Chances are, if you’re an avid consumer of popular cinema from the last half-century—that is, if you regularly frequent this website—you’ve seen James Remar in something. The legendary character actor needs no introduction, but hell, we’re gonna give him one anyway.
Remar has been an active bit player for over 30 years, with one of his first credits in Walter Hill’s legendary cult film “The Warriors” as Ajax. He followed this up with parts in “48 Hours” (also directed by Hill), William Friedkin’s “Cruising,” and Francis Ford Coppola’s ill-fated “The Cotton Club.” He’s also been an ubiquitous presence in his more seasoned years, dabbling in everything for voice work for “Ratatouille” and “Transformers: Dark of the Moon,” while also finding time for small but juicy parts in “Pineapple Express” and “Django Unchained.” He’s a tactile, endlessly watchable actor who brings a lived-in authenticity to every role he inhabits and as it turns out, his life off-camera is almost as interesting as his performances.
One of the biggest mystries of Remar’s career thus far is his departure from the set of James Cameron’s sci-fi juggernaut “Aliens.” It’s not a subject that gets brought up much in documentaries about the film, and the cast and crew have rarely mentioned it in interviews over the years. Remar’s initial claims were, at the time, that he had “urgent matters at home” that tore him away from Cameron’s grueling, London-based shoot, but more recently, he tells a different, more honest story.
“I had a terrible drug problem, but I got through it. I had a great career and personal life, and messed it up with a terrible drug habit… I was initially cast as Corporal Hicks, and I was fired after a couple weeks of filming because I got busted for possession of drugs, and Michael Biehn replaced me,” the actor told Sidebar (via Strange Shapes) in a podcast a few years back.
Remar’s turbulent personal life also cost him his working relationship with Walter Hill, a close friend who recommended Remar to Cameron and essentially got him the audition to play the part of Dwayne Hicks. “[Walter Hill] didn’t hire me again for twelve years,” Remar said. “And I know why – because I made him look bad. Y’know, it was fucked up.”
Remar has had a prolific and storied career away from “Aliens,” but you can tell he regrets his hard-living behavior from decades past. Still, he admits to having kept in touch with Cameron and it sounds as though the two have patched things up. There is no actual footage on record of Remar as Hicks, although he can be seen briefly in the film’s Hive during one sequence (his face was replaced with Biehn’s in post-production due to a “complex effects shot”). Recently though, some set photos have emerged (via Reddit) that show Remar suited up in the Coropral’s ass-kicking space gear, and it’s an intriguing tease of what may have been. Check out the pics below: