DEAR LORD, that voice. Any proper appreciation of Michael Ironside should begin with that voice, which fashions an entire Home Depot’s worth of gravel into something iconic and shivery, on-camera or off. (If DC doesn’t get him to reprise his animated role as Darkseid for live action, they’ll be making, well, yet another huge mistake.) Ironside’s supreme command of that infernal timbre makes him an invaluable character actor: Even when the movie is dreck—stand up and wave hello to the nice people, Highlander 2: The Quickening—Ironside can always be counted on to bring it. Just as he can be counted on to bring it to Portland this Saturday, for a screening of Scanners, with the Man Himself in attendance.
For examples of prime Ironside, take 1987’s Extreme Prejudice, in which Walter Hill pits him against a murderers’ row of cinematic sonsabitches (Nick Nolte, Powers Boothe, Rip Torn, Clancy Brown). Ironside outbarks them all, even while robbing a bank with pantyhose on his head. Or 1982’s unjustly ignored slasher movie Visiting Hours, where he plays a nutzoid right-wing celebrity stalker who isn’t averse to occasionally trying on the earrings of his victims. Or the rare non-sinister role in Starship Troopers (1997), where his half-resigned, half-admiring line reading of “They sucked his brains out” marks him as one of the few actors in on Paul Verhoeven’s great, ghastly joke.
Above all, though, take 1981’s immortal Scanners. Made when David Cronenberg was transitioning from zero-budget splatter to more cerebral fare, and saddled with a dud of a central performance by Stephen Lack, the movie may creak a bit these days. Damned if any of that matters when Ironside is onscreen, though. As the head-popping telepath Darryl Revok, he creates a compulsively watchable villain for the ages: satanically vain, fiercely intelligent, and abjectly terrifying even before things get goopy. If you’re not at Saturday’s screening, he’ll know.