuinely psychopathic Wolcott.





Author: Joe Gross

Joe Gross has covered books, movies, music and culture for the American-Statesman since 2002. He tweets at @joegross.

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