Tom Atkins (actor)

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Tom Atkins
Tom Atkins by Gage Skidmore.jpg
Atkins in 2023
Alma mater Duquesne University
Years active1963–present

Tom Atkins is an American actor. He is known for his work in the horror and thriller film genres, having worked with writers and directors such as Shane Black, William Peter Blatty, John Carpenter, Fred Dekker, Richard Donner, Stephen King, and George A. Romero. He is also a familiar face to mainstream viewers, often playing police officers and tough authority figures and is perhaps best known for his role as Lt. Alex Diel in The Rockford Files (1974–1977).


Atkins has appeared in numerous films including The Fog (1980), The Ninth Configuration (1980), Escape from New York (1981), Creepshow (1982), Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982), Night of the Creeps (1986), Lethal Weapon (1987), Maniac Cop (1988), Two Evil Eyes (1990), Bob Roberts (1992), Striking Distance (1993), My Bloody Valentine 3D (2009), Drive Angry (2011), Encounter (2018), and Trick (2019).

Atkins has also appeared in numerous television series and films such as Hawaii Five-O (1975), Kojak: Flowers for Matty (1990), Walker, Texas Ranger (1993), Fortune Hunter (1994), Xena: Warrior Princess (1996), Homicide: Life on the Street (1998), Oz (2003), Law & Order: Criminal Intent (2003), The Jury (2004), and The Last-Drive In with Joe Bob Briggs (2019).

Early life

Atkins initially had no desire to be an actor. His father worked in a steel mill in Pennsylvania and Atkins assumed that he would follow in his father's footsteps. He enlisted in the United States Navy and "noticed that the officers lived great, but that was only because they had gone to college," [1] and so, after leaving the navy, Atkins enrolled in college where he met a girl who was involved in a theatre group. Tom studied at the Duquesne University in Pittsburgh and was a member of the Gamma Phi fraternity. He says: "I was in my 20s already when I got interested in acting and I liked it a lot." [1]


Atkins began his career in stage plays both on-and-off Broadway, before moving to Los Angeles to pursue a career in film and television. [1] His first movie role was in The Detective , which starred Frank Sinatra. Talking of his experience working on his first feature film – and with Sinatra – Atkins says: "It was great! It was intimidating and frightening and scary but Frank was great. He was very easy to work with. He didn't like to do a lot of takes. But then it's not like we were doing Shakespeare." [1]

After appearing in TV series and movies, including portraying Lt. Alex Diel in seasons 1 and 2 of The Rockford Files , Atkins began working within the horror and science fiction genres. He appeared in two films directed by John Carpenter: the 1980 ghost story The Fog and the 1981 science fiction thriller Escape from New York . His next role (this time a leading role) was the third installment of the Halloween franchise, the Carpenter-produced Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982). [2]

He completed further work with George A. Romero, appearing in three of the director's projects: the anthology Creepshow (1982), written by Stephen King; the anthology Two Evil Eyes (1990), based on tales by Edgar Allan Poe; and Bruiser (2000).[ citation needed ]

He portrayed Detective Ray Cameron in the 1986 cult horror film Night of the Creeps , a role Atkins calls his very favorite. He tells Classic-Horror magazine "It was the most fun film I've ever worked on. It was a pure giggle from beginning to end. The director Fred Dekker was very young and very talented and he went on to do The Monster Squad afterwards. I think he wrote a terrific film that was kind of a big put-on of '50s horror. And I had great lines in that movie!" [1]

Atkins has continued to act in both the thriller and police procedural genre. He is well known to movie goers for his role as Michael Hunsaker in the Richard Donner film Lethal Weapon (1987), which stars Mel Gibson, Danny Glover, and Gary Busey. In 1993 he took a role in Striking Distance (1993) alongside Bruce Willis, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Tom Sizemore. In television, Atkins reprised his role of Commander Diehl for a series of Rockford Files movies during the 1990s.[ citation needed ]

Atkins is a frequent player in shows in the Pittsburgh theatre scene, most famously in the one-man show The Chief at Pittsburgh Public Theater, in which he depicted the late founder of the Pittsburgh Steelers, Art Rooney. Also at the Public, he played the title role in Macbeth , opposite Jean Smart as Lady Macbeth and Keith Fowler as Macduff. He was the star of A Musical Christmas Carol at the Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera, portraying the character of Ebenezer Scrooge. He appeared on Broadway in David Storey's The Changing Room , for which he received the 1973 Drama Desk Award for Most Promising Performer.

