CONTEMPORARY ICONS VOL 1 PART 2: SVEN-OLE THORSEN
Getting steady work in the movie business often takes long hours of enduring endless auditions, and for many women endless hours of sleeping with producers. But some actors have figured out a way to bypass that nonsense and sustain a career by being good friends with a superstar. This was the shrewd strategy undertaken by Sven-Ole Thorsen, who has spun his friendship with Arnold Schwarzenegger to appear in many of the most beloved films of the last quarter century.
Whether he is playing a “mercenary” in LETHAL WEAPON or “Henchman #2” in LETHAL WEAPON 3 Thorsen is often only given precious few seconds to apply his trade. But he’s been able to take the material he’s been given and make wonders happen. His iconic status can clearly be justified by his following credits:
THE RUNNING MAN: Providing Richard Dawson with all the security he thought he needed, Thorsen is lineless for most of this story about the most violent game show since “Password.” What’s remarkable about his performance is the sensitivity displayed when he backs down from a fight with Arnold simply because his boss made a harsh insult involving Sven’s possible steriod use. Don’t feel bad for Sven, he would later utilize his skills as a security guard in MALLRATS.
CAPTAIN POWER AND THE SOLDIERS OF THE FUTURE: In the late 80’s Sven took a break from the world of film to play Lt. Tank Ellis in this short lived Saturday morning sci-fi extravaganza. The show’s hook was that toys could be purchased and used by children (and sad adults) to interact with the program. When the bad guys appeared on screen you could shoot them and vice-versa. Why this idea didn’t catch on I’ll never know. Who among us would not want a device to shoot our televisions when “Will and Grace” is on. Sometimes just changing the channel isn’t good enough.
HARLEY DAVIDSON AND THE MARLBORO MAN: Not many men in this world can say they have stood side by side with Daniel Baldwin wearing matching leather trench coats while firing automatic weapons at Don Johnson and Mickey Rourke. Thorsen can say he did just that in a performance that was cut tragically short due to a shotgun blast to the chest from Big John Studd.
HARD TARGET: This time Thorsen once again lets his wardrobe do the talking as one of the hunters who vies for the honor of killing homeless advocate Chance Boudreaux. I always felt bad for the guy in this film because he is shot a half dozen times by Van Damme and THEN is kicked in the face. Sorry ‘bout the shirt indeed Sven.
ON DEADLY GROUND: As Michael Caine’s pain dispenser Otto, Thorsen takes silent joy in torturing an old man who threatens to expose Caine’s plan to cover Alaska entirely in oil. But when you help kill an acquaintance of Steven Seagal you best be prepared to suffer a massive beating. A beating delivered by the hands, coincidentally enough, of Steven Seagal.
GLADIATOR: There aren’t many things Thorsen has over his good buddy Arnold, but one thing he can brag about is appearing in a Best Picture winner. Who better to play the role of Tiger, who duels with both Russell Crowe and the animals who share his name, in one of the film’s most thrilling sequences. Again Sven shows his vulnerability as he stares up at Crowe’s Maximus and with only his face expresses the emotion of “Please don’t cut my head off.”
I’d like to think that when all is said and done Thorsen can look himself in the mirror and realize that he was more than just a friend of Arnold. He has left his own mark on the world of film and can truly be called a Contemporary Icon.