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Why Roderick Burgess On Netflix's Sandman Looks So Familiar

This article contains mild spoilers for Netflix's "The Sandman."

Sometimes, when you imprison an immortal Endless, you get the fuzzy end of the lollipop. So it goes for Roderick Burgess, the mortal and occultist who, even though much of his magical spell working is a sham, manages to trap Dream of the Endless (Tom Sturridge) for decades. Burgess' intended target was Death (Kirby Howell-Baptiste), Dream's sibling, as Burgess happens to yearn for immortality. But he decides Dream will do just as well for his needs. Yet Dream refuses to comply with his wishes, and Roderick goes mad from his desperate fantasies of life never-ending. Thus does Dream find himself centuries behind the game when he's finally freed. Dream's attempt at regaining control over his kingdom – known as The Dreaming – and reintroducing humanity to slumber and normative dream patterns results in a battle for control and chaos. Dream is going to have a run for his money in that department thanks to Burgess, who will do anything to keep Dream under lock and key forever.

The actor who portrays Burgess on Netflix's adaptation of the Neil Gaiman graphic novel is quite a familiar face with a very thick resume behind him. If you have a penchant for BBC series — especially the network's much-beloved miniseries — HBO fantasy blockbusters, big screen prestige pictures, or '90s action flicks, then it's likely he's quite the familiar face to you.

Charles Dance got his start with Bond and the BBC

Charles Dance, who plays Roderick Burgess on "The Sandman," has a jam-packed resume that goes all the way back to 1974 and encompasses, via IMDb, over 150 roles. Per The Washington Post, the working actor initially made a name for himself onstage as a Shakespearian actor and worked with the Royal Shakespeare Company before leaping to the small screen.

He initially found work in BBC miniseries and television programs. Dance's first role was in "Father Brown," as Commandant Neil O'Brien. After that, he rapidly put in a series of appearances in "Raffles," "The Inheritors" and "Edward the King," before making his film debut.

Dance's first big-screen role was in the 1981 James Bond epic "For Your Eyes Only." He shows up as Claus, a Russian henchman who's one of the many baddies Bond takes down while trying to figure out which of the enigmatic Greek billionaires he's met is secretly linked to Russian forces  — Miles Columbo (Topol) or Aristotle Kristatos (Julian Glover). Claus and Bond engage in an infamous chase scene involving a downhill race on skis, which Bond naturally wins.

Dance would go on to play Bond creator Ian Fleming in a 1989 TV biopic entitled "Goldeneye: The Secret Life of Ian Fleming." Ironically, per a 2020 interview with The Financial Times, Dance was subsequently given a chance to play Bond himself. But his agent talked him out of doing the part. Dance agreed with the suggestion. "'I had not nearly enough experience for something like that – and I would have f***ed it up," he said. He would essay several television roles before enjoying his big breakthrough.

He was chillingly effective in Alien 3

Charles Dance hit it big in "The Jewel in the Crown." This was his first time portraying a romantic lead, and that resulted in larger parts, such as the second lead in the Meryl Streep vehicle "Plenty," and the Eddie Murphy action vehicle "The Golden Child." In the latter, Dance portrays the villainous Sardo Numspa, who kidnaps the titular Golden Child (J. L. Reate) for nefarious purposes. It's up to private detective Chandler Jarrell (Murphy) to rescue the world-saving kid. 

He then played two real-life men — director D.W. Griffith in "Good Morning Babylon" and Josslyn Hay, whose real-life murder caused an enormous scandal in colonial Kenya, in "White Mischief." He supported Ben Kingsley in "Pascali's Island" and portrayed Erik, the titular "Phantom of the Opera," in a 1990 adaption of the classic novel.

Dance then took on the role of Jonathan Clemens in "Alien 3," which came out in 1992. Clemens is the doctor for Fiorina 161, the prison colony where Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) has crash-landed. The good doctor — a former criminal who has stayed on as a crew member –  is called in to treat Ellen's wounds. In spite of the strained circumstances, Clemens and Ripley strike up a close relationship. But to end the Xenomorph menace for once and for all, she's going to have to make the ultimate sacrifice. Clemens does not manage to survive the film.

Dance was completely honest about his experience on the notoriously fractious set of "Alien 3," telling SFX in 2015, "Look, it wasn't a nightmare, despite what you may have read or heard elsewhere. But it certainly wasn't an easy shoot. What was on the screen was quite removed from what was in the script. But, with that said, I don't regret that I was a part of it. "

Dance became a cartoon villain in The Last Action Hero

Charles Dance took on a decidedly more villainous turn for his next project; that's him as the smooth, white tuxedo-wearing Mr. Benedict in the tongue-in-cheek Arnold Schwarzenegger vehicle "Last Action Hero." 

In the 1993 film, Mr. Benedict is the henchman for Tony Vivaldi (Anthony Quinn), a notorious gangster who is Jack Slater's (Schwarzenegger) mortal enemy. When a young boy named Danny Madigan (Austin O'Brien) is warped into Slater's fictional world thanks to a magical ticket stub, he tries to help Slater solve his second cousin's murder. But soon fiction and reality collide, and Slater finds himself in the real world, battling his own mortality as he learns what applies on the big screen doesn't apply to real-life firefights. Benedict, hungry for power, quickly becomes the film's main antagonist after offing Vivaldi and deciding to take on his criminal. He even gets to deliver the delightful bon mot "If God were a villain, he'd be me."

