Enter the Dragon actor John Saxon has died at the age of 83, according to The Hollywood Reporter. The star who shared screen time with Bruce Lee was a Hollywood fixture for years, earning a Golden Globe nomination in 1966 for The Appaloosa opposite Marlon Brando and appearing on numerous television series like Dynasty and Falcon Crest as Lorenzo Lamas' father.
He is best known for Enter the Dragon and his role in cult films like Black Christmas and the Nightmare on Elm Street series with director Wes Craven. He appears as Nancy Thompson's police officer father in the first and third installments of the series, later returning as himself in New Nightmare in 1994.
Saxon was born Carmine Orrico in 1936, the oldest of three children in Brooklyn, and was later discovered after leaving a theater at the age of 17. Hollywood agent Henry Wilson signed him and quickly led to him becoming part of the Universal family. He attended workshops at the studio, building on his studies in drama at Carnegie Hall.
His first film was 1955's Running Wild, followed by Rock, Pretty Baby, Summer Love and The Reluctant Debutante with Sandra Dee. Saxon also became known for tough-guy roles, including a role alongside Sydney Pollack and Robert Redford in 1962's War Hunt. They would film again together for The Electric Horseman over a decade later. He also appeared in the Joe Don Baker vehicle Mitchell, famously lampooned on Mystery Science Theater 3000, and Joe Kidd alongside Clint Eastwood, based on one of Elmore Leonard's many westerns.
But most audiences know him for his horror roles and his co-starring spot with Bruce Lee in Enter the Dragon. For that film, he didn't have the fighting skill that Lee or Jim Kelly demonstrated. Saxon held his own though and became a memorable part of Lee's only mainstream American film in 1973. The actor had nothing but high praise for Lee, though, and felt no judgment for his combat shortcomings.
"[Lee] took me seriously. I would tell him I would rather do it this way, and he'd say, 'OK, try it that way," Saxon told the LA Times in a 2012 interview. He also spoke highly of Marlon Brando, who he knew as a teen according The Hollywood Reporter while looking back at his award-winning role in The Appaloosa.0comments
"He was a friend," Saxon said. "I took him to dinner one night. He said, 'I am going back to New York — do you have a coat?' I said, 'Sure, I got a coat.’ He never gave me back the coat." He would also note that Brando seemed bored with the movie stemming from financial issues with his father, so the experience wasn't the dream you'd expect.
Younger fans likely know his horror resume a little clearer. Saxon worked with Roger Corman, played a policeman in the Canadian holiday horror Black Christmas alongside Margot Kidder and 2001: A Space Odyssey star Keir Dullea, and helped kick off the Nightmare franchise as the clueless but loving police officer father Donald Thompson. He doesn't make it through the entire series of films, but Wes Craven did bring him back for the meta-horror romp New Nightmare as himself. He's a definite "that guy" in many films and his career went the distance. Rest in peace.