Rest in Peace, Geoffrey Lewis (1935 – 2015)News Ken W. Hanley
Earlier this week, acting veteran Tom Towles passed away, leaving behind a legacy of excellent performances that will live on both inside and outside the horror genre. Now, FANGORIA is saddened to report that another character acting great, Geoffrey Lewis, who also was seen alongside Towles in Rob Zombie’s THE DEVIL’S REJECTS, has also passed at the age of 79.
Lewis, the father of prolific actress Juliette Lewis (whom he starred with in Christopher McQuarrie’s amazing neo-western WAY OF THE GUN), had a career stretching from the early ’70s and was known for his multiple appearances opposite Clint Eastwood in the first half of his career (including Eastwood’s sophomore directorial outing, HIGH PLAINS DRIFTER). Lewis, however, was also unafraid to lend his talents to the horror genre, appearing in such titles as MOON OF THE WOLF, noted Video Nasty HUMAN EXPERIMENTS, Cannon slasher 10 TO MIDNIGHT, OUT OF THE DARK, DISTURBED, THE LAWNMOWER MAN, TRILOGY OF TERROR II, SONG OF THE VAMPIRE, THE HAUNTED WORLD OF EL SUPERBEASTO and WICKED LITTLE THINGS. However, Lewis was likely first seen by horror fans as the doomed gravedigger Mark Ryerson in Tobe Hooper’s classic Stephen King adaptation SALEM’S LOT.
Lewis might be recognizable to most horror fans as the main antagonist in Thom Eberhardt’s cult classic NIGHT OF THE COMET. In this role, Lewis brought a desperate sense of determination to the role, allowing audiences to empathize with the character, even if his methods were monstrous in execution. This dynamic was indicative of a lot of Lewis’ work: intense, yet vulnerable, and always searching for an interesting dimension in his characters, no matter how evil.
On the opposite side of the spectrum, Lewis is also noted among contemporary fright fans for his work as Roy Sullivan in THE DEVIL’S REJECTS. This time playing the victim to the Firefly family’s roadbound rampage, Lewis brought a sense of normalcy to his character that made the horror around him seem even more terrifying. Lewis elevated a supporting character that, in the hands of other actors, could have been just another mark in the REJECTS’ body count, and helped create an aura of humanity and depth among his “Banjo & Sullivan” co-stars.
Whether it’s a project as heavy as HEAVEN’S GATE or a guest spot on HOUSE, M.D., Lewis gave his all to the art of acting. In doing so, he’s become one of the more memorable character actors of his time, regardless of genre, and leaves behind a well-earned legacy of phenomenal performances. Rest in Peace.