(my obituary of Al Matthews, as it appeared in The Hollywood Reporter on 23 Sept 2018).
A decorated U.S. Marine, the actor also appeared in ‘Superman III,’ ‘The Fifth Element’ and ‘Tomorrow Never Dies.’
Al Matthews, the real-life military man who portrayed the no-nonsense, cigar-chomping Sgt. Apone in the sci-fi horror classic Aliens, has died. He was 75.
Matthews was found dead in his home in Alicante on Spain’s Mediterranean coast Saturday at 10 p.m. by a neighbor, the Spanish international news agency EFE and the El Pais newspaper confirmed to The Hollywood Reporter.
Matthews also had bit parts in Rough Cut (1980), Ragtime (1981), Superman III (1983), The Fifth Element (1997) and Tomorrow Never Dies (1997).
But it’s his performance in James Cameron’s 1986 sci-fi horror film that endeared him to audiences. Near the movie’s beginning, the crew of the USS Sulaco awake from their deep sleep and Apone instantly reaches for his cigar and shouts instructions to the drowsy crew.
“All right, sweethearts, what are you waiting for? Breakfast in bed? Another glorious day in the Corps. A day in the Marine Corps is like a day on the farm. Every meal’s a banquet. Every paycheck a fortune. Every formation a parade. I LOVE the Corps!”
Matthews himself served almost six years in the Marine Corps in Vietnam, receiving 13 combat awards and two Purple Hearts.
“Yes, I was the only person in the movie not pretending to be a Marine; in fact, I taught the other actors how to look and act. Mr. Cameron was pleased with my input. He said he had no idea I was that good; had he known, my part would have been bigger,” he said in 2006.
His character is later ambushed in the film and ends up as a host in the alien queen’s cocoon.
Born Nov. 21, 1942, in Brooklyn, Matthews claimed in the 2006 interview his great uncle was bandleader Cab Calloway. He began singing with New York street-corner groups as a teenager before finding his voice in the Greenwich Village folk scene.
After his war service, Matthews moved to the U.K. and then France where, as a folk singer, he scored a hit with the Pierre Tubbs-written “Fool.” In 1978, he became the first black disc jockey to join Radio 1 in Britain.
Decades later, Matthews reprised his military Aliens character for the 2013 video game Aliens: Colonel Marines and inspired the character of Avery Johnson in the worldwide game franchise hit Halo.
Pamela Rolfe contributed to this report.