Few American actors have a resumé as extensive nor a voice as recognizable as Keith David, who got the acting bug at an early age in school plays in Harlem. After studying at New York City’s High School of Performing Arts, he was trained at Julliard and is an alumni of John Houseman’s The Acting Company. With hundreds of roles on the big and small screen under his belt (including his Emmy-winning voice work), he remains as busy as ever with an ability to hop from any genre to the next. With his latest film, Jordan Peel’s Nope, now hitting theaters, there’s no better time to look at ten films demonstrating the true breadth of his talents.
David made a powerful impression in his Hollywood big screen debut in John Carpenter’s groundbreaking blend of sci-fi and horror. Holding his own in an ensemble cast, he emerged as the film’s second lead character (as no-nonsense mechanic Childs) with Kurt Russell and delivered a pitch-perfect, enigmatic final scene that still leaves a chill in the air today.
Oliver Stone’s Oscar-winning classic shattered perceptions about the public reception for films about the still-fresh wounds of the Vietnam War. In an impressive cast, David made his mark here as King, a foul-mouthed infantryman whose time in the jungle has honed his wits to deliver memorable lines like "Somewhere out there is the beast, and he hungry tonight."
David and John Carpenter joined forces again for another sci-fi cult classic, this time about the manipulative alien forces among us keeping humanity under control — with only a specialized form of sunglasses able to expose them. David gets to show off his physical side in one of the screen’s longest and most outrageous fight scenes with Roddy Piper, which leads to a gun-blazing finale worthy of a classic western.
On the heels of their revolutionary Menace II Society, The Hughes Brothers delivered this incendiary drama that follows protagonist Anthony (Larenz Tate) from the Bronx to Vietnam and back again. Here David plays Kirby, Anthony's father figure who teams up with him in a daring armored car heist that couldn’t possibly go wrong… or could it?
Keith David collided with the summer blockbuster as part of the ensemble cast in Michael Bay’s extravagant asteroid disaster film. Here he gets to do his best authoritative military persona as General Kimsey, who has to be talked out of blasting the space menace apart with nuclear warheads and convinced to entrust the fate of Earth to blue collar workers he "wouldn’t trust with a potato gun."
One of the biggest comedy hits of the ‘90s, this rapid-fire gag machine from the Farrelly Brothers (Bobby and future Oscar winner Peter) follows the slapstick misfortunes that befall those infatuated with Cameron Diaz’s title character. David turns parental here as Mary’s stepfather who, along with his wife (Markie Post), has to contend with his daughter’s romantic suitors — starting with a young Ben Stiller’s very, very bad prom date.
Darren Aronofsky’s stressful depiction of multiple lives decimated by drug use brings to life the harrowing novel by Hubert Selby Jr., who collaborated on the screenplay. In one of the grimmest roles of his career, David plays Big Tim, the imposing pimp that the drug addicted Marion ( Jennifer Connelly) turns to as a last resort.
This feel-good dramedy features an endearing slice of life look at a South Side Chicago barbershop. As Lester Wallace, the loan shark who plans to overhaul the beloved community cornerstone into a seedy strip club, David gets to play a fun, juicy villain role.
Continuing his streak of bad guys you love to hate, David put his voice talents to dexterous use in this Disney musical set in jazzy 1920s Louisiana, where waitress Tiana gets a supernatural answer to her prayers to open a restaurant of her own. As the conniving voodoo practitioner Dr. Facilier, David puts his own flamboyant spin on a traditional Disney villain with a show-stopping performance.
The Wachowskis and German filmmaker Tom Tykwer united for this epic, time-skipping, sci-fi tapestry with cast members like Tom Hanks and Halle Berry inhabiting multiple roles. David is tasked to play four different characters — Pacific Islander Kupaka in the 1800s, San Franciscan Joe Napier in the ‘70s, Neo Seoul’s An-kor Apis in the year 2144, and the Prescient in far-off 2321. Each role contributes to the film’s concept of souls united through time by common bonds.