Sonny Landham, the actor who appeared in the classic action film Predator (1987), died on Friday, August 18th. Landham’s sister Dawn Boehler told The Associated Press that he died in a hospital in Lexington, Kentucky. He is survived by his children William, Priscilla, and Mo.
But how did the veteran actor die?
Boehler informed The Associated Press that Landham, 76, died from congestive heart failure. The actor’s health had been declining in recent years, ever since his involved in a nasty car accident in 2015 that resulted in the amputation of his right leg. Craig Glazer, a longtime friend of Landham, recounted the accident to KCConfidential:
Unfortunately, this past Wednesday Sonny – now living in Louisville,Ky. – was in a bad car wreck. It was raining and his car slid into a pole, was totaled the car and Sonny’s right leg had to be amputated. He called me when he woke up from the surgery.
Furthermore, several GoFundMe pages have been started for Landham in the past few years, including one in October 2016 which states that he had fallen upon tough times financially. A more recent GoFundMe, from February 2017, attempted to raise money for Landham to buy a battery powered wheelchair.
His net worth at the time of his death is unclear, though a 2015 listing from Biography states that it was an estimated $700K at one point.
Landham, who was part Seminole and part Cherokee and stood at 6’3”, began his career in adult films in the 1970s. It was a decision he later regretted, saying: “If I was going to do it now – knowing that I’m going to have children… no, I wouldn’t make that choice. But at the time I made the choice of getting a paycheck, staying alive for your big break.”
He eventually landed his breakthrough role in the cult classic The Warriors (1979) and would go on to appear in over 50 films throughout his career, often alongside superstars like Arnold Schwarzenegger, Eddie Murphy, Chuck Norris, and Sylvester Stallone.
His most memorable films include 48 Hrs. (1982), Action Jackson (1988) Lock Up (1989) and the aforementioned Predator. Despite its impressive cast of Schwarzenegger, Jesse Ventura, and Carl Weathers, Landham managed to steal the show with his legendary final scene.
In an effort to save his friends from certain doom, his character Billy Sole stays behind and takes on the titular alien with nothing more than a hunting knife. The scene also spawned the famous quote “Get to the Chopper!” Watch it above.
Landham continued to act in the 1990s and the 2000s. In his later years, however, EW reports that he spent most of his time pursuing a political career, and campaigned to be governor of Kentucky in 2003 and for Mitch McConnell’s Senate seat in 2008. Neither campaign proved successful.
Watch Landham discuss the topic of American culture with a conservative panel below.
Many have taken to social media to pay tribute to Landham, citing his screen presence, his memorable characters, and for those familiar with Predator, his boisterous laugh. “RIP to the baddest man in Predator” wrote one grieving fan.
Another tweeted out listed some of Landham’s films and the impact they had on the action genre in the 80s: “RIP Sonny Landham. Predator, 48 Hrs, The Warriors, Southern Comfort. Series of small roles that with time became bigger than life.” Read some of the most heartfelt reactions below.