Day 62, No. 62. Bill Duke

Bill DukeHAIRCUT 100: Day 62, No. 62. William Henry ‘Bill’ Duke, Jr, actor, director, producer and writer. At an imposing 6 feet 4½ inches, Bill Duke is instantly recognisable to generations of film and TV viewers. His breakthrough role was in Car Wash in 1976, in which he played the main character in the episodic narrative, Abdullah, a Black Muslim revolutionary formerly called Duane, who goes through several trials before finally being fired. In a memorably downbeat climax, Abdullah goes back to the office with the intention of robbing it. Instead, he bumps into the foreman, ex-con Lonnie (played by Ivan Dixon), and the two men compare notes as blue-collar workers, each doomed to a meaningless, low-wage, dead end job. The film ends as they go their separate ways, the robbery forgotten, knowing that they’ll both be back tomorrow for more of the same. Duke next played the gay pimp Leon opposite Richard Gere in American Gigolo in 1980, but he is probably most familiar for the two movies he made with Arnold Schwarzenegger in the 80s, Commando and Predator, delivering a wonderful veteran’s soliloquy in the latter movie before realising that the alien hunter’s laser site has appeared on his forehead…

Duke is often cast as police officers and detectives, for example in Action Jackson, Red Dragon, and Exit Wounds, and he once joked that he got into directing so he could ‘wait until an interesting project came along.’ He has sixty directorial credits to his name in film and TV, including A Rage in Harlem, Sister Act 2, and Hoodlum. He was appointed to the Board of the California State Film Commission by the then Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, also receiving a Lifetime Achievement Tribute from the Directors Guild of America (though why he was not in The Expendables remains a mystery to me). Duke remains active, recently appearing in Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and the forthcoming film American Satan, directed by Ash Avildsen. ‘There are very few things that you do as an actor that are not part of you on some level.’

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