Powers Boothe Dead At 68

Powers Boothe as Gideon Malick in Agents of SHIELD (photo via ABC)

Emmy-winning actor Powers Boothe died in his Los Angeles home on Sunday, May 14. He died in his sleep of what are believed to be natural causes, although the official cause of death has not yet been released.  He appeared in nearly 70 movies and TV shows, playing madmen and leaders, doctors and detectives, heroes and villains.

Powers Boothe was born June 1, 1948 in Snyder, Texas.  He surprised and confused many friends and family when he choose acting  over football in high school.

I got a lot of flak; in Texas, football is not only the social thing you must do, but you do it also to prove your manhood. They all couldn’t conceive of why I’d want to stop to do ‘The Importance of Being Earnest.’

Boothe was not only the first in his family to go to college  — Southwest Texas State University — but went on to earn a master’s degree in drama from Southern Methodist University. He began his theatrical career with the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and then went on to New York City where he performed both off-Broadway and on Broadway. His big break was in the TV mini-series Guyana Tragedy: The Story of Jim Jones.  He won an Emmy for his portrayal of Jim Jones, but crossed a picket line to receive the award.  The Screen Actors Guild was on strike at the time.

This is either the most courageous moment of my career or the stupidest… I also thought long and hard whether or not I would attend, but I came here because this is America and one must do what one believes. I believe in the Academy. I also believe in my fellow actors in their stand.

Powers Boothe as Judge Valentine “Wall” Hatfield in Hatfields & McCoys [photo by Chris Large]

Powers Boothe as Colonel Vince Johnson in Blue Sky (photo via MGM)

Powers Boothe was best known for his work as a character actor, playing men who were dark gray:  men like saloon and brothel owner Cy Tolliver in Deadwood,  industrialist Lamar Wyatt in Nashville,  and Senator Roark in Sin City and Sin City: A Dame to Kill For.  Even when he played outright villains, like Gideon Malick in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. or gunslinger Curly Bill Brocius in Tombstone, he managed to bring some humanity to the role.

Powers Boothe married his college sweetheart, Pam Cole, on May 25, 1969.  He is survived by his wife Pam and their two children, daughter Parisse and son Preston. Both of his children acted with him. Parisse Preston played Tess on Deadwood,  as well as acting as her father’s executive assistant on several movies and TV shows.  Preston and Powers Boothe were both in The Final Season, Preston as Brent Fitz and his father as Jim Van Scoyoc.

Powers Boothe leaves an indelible mark on our collective memory.  He brought fictional characters like detective Philip Marlowe and Gorilla Grodd to life, as well as real people like Rev. Jim Jones,  General Johnston, Al Haig, and Wall Hatfield (though surprisingly, he once said his favorite role was as Frost in the science fiction horror movie Mutant Species).   

His work will long outlive him.  His friend and colleague, Robert Rodriguez, director of Sin City, described him as “a towering Texas gentleman and world class artist.” He will be missed.

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About Susan Macdonald

Susan Macdonald is the author of the children's book R is for Renaissance Faire, as well as short stories in Alternative Truths,  Swords and Sorceress #30, Supernatural Colorado, Barbarian Crowns, and Knee-High Drummond and the Durango Kid. Her articles have appeared on Krypton Radio's website, in The Inquisitr, and in The Millington Star. She enjoys Renaissance Faires (see book above), science fiction conventions,  Highland Games, and Native American pow-wows.

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