Know Your Role: Geoffrey Lewis
I would categorize Geoffrey Lewis as one of action entertainment’s finest character actors. Born on July 31, 1935 in Plainfield, New Jersey; Lewis’ on screen acting career really started rolling in the early 1970’s where he began making appearances on several televisions shows including Mannix, Mission: Impossible, Mod Squad and Kung Fu.
But it was in 1973 when Lewis would get a big break in the movie world with his role as Stacey Bridges in the classic Clint Eastwood Western, High Plains Drifter. This would mark the first of seven collaborations with the legendary Clint Eastwood. One of Lewis’ most famous characters was Orville Boggs. Boggs was the sidekick to Philo Beddoe (Clint Eastwood) in 1978’s Every Which Way But Loose and the 1980 sequel Any Which Way You Can.
When I think of Geoffrey Lewis, the role I always associate with him most is that of Frank Avery in Double Impact. Avery plays the foster father to Chad Wagner and the man responsible for bringing Chad and his identical twin brother Alex back together to go after the man responsible for killing their parents. The Avery character gave Lewis the opportunity to play a bit of a badass and he did so convincingly.
After not seeing the movie for over a decade, I totally forgot that Geoffrey Lewis was in the greatest Mark Dacascos movie of all-time, Only The Strong. Lewis plays Mr. Kerrigan, Louis Stevens’ (Mark Dacascos) high school history teacher, who convinces Stevens (now all grown up and an ex-Special Forces soldier) to help with some of the troubled youth in the school. Mr. Kerrigan was the kind of teacher we all wish we had in high school.
In the Charles Bronson movie, 10 to Midnight, Lewis deviates from his usual sidekick/trusted mentor role and plays the part of Dave Dante, the sleaze bag lawyer of murderer Warren Stacy, who uses insanity to get Warren out of going to jail for running around naked and killing women. The Dante role really demonstrated the type of range Lewis had as an actor.
Lewis was not afraid to return to his television roots as his movie career marched on. Lewis guest starred on TV action classics like Magnum P.I., MacGyver, The A-Team, The Fall Guy and Walker: Texas Ranger. You have to respect a guy who didn’t forget where he came from.
I didn’t even mention his work with Dolph Lundgren in Army of One (aka Joshua Tree), probably one of Dolph’s best movies in my opinion. Just another action luminary that had the benefit of the supporting acting skills of Geoffrey Lewis. And just another example of the quality work that Lewis put in during his 40+ years in show business.
Sadly, the world lost Geoffrey Lewis on April 7th, 2015, just a few months after this tribute to him was originally posted.