Everybody knows somebody who’s a tough guy. He grew up in your neighborhood or you went to school with him. These guys were not messed with except by somebody who didn’t know any better. That of course ends badly for the uninitiated. Tough guys earn their reputation, well, by being tough. Beyond their actions though, they’ve got to have the look. Their whole being suggests they are not to be trifled with and summoning a cold deadly stare is as natural to them as breathing.
Most people when pressed can provide a story they witnessed or a legend they’ve heard of the exploits of such a person. These local tales, however, are only fully appreciated by those who know them or know of them. These regional tough guys are impressive I’m sure but hardly household names.
Then there are the professional tough guys. Boxing, kickboxing, UFC and MMA are full of real life tough guys that get paid for their tough guyness (spell check tried to get me killed by autocorrecting that to gayness). Much more famous than their neighborhood counterparts but still marginalized to the circles of fanatics that follow them and their sport.
Of course there are far more fake tough guys in the world than true legit bad A’s. Hollywood is rife with fake tough guys. Acting is after all their job and some people are paid to “act” tough. Still these actors are better known than the previous groups and therefore the ideal field to choose my Mount Rushmore of Tough Guys from. So the task then is to find real tough guys who also act tough. Guys whose characters you wouldn’t want to cross and the actor who you wouldn’t want to confront when he finds out you left him off your tough guy monument.
Here’s a reminder of the Mount Rushmore scenario, say aliens land on our planet and we are not home, or humanity is forced underground for several hundred years and upon re-emerging are curious about us. There is really only one way to ensure that important information is preserved. Carve a monument on the face of a mountain and tuck the critical data in the hall of records behind it (in this case their films). With that said there is obviously limited space so here are my nominations.
Really you could just fill all four spots on the mountain with Chuck. J.J. “Lone Wolf” McQuade, Col. James Braddock, Major Scott McCoy and Ranger Cordell Walker. Done and done. But Carlos Ray Norris’ toughness extends far beyond the characters he plays.
He joined the Air Force right out of college and while stationed in Korea began studying martial arts. He earned a black belt in Tang Soo Do and Tae Kwan Do and became the Professional World Middleweight Karate Champion. He was undefeated from 1968 to 1974, when he retired. He was the first westerner to be awarded an eighth degree black belt. His good friend and student Steve McQueen, also a real life tough guy, convinced him to go into acting. His childhood idol? Tough guy patriarch John Wayne.
Just Google Chuck Norris and you’ll find hundreds of “facts” about him. His favorite, and mine, “Before the boogey man goes to bed he checks his closet for Chuck Norris”. Classic.
Signature move: Roundhouse kick
Tough Guy quotes (not that he needs them): “Sleep tight sucker.”, “My kind of trouble doesn’t take a vacation.”
The Rock! Is there a tougher name that one could be widely known by? I submit to you there is not. The People’s Champ, The most electrifying man in sports entertainment, The Brahma Bull, The Great One, The Rock! The Scorpion King, Beck, Sarge, Driver; not to mention Road Block in the upcoming G.I. Joe sequel. His career spanning from the WWE to the big screen is permeated by toughness (we’re looking the other way on the whole Disney phase).
The very sight of this 6’5 behemoth is the picture of intimation. He started off as an accomplished football player at the University of Miami, where he played on the ’91 national championship team. A back injury slowed his football career and pushed him towards the family business, professional wrestling. Descendant of a long line of pro wrestlers, sports entertainment was in his blood. The first ever seven-time World Champion, he raised the WWE to new heights before taking on Hollywood. He, like me, has a fear of spiders. Do you think that should disqualify him from the list? “IT DOESN’T MATTER WHAT YOU THINK!!” The Rock will take you down Know Your Role Boulevard which is on the corner of Jabroni Drive and check you directly into the Smackdown Hotel! If you smell what The Rock is cooking!
Signature move: Rock Bottom
Tough guy quotes: “Just bring it!”, “Lay a smack down on your candy arse.”, “I’ll give you one more chance to shut your mouth.”, “God can’t save you from me.”
Really just Lieutenant John McClane and “Yippee-ki-yay mother $%@*&#!” is probably enough for me to justify him being on the list. Walter Bruce Willis, the son of an American soldier, was born in Germany and raised in New Jersey. After working as a private investigator and security for a nuclear power plant Willis pursued a career in acting. He’s played a slew of tough guys in addition to his most famous role in the Die Hard movies. He’s the only one on the list whose tough guy persona is almost entirely embodied in his on camera work.
With his shaved head and steely stare he personifies tough. When stacking him up against other Hollywood tough guys he won the “I don’t want him knocking on my door for being left off the list” competition. Willis will also very soon be linked to the above mentioned tough guys as he is currently filming G.I. Joe 2 with Dwayne Johnson (he'll be playing the original Joe) and Chuck Norris was recently added to the Expendables ensemble of tough guys that already includes Willis, for its sequel. Yay!
Signature move: Reluctantly saving the day.
Tough guy quotes (the ones I can print): “This is the '90s. You can't just walk up and slap a guy, you have to say something cool first.”, “I was born without a conscience.”, “After all we've been through, I'd hate to have to beat you to death.”, “You're gonna tell me what I wanna know, or I'm gonna beat you to death in your own house.”
The very definition of tough guy. Eastwood came into this world at 11 lbs 6 oz. foreshadowing the larger than life figure he would become. Before going into acting he served in the military as an Army lifeguard and swim instructor. The Man With No Name, Dirty Harry, Josey Wales, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, Kelly’s Heroes, Unforgiven (probably my all time favorite western) and Gran Torino. A truly impressive resume but he made the monument because even at age 81 there’s still nobody foolish enough to cross him.
This icon came up in macho western films but showed he’s a tough guy no matter what time period with characters like Harry Callahan and most recently Walt Kowalski.
Signature move: His scowl can stop a man’s heart. (It’s true)
Tough guy quotes: “Get three coffins ready.”, “My mistake. Four coffins…”, “God is not on our side because he hates idiots also.”, “You've got to ask yourself one question: Do I feel lucky? Well, do ya, punk?” “Ever notice how you come across somebody once in a while you shouldn't have f----- with? That's me.”
From Unforgiven alone: “That's right. I've killed women and children. I've killed just about everything that walks or crawled at one time or another. And I'm here to kill you, Little Bill, for what you did to Ned.”, “Any man don't wanna get killed better clear on out the back.”, “It's a hell of a thing, killing a man. Take away all he's got and all he's ever gonna have.”, “All right, I'm coming out. Any man I see out there, I'm gonna shoot him. Any sumb*tch takes a shot at me, I'm not only gonna kill him, but I'm gonna kill his wife, all his friends, and burn his damn house down.”
P.S. This is what the end of the world looks like.