Know Your Role: Robert Davi
Robert Davi was born on June 26, 1953 in Astoria, Queens and some would say the native New Yorker was born to be bad… at least in the movies.
Licence to Kill
In what may be the most high profile role of his career, Davi played the eccentric drug kingpin Franz Sanchez in Licence to Kill. After his close friend Felix Leiter is nearly killed thanks to Sanchez, James Bond (Timothy Dalton) is out for revenge and Franz Sanchez is his target in a James Bond film that is distinctly 1980’s in feel. With his work in Licence To Kill, Davi joined an elite group of actors to portray James Bond villains, a group that includes names like Christopher Lee, Yaphet Kotto and Christopher Walken.
While technically being on the side of good as one of the two FBI Special Agent Johnsons assigned to neutralize the terrorist situation at Nakatomi Plaza in Die Hard (Davi plays Big Johnson while Grand L. Bush plays Little Johnson), Davi still manages to get under the skin of the audience with his smug attitude and by the book approach to a situation that is anything but by the book.
Davi was also a big part of one of the most beloved movies of the 1980’s, The Goonies. Davi played Jake Fratelli, a member of the infamous Fratelli family along side his bumbling brother Francis (Joe Pantoliano) and the head of the treacherous trio, Mama Fratelli (Anne Ramsey). Jake Fratelli would be an imposing figure to a grown ass man, but he was even scarier to the young heroes of the film and the danger level would always rise when he was on screen. The Goonies also allowed Davi the opportunity to show off his vocal talents.
When Hollywood decided to roll the dice on turning popular radio personality Shadoe Stevens into an action star in the 1988 film Traxx, they wisely selected Davi to play opposite of Stevens as the film’s antagonist. Davi’s vast experience helped to make up for newbie Shadoe Stevens’ inexperience and was more proof that a quality villain in a movie can get any hero over with the audience.
One of the more overlooked and underrated films on Davi’s resume would be the 1987 film Wild Thing. Davi plays Chopper, former leader of a vicious drug dealing motorcycle gang in the 60’s who rises up the ranks of the criminal underworld and becomes one of New York City’s most powerful crime lords. All is going well in Chopper’s evil empire until an urban Tarzan known on the streets as Wild Thing starts to interfere in Chopper’s dirty business. Wild Thing is another great example of how the right villain can make a film work and Davi was the right man for the job.
Davi played a small, yet pivotal role in Action Jackson. As Tony Moretti, Davi played a high school friend of the movie’s hero Jericho Jackson (Carl Weathers). And while life has taken a turn for the worse for poor Tony since his days of running track in high school, he points Jackson in the right direction. Without the Moretti character we would never see Action Jackson in action taking down the ruthless and power hungry Peter Dellaplane in one of the most underappreciated action movies of all-time.
Other notable movies on Robert Davi’s action film resume include Raw Deal with Arnold Schwarzenegger, Predator 2 with Danny Glover and Gary Busey, Maniac Cop 2 and 3 and City Heat with Clint Eastwood and Burt Reynolds. He even got to play the hero in the 1995 film Body Count opposite Brigitte Nielsen.
Davi was also no stranger to small screen action having made guest appearances on some of the classic action shows of the 1980’s like The Equalizer, The Fall Guy, T.J. Hooker and The A-Team.
Robert Davi is a man who has had a long and illustrious career in Hollywood and like Frank Sinatra (Check out Davi’s debut album Davi Sings Sinatra: On the Road to Romance) Robert Davi has done it his way. Davi has known his role time and time again with memorable performances in some true classics and lending his considerable talents to some lesser known movies along the way.
Thank you Mr. Davi… Bulletproof Action salutes you.