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Why Valin Hess From The Mandalorian Looks So Familiar

Chapter 15 of Disney+'s beloved Star Wars streaming series The Mandalorian continues to open up the galaxy far, far away in ways that even diehard fans couldn't have predicted. This installment, entitled "The Believer," also further complicates Mando's (Pedro Pascal) noble undertaking to retrieve little Grogu from the dreaded Moff Gideon (Giancarlo Esposito) and return him either to his own people or the nearest Jedi. In seeking to figure out just where the heck Gideon's Imperial cruiser is located, Mando and his new allies (Temuera Morrison's Boba Fett and Ming-Na Wen's Fennec Shand) turn to an old frenemy for help: Bill Burr's hot-headed Migs Mayfeld.

In a legitimately unexpected turn of events, Mayfeld's plan to track Gideon's command ship actually works ... right up until it doesn't, of course. Things get sticky when Mayfeld bumps into his old Imperial Commander, a true believer in the Galactic Empire named Valin Hess. Once Mayfeld lays eyes on the man whose orders led to thousands of deaths during the Empire's Operation Cinder, let's just say Mayfeld does what you'd expect Mayfeld to do, given what we know of him, with the requisite chaos ensuing.

It's entirely possible you recognize the smarmy face of Valin Hess already. That's because the skilled character actor who portrays him has been a mainstay in cinematic offerings big and small over the course of the past couple of decades. His name is Richard Brake, and we're here to tell you why he looks so familiar.

Richard Brake tested new recruits in the first Kingsman flick

Truth is, there are literally dozens of places you might've seen Richard Brake before. Even if you don't know his name, his distinctive face has featured prominently in works from filmmakers ranging from Steven Spielberg (Munich) to Rob Zombie (3 From Hell). He even made a brief MCU appearance in Thor: The Dark World as an elite Asgardian Einherjar warrior. But fans of Matthew Vaughan's action-packed 2017 comic book adaptation Kingsman: The Secret Service no doubt remember him for tormenting new recruits at the behest of Colin Firth's Harry Hart.

For those who haven't dipped a toe into the wild world of Vaughan's Kingsman tales, The Secret Service is the first film in the franchise, and finds Taron Egerton's street-smart Eggsy Unwin recruited to join the ranks of a super secret British spy organization devoted to keeping the world safe from harm. Joining the service naturally comes with intensive training. Recruits must pass a series of tests designed to asses their allegiance.

One of these tests finds Egerton tied to a Metro rail with a speeding train on the way, as he is tormented for info by a knife-wielding baddie known as the Interrogator. Not all is as it seems in the scene though, and that knife-wielding nutcase actually turns out to be a Kingsman ally in disguise. He is also portrayed by Richard Brake, who brings an unnerving authenticity to the role via fiercely off-the-rails energy and a maniacally unsettling smile.

Richard Brake was the OG Night King on Game of Thrones

As distinctive as Richard Brake's face is, and as frequently as it has appeared on screens big and small, viewers really can't see much of it in what is likely one of the actor's most-viewed moments. That moment comes in a season five episode of HBO's groundbreaking fantasy saga Game of Thrones, and it ranks as one of the series' most memorable scenes.

Brake's showstopper moment arrives in the final few minutes of "Hardhome." Said episode finds Jon Snow (Kit Harington) heading further north of the Wall than the series had ever ventured to visit before. He travels to the remote titular settlement in the hopes of convincing its people to join him in the coming fray with the army of White Walkers. Before they can come to an agreement, said army turns up and proceeds to lay waste to most of the fishing village and its unfortunate inhabitants.

After learning that Valyrian steel can kill Walkers (along with dragonglass), Jon and his crew narrowly escape with their lives. As they cast off from shore and marvel at the carnage on land, the nefarious Night King watches them with an unsettlingly impassive stare. He then begins to raise his arms, and with them, the dead themselves, showing the Westerosi survivors just how much trouble they're really in, once the army of White Walkers and the undead reach their doors. While the role was recast in later seasons, there's little question Brake made the most of his scene-devouring time on Game of Thrones.

Richard Brake let the tiger out of the cage in Mandy

As far as Hollywood careers that have seen dramatic highs and lows go, few have been as fascinating to watch as that of the ever eccentric Nicolas Cage. The, ahem, cagey actor was one of the biggest draws in Hollywood for much of the 1990s, but after a series of personal issues (largely of the financial sort) caught up with him, Cage spent much the past decade-plus shamelessly over-acting in forgettable films too numerous to count. 

But then Nic Cage met Panos Cosmatos, an up-and-coming genre guru who was looking for a star to bring his latest mind-bending work of cinematic provocation to life. That work was 2008's hyper-stylish genre-defying thriller Mandy, and while it put Cage more or less back in the good graces of Tinseltown, it also saw him in full rage mode, anchoring one of the wildest tales of savage, soul-crushing vengeance ever committed to the screen.

If you've experienced Mandy for yourself, you know that statement to be accurate. You also know Mandy is a truly weird movie, even by the standards of its genre. One of the weirdest moments therein comes when Cage, on a desperate search to find the cultists who brutally murdered his beloved and also tripping heavily on a high-powered hallucinogen, tracks down the man who made the drug for information. The nameless chemist is indeed played by Richard Brake. And while he doesn't actually trade lines with Cage in the scene (as Cage communicates telepathically and non-verbally), his work as the narcotics-making, tiger-loving chemist is as fascinating to watch as any of the film's notoriously out-there performances.

Richard Brake played a key figure in Nolan's Batman Begins

While Richard Brake has gone on to become a regular player in high profile projects in both film and television, the early days of his screen career were of a decidedly B-movie nature. He made appearances in schlocky fare like 1994's Death Machine, and the forgettable 1996 horror anthology Virtual Terror. The actor's fortunes changed in the mid-2000s, however, when a burgeoning auteur cast him for a key role in the opening chapter of a blockbuster trilogy.

That burgeoning auteur was none other than Christopher Nolan. And yes, the blockbuster trilogy in question was Nolan's revered Dark Night saga. The opening chapter of that trilogy is 2005's Batman Begins, which famously sees Christian Bale don the mask and cape of the vigilante-in-the-making Gothamites come to know as the Batman.

As Batman Begins is a trilogy opener, it understandably serves as an origin story as well, which means movie lovers were once again treated to the sight of young Bruce (Gus Lewis) watching his parents Martha and Thomas Wayne (Sarah Stewart and Linus Roache) gunned down in the back alley of a Gotham theater. While Bruce's life-defining moment is executed by Jack Nicholson's would-be Joker in Tim Burton's Batman, Nolan selected a more comic book-accurate bad guy to do the deed: A street-hardened criminal named Joe Chill.

Nolan selected Richard Brake to bring the character to life in Batman Begins. Brake more than lived up to the challenge, depicting both an unnerving desperation when he accosts the Waynes, and later, a hard-earned, if self-serving, sense of remorse when he pledges to turn state's evidence against one of Gotham's biggest baddies. In doing so, Brake put an unexpectedly humane twist on one of Batman's most infamous figures.