In 2009, he had a supporting role as a retired sheriff in the remake My Bloody Valentine 3D [3] and co-starred with Nicolas Cage in Todd Farmer's Drive Angry , in 2011; both films are directed by Patrick Lussier. [4]

In the 2018 sci-fi movie Encounter , he was Professor Westlake, who studied the biology of the alien lifeform.

Selected filmography


1968 The Detective Harmon Gordon Douglas
1970 Where's Poppa? Policeman In Apartment Carl Reiner
1970 The Owl and the Pussycat Kid In Car Herbert Ross Uncredited
1976 Special Delivery Cop On Beat Paul Wendkos
1977 Tarantulas: The Deadly Cargo BuddyStuart HagmannMade-for-TV Movie
1980 The Fog Nick Castle John Carpenter
1980 The Ninth Configuration Sergeant Krebs William Peter Blatty
1981 Escape from New York Captain Rehme John Carpenter
1982 Creepshow Stan George A. Romero (segments "Prologue" / "Epilogue"), Uncredited
1982 Halloween III: Season of the Witch Dr. Dan Challis Tommy Lee Wallace
1985 The New Kids 'Mac' MacWilliams Sean S. Cunningham
1986 Night of the Creeps Ray Cameron Fred Dekker
1987 Lethal Weapon Michael Hunsaker Richard Donner
1988 Lemon Sky DouglasJan Egleson
1988 Maniac Cop Detective Frank McCrae William Lustig
1990 Two Evil Eyes Detective Grogan George A. Romero, Dario Argento (segment "The Facts in the Case of Mr. Valdemar")
1992 Bob Roberts Dr. Caleb Menck Tim Robbins
1993 Striking Distance Sergeant Fred Hardy Rowdy Herrington
2000 Bruiser Detective McCleary George A. Romero
2001Out of the BlackEugene CarterKarl Kozak
2002 Turn of Faith Charlie Ryan Charles Jarrott
2009 My Bloody Valentine 3D Sheriff Jim Burke Patrick Lussier
2009 Shannon's Rainbow Captain Martin Frank E. Johnson
2009TrappedDetective AbbottRon Hankison, Gavin Rapp
2010 The Chief Art Rooney Sr.Steve Parys
2011 Drive Angry Captain Patrick Lussier
2011Arriving at NightPhil RedmanAndrew FordShort Film
2013FantasmHimselfKyle KuchtaDocumentary
2014Apocalypse KissCaptain John VogleChristian Grillo
2014Judy's DeadRoyDave Rodkey
2015Smoke and Mirrors: The Story of Tom SaviniHimself Jason Baker Documentary
2018 Encounter Professor WestlakePaul Salamoff
2019 Trick Talbott Patrick Lussier
2020PolybiusSheriff AtkinsJimmy KellyShort film
2022Final SummerGeorge KlugJohn IsbergPre-production
TBAThe CollectedClu Marcus Dunstan Announced



Archive footage

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  1. 1 2 3 4 5 Fallows, Tom, Tom Atkins Interview (Night of the Creeps), Classic-Horror Web Zine October 14, 2009.
  2. "'Drive Angry' Casting That Will Surely "Thrill" You". February 25, 2010.
  3. "Monster-Mania 14 Guest List Grows". DreadCentral. February 7, 2010. Retrieved July 31, 2016.
  4. "Exclusive: Tom Atkins is BACK and Ready to Drive Angry". DreadCentral. February 25, 2010.