Quick, name an actor who has played Dracula, Sherlock Holmes, and Zorro. Okay, the title gives the truth away but Frank Langella has played all those parts and so many more.
He is best known for his portrayal of the 37th President of the United States, Richard M. Nixon, in the film (and play) Frost/Nixon. That role found him nominated for both an Oscar and a Tony. He would go on to win four Tony awards for his roles in Frost/Nixon, The Father, Seascape, and Fortune’s Fool.
However, despite his success as a mainstream actor, Langella has gone on to perform in several nerd-centric roles.
Here are just a few of the noteworthy parts he played that brought him to the notice of nerds everywhere.
No discussion of Langella’s career would ignore the fact that his portrayal of the title character in 1979’s Dracula (for which he got a Saturn Award acting nomination) turned up the heat for the Count and his ability to make women swoon.
Before there was Justin Timberlake, Langella brought, Dracula’s sexy back. Despite many problems with the pacing and rewriting of the original story, director John Badham did several things right with this film. He built a strong supporting cast around Langella. Sir Laurence Olivier (Hamlet, Sleuth) as Professor Van Helsing and Donald Pleasance (Halloween) as Dr. Jack Seward turned in powerful performances that elevated Langella’s game.
He had played the role in the Martin Beck Theatre on Broadway in the 1927 version of the stage play and considered the count “highly vulnerable and erotic.” While critics were mixed in their reviews the women in the audience fell hard for the new Dracula.
Here is a sample:
Masters of the Universe (1987)
While being both a critical and commercial failure, Masters of the Universe has become a cult film.
Based on the Mattel toyline of the same name, the film didn’t even make back its $22 million dollar budget but it did give us not only Dolph Lundgren as He-Man but Langella as Skeletor. While Dolph considers it his least favorite role out of all his movies, Langella considers Skeletor one of the high points of his career.
Nerdbastards has previously covered the film, so feel free to click over and read this.
Watching him in the role, you can see that he enjoyed himself quite a bit:
In April of this year a reboot of the franchise announced that Aaron and Adam Nee will direct a new adaptation of He-Man that should arrive sometime next year.
In the film Brainscan, a CD-Rom video game releases a character called the Trickster, who convinces Michael (Edward Furlong) to kill people in the real world including his best friend, Kyle. When he calls his friend’s house, Detective Hayden (Langella) answer the phone which results in Michael being scared he will go to prison for Kyle’s murder.
This was Furlong’s fifth film and he was showing signs of being hard to work with this early in his career.
It is a small part but Langella does his usual solid work. Sometimes the acting of the rest of the cast is so bad that it is almost good.
Small Soldiers (1998)
Two factions of sentient action figures go to war in this film by director Joe Dante (Gremlins).
Langella plays Archer, the cat-like leader of the heroic Gorgonites, who are in a war with evil Commando Elite squad, led by Chip Hazard (Tommy Lee Jones).
The rest of the Elite squad are voiced by Bruce Dern, George Kennedy, Jim Brown, Ernest Borgnine and Clint Walker, who were all cast members of the film The Dirty Dozen.
The Gorgonites are voiced by This Is Spinal Tap cast members Michael McKean, Harry Shearer, Christopher Guest, and Jim Cummings.
The live action cast are similarly impressive. Kirsten Dunst, Denis Leary, Jay Mohr, David Cross, and Wendy Schaal join Phil Hartman in what would be his last major film role before his death.
Superman Returns (2006)
After the disaster known as Superman IV: The Quest for Peace, there were a series of projects intended to reboot the Superman franchise. The most famous was Tim Burton‘s Superman Lives that would have seen Nic Cage play the last son of Krypton.
However, the failure of that iteration gave Bryan Singer‘s Superman Returns the pole position to help restore the franchise to its former glory. Serving as both a sequel and an homage to the Richard Donner/Christopher Reeve films, it did well at the box office. However, not well enough to make the planned sequel that would have seen most of the cast return.
That cast was the highlight of the film. Brandon Routh as Kal-El, Kate Bosworth as Lois Lane, and Kevin Spacey, who the writers had specifically had in mind to play Lex Luthor when creating the story. Langella played Perry White, the editor of The Daily Planet where Clark and Lois work. Like Spacey’s Luthor, Langella’s Perry was used less as comic relief and was played as a serious character.
Deep Space Nine (1993)
While Langella had appeared on TV as early as 1965 and even played both Zorro and Sherlock Holmes for that medium, his appearance on three episodes of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine were the high water mark of his nerd related performances on television.
Langella played Bajoran Minister Jaro Essa in three episodes (“Homecoming,” “The Circle,” and “The Siege”) at the start of the second season of the show.
Jaro made an ally of soon to be Kai Winn (Louise Fletcher) while trying to destroy the government he worked for to make himself the leader of the Bajorans. He worked behind the scenes to get the terrorist group The Circle weapons from the Cardassians so that Bajor could defend itself.
Langella received no on-screen credit for the role. He did the show because his children loved DS9. While he never reprised the role on screen Jaro did appear in several DS9 novels, including a mirror-universe Jaro who was married to Winn.
Here is a scene of the two scheming in the final episode of his arc on the show:
Destiny 2 (2017)
Langella’s completed the nerd trifecta of film, TV, and video games when, in 2017, he voiced the Consul in the game Destiny 2.
Before the events in the game, The Consul advised Ghaul on his military coup against the emporer, Calus. However, in the game The Consul noticed that Ghaul was looking for a way to earn power instead of just taking it. When he confronts his former student, Ghaul choked the life out of The Consul.
Let us know your favorite actor who went on to earn their credentials in nerdage for future write ups in the comments.