Walter Hill directed Powers Boothe in just two films — “Extreme Prejudice” (1987) with Nick Nolte and “Southern Comfort” (1981) with Keith Carradine. However, the two were longtime friends, and Boothe’s death May 14 at the age of 68 hit Hill hard. He wrote this remembrance of the veteran actor for IndieWire.
The news of his passing, especially so soon after that of Bill Paxton, came very hard. My friendship with Powers covered many years, yet we somehow managed to do only two films. I wish it had been 20.
We worked in deserts, swamps, and on sound stages; in all circumstances, I came to admire his good humor, his courtly manners, his bemused reserve… I used to gently tease him as the ‘Hamlet of the Prairies’, and even though it was difficult to imagine anyone more American (a Texan; proud of it), there was something grand about the performances, as well as the man, that was kindred to the Shakespearean.
He contained the not-unusual contradictions of the talented: tough, yet sensitive; powerful, but gentle; patrician in spirit, but much admired by crews and co-workers.
And, to put it simply, Powers was a great actor. But it was the kind of greatness best appreciated by colleagues, peers, observant professionals. He had many splendid tools at his disposal: a distinct look, a forceful presence and, of course, that voice, so striking in tone and rhythm… but he didn’t simply play off the dialogue – as they used to say, he could ‘silence the room with a look.’
The last few years we had drifted out of touch, not through any hard feelings, just the vagaries of our lives. Despite any distance with Powers, there were certain things I knew would be invariably true: Family first and always, a generosity of spirit, charitable work for veterans, love of country music, a passion for golf and baseball, and his commitment to the code of the Cowboy Way… It was my privilege to know him and direct him. I’m happy to say his memory will be with me to the end.
Rest in peace, Powers.