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Why Big Tom From Tommy Boy Looks So Familiar

It's difficult to find a more beloved comedy from the 1990s than "Tommy Boy." As the first major starring vehicle for Chris Farley and David Spade, it turned them both into overnight movie stars after multiple seasons of cutting their respective teeth on "Saturday Night Live." The film has become iconic not only for its laugh-out-loud moments, but also because of the amount of heart to be found in its story.

Much of that heart has to do with "Big Tom" Callahan, the father to Chris Farley's titular doofus. If Big Tom seems like he has the gravitas of a Hollywood legend, that's because he truly does. He was portrayed by none other than the late, great Brian Dennehy, whose list of credits is something many actors would love to sink their teeth into. With that in mind, let's dive into his filmography and see the films you probably recognize Dennehy from.

Brian Dennehy hunted Rambo in First Blood

Though Brian Dennehy was the loveable Big Tom for a generation of comedy fans, he also knew how to turn on the menace when he had to. Arguably no other movie encapsulates that idea better than his performance as Will Teasle in "First Blood." The inaugural film in the "Rambo" series saw Sylvester Stallone step into the boots of the legendary Vietnam veteran in a small Pacific Northwest town, only to be accosted by Teasle and his band of cops –- all of whom don't want a drifter in their town.

Unlike many villains who show up in later installments of the "Rambo" series, Teasle was given more screen time and a chance to flesh out his reasons for fighting John Rambo. He also holds the distinction of being the only main "Rambo" villain to be spared by the hero at the end of the film. That's largely due to the fact that "First Blood" is a far more pensive and bloodless (though still bloody) movie compared to the entries that followed it.

Brian Dennehy played an alien leader in Cocoon

One of the biggest hits of Brian Dennehy's career came with the release of "Cocoon." Directed by Ron Howard, the film follows a group of senior citizens who find themselves reinvigorated with youth upon entering a pool full of alien cocoons. In the film, Dennehy plays Walter -– the leader of the alien race responsible for the cocoons, who forms a partnership with the humans and allows them to use the pool to stay young.

"Cocoon" was a massive success when it debuted in 1985, and for some genre fans, it has become required viewing on the 1980s syllabus. As such, a sequel was quickly put into production and released three years later. However, while most of the cast returned for substantial roles in the film, Brian Dennehy's role as Walter was reduced to a three-minute cameo at the end of the film. That being said, despite his limited screen time in "Cocoon: The Return," Dennehy still managed to make a lasting impression on audiences with his performance.

Brian Dennehy was an evil sheriff in Silverado

During the same time period in which Brian Dennehy was working on "Cocoon," he also got to dust off his villainous chops and show off his menace on the same level as "First Blood." This time, Dennehy took his bad guy street cred to the western genre for "Silverado," under the direction of Lawrence Kasdan (of "Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back" fame). 

In "Silverado," Dennehy portrayed a ruthless sheriff named Cobb, who is rivals with Kevin Kline's Padan. It's arguably one of Dennehy's best villain roles, but unlike his turn as Teasle in "First Blood," he doesn't get away from the wrath of the heroes by the time the final credits roll.

"Silverado" received positive reviews upon its release, earning a commendable 76% on Rotten Tomatoes. However, it fared less well at the box office, according to The Numbers, and earned an underwhelming $32 million against a $23 million budget. The western epic's cast also included Scott Glenn, Danny Glover, Jeff Goldblum, John Cleese, and many others. 

Brian Dennehy portrayed Christian Bale's father in Knight of Cups

Brian Dennehy worked with numerous legendary filmmakers during his time in Hollywood, such as Ron Howard and Brad Bird, but one of his most interesting collaborations came with "The Thin Red Line" director Terrence Malick. In 2015, they teamed up for Malick's film "Knight of Cups," with Dennehy portraying Joseph, the father of Christian Bale's character, Rick. Joseph reads the voiceover at the beginning of the film, but the storyline centers on Rick, who is a successful screenwriter still reeling from the death of his brother. The film has developed a reputation for its weirdness and its tarot card-inspired structure, with the film being divided into eight chapters.

In addition to Dennehy and Bale, "Knight of Cups" cast included some other major A-list actors. These supporting players included Hollywood heavyweights like Cate Blanchett, Natalie Portman, Antonio Banderas, and many others. Though it all, though, Dennehy continues to stand out as the film's elder statesman.

Brian Dennehy played Dom on The Blacklist

Brian Dennehy wasn't just a silver screen legend. He also appeared on numerous beloved TV series throughout his career. One of the most popular of the bunch was the CBS series, "The Blacklist" which he frequently guest starred on for several years leading up to his death in 2020. The actor portrayed Dom Wilkinson, a former KGB agent and the father of Katarina Rostova. Dom made his debut on the series during Season 3 and appeared in a grand total of 9 episodes throughout his run on the NBC espionage series.

What sets "The Blacklist" apart from other entries on this list is that Brian Dennehy was still very much involved with it leading up to his passing. In fact, at the time of his death, Dom was still an integral part of the show's overall narrative. As such, the role was recast with actor Ron Raines stepping in for Dennehy.

Of course, that's just a sample of the iconic roles that Brian Dennehy took on during his long and prolific career in Hollywood. He had the chops to play a terrifying villain or the nicest dad you've ever met, and fans will continue to honor his legacy by watching his films for years to come.