While the movie was a notorious flop at the time of its release, it has since been critically reappreciated by outlets such as Collider and Giant Freakin' Robot.

After "The Last Action Hero," Dance appeared in multiple big and small-screen endeavors which required him to stretch his acting muscles. Notable, he was Derek Du Pré, father of famous cellist Jackie (Emily Watson) and biographer and flautist Hilary (Rachel Griffiths) in "Hilary and Jackie."

In "Gosford Park," Robert Altman's sprawling murder-mystery dramedy among the wealthy during the 1920s, he portrayed Lord Raymond Stockbridge, one of many suspects in the murder of Sir William McCordle (Michael Gambon) who has been killed during a guest-laden shooting party at his country estate. He then appeared in the critically acclaimed film "Swimming Pool."

Game of Thrones made him a household name

If you're not a fan of glossy British melodrama or action-adventure, then Charles Dance is probably best known to you for his role as the ruthless Tywin Lannister in "Game of Thrones." It was Tywin, father of Cersei (Lena Headey), Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), and Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) who put the infamous Red Wedding in motion, and whose cruelty became infamous throughout Westeros. While he claims to be loyal to his family, Tywin castigates Tyrion and abuses him because he blames his son for the death of his wife, Joanna. He even admits that he wanted to kill Tyrion at birth.

While Tywin manages to make important headway during his reign of terror, killing several important members of the Stark family, his death is his own undoing. After admitting that he ordered the murder of Tyrion's lover Shae, Tyrion shoots his own father to death while Tywin is sitting on the privy. It's an infamous death, and one often ranked one of the show's most shocking moments. Dance did not resist honestly commenting upon it in the press. Speaking with the Los Angeles Times in 2021, he said, "I've died a very ignoble death. Especially in 'Game of Thrones,' that was quite a death scene, darling." He was also brutally honest about how the show ended. "I was underwhelmed. I thought, "No, come on. Really, guys, you could do better than that." But, never mind."

While working on "Game of Thrones," Dance appeared in the big-screen dramas "Woman In Gold," "The Imitation Game" and "Dracula Untold."  He also appeared in 10 episodes of the Cinemax original series "Strike Back" and BBC's "Secret State."

Genre pictures kept him front and center

Charles Dance directed, wrote, and executive-produced the film "Ladies in Lavender," which features his "Gosford Park" co-star Maggie Smith, in 2004. He had a major role in the BBC/PBS miniseries "Bleak House," where he portrayed Mr. Tulkinghorn, a lawyer with too much information in his back pocket and blackmail on his mind. The 15-part Charles Dickens adaptation won Dance an Emmy nomination for lead actor in a miniseries or movie in 2006.

Most intriguingly, he essayed the role of Havelock Vetinari in "Terry Pratchett's Going Postal," a beloved live-action adaption of Pratchett's fantasy novel. Per an interview with Sky1, Dance found portraying Vetinari interesting. "He's not your archetypal villain. He just calmly and quietly goes about business of running things, and if things aren't run the way he wants them run, then he does something about it."

He then put in an appearance as the wicked King Tallious in the cult film "Your Highness," and appeared in 2016's "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies," a splattery version of Jane Austen's romantic novel, in which Elizabeth Bennet (Lily James) and her sisters are called upon to slay zombies while attending balls and trying to land rich husbands. Dance plays the Bennet paterfamilias. That's also him as the formally cold Dean Harold Filmore in "Ghostbusters: Answer the Call." The head of Columbia University where Erin Gilbert (Kristen Wiig) hopes to make tenure, Filmore's the one who puts the kibosh on her dreams after videos of her busting ghosts go viral.

It wasn't all goo and latex for Dance during this portion of his career; he also appeared in the romantic drama "Me Before You" and seven times in Prime Video's Kate Beckinsale vehicle "The Widow."

The Crown drew more attention to him, and he also roared in Godzilla

Charles Dance returned to the world of chilling villainy for "Godzilla: King of Monsters." In the flick, he portrays Alan Jonah, a disillusioned former MI-6 agent whose bitterness against humanity leads him to mercenary work. Jonah has become an eco-terrorist who steals DNA in the hope that bringing kaiju back will right the evil humanity has done to the planet. In the end, he survives and the possibility of him having a hand in the rebirth of more of Godzilla's enemies lingers.

He followed that up with a series of disparate roles. In the Oscar-nominated biopic "Mank," he appears as media mogul William Randolph Hearst, opponent of Herman J. Mankiewicz (Gary Oldman), whose screenplay for "Citizen Kane" is set to parody Hearst and his relationship with his mistress, Marion Davies (Amanda Seyfried). He also appeared in "The King's Man" as Kitchener.

Dance also struck quite a figure in Netflix's "The Crown," where he appeared five times as the noble and steady Lord Mountbatten. His performance as Mountbatten was strong enough to him another Emmy nomination — for outstanding guest actor in a drama Series. He lost to Courtney B. Vance for his work in "Lovecraft Country." 

Win or lose, romantic hero or villain, Dance is certainly an unforgettable actor whose characters will never be forgotten.