Billy Drago, who immortalized the Italian American gangster Frank Nitti in Brian De Palma’s ‘The Untouchables,’ died in Los Angeles on Monday, reports The Wrap. The actor, who was popular for playing villainous characters on screen died of complications of a stroke. He was 73.
Drago was Born in Kansas in 1945. He started his career soon after high school as a stuntman at Boot Hill in Dodge City, Kansas. After a short stint as a radio host, he joined a theater production banner and moved to Canada. In 1979, he shifted to New York and made his acting debut with the TV movie ‘No Other Love.’
He landed guest roles on television shows like ‘Hill Street Blues’ and ‘Walker, Texas Ranger’ after his debut. The young actor also managed to appear as the corrupt Deputy Mather in the 1985 Western ‘Pale Rider,’ produced and directed by Clint Eastwood. In 1987, Drago got his first breakthrough in ‘The Untouchables’ directed by Brian De Palma. The gangster flick went on to become a cult hit and launched Drago’s long romance with gun-wielding bad guy and mobster roles. He played the iconic character Frank Nitti a.k.a. Francesco Raffaele Nitto, a ruthless mobster and right-hand of “Scarface” Al Capone during the prohibition era in the U.S.
Drago played the role of the chief antagonist, the outlaw John Bly in the Western television series ‘The Adventures of Brisco County,’ that ran for 27 episodes on Fox during the early ‘90s. In 2000, he appeared in the episode ‘Theef’ of ‘The X-Files.’
His second big breakthrough came with the WB series ‘Charmed,’ in which Drago played the role of the notorious demon Barbas. His character was first conceived a guest appearance for just one episode. But the immense popularity of the actor prompted the makers to bring back the character more than six times. His other major works include ‘Delta Force 2,’ ‘The Hills Have Eyes,’ ‘Supernatural,’ and ‘Tremors 4: The Legend Begins.’ Drago was also featured in Michael Jackson’s music video ‘You Rock My World’ and Mike + The Mechanics music video ‘Silent Running.’
During his prime, Drago was adored and feared alike by his fans for the serpentine glare of the actor. His legacy spans across more than 100 films. Drago is survived by his two sons, sister Patt, brother Steve and several grandchildren. His wife, actress Silvana Gallardo who was his co-star in a number of films died in 2012.
Cover Image Courtesy: Paramount (The Untouchables).