In the 1980s, actor Sonny Landham starred alongside Arnold Schwarzenegger, Carl Weathers and Jesse “The Body” Ventura in Predator as Billy, the Indian guy in the headband with the maniacal laugh.
Landham also starred in 48 Hours with Eddie Murphy and Nick Nolte as well as Action Jackson but he will always be remembered for his crazy role in Predator, which is widely considered one of the best action movies of all-time.
And I went to college with him.
He was nearly 44 years my senior so how can that be? Well, long before I roamed the halls of Long Beach State, I stayed local and did two years of community college in Ashland, Kentucky. Landham resided in the same place.
So, in 2004 and 2005, I sat near Landham in a Sociology and a Philosophy course. It’s not often you get to sit next to an action star who went toe-to-toe with the Predator and took a knife to his own chest without batting an eye.
What was it like to be classmates with a guy you remember watching as a kid? Pretty surreal. But he was a pretty weird guy. Legend has it that security was needed on the set of Predator to protect the rest of the cast from Landham. After being around him in person, that’s not too far-fetched.
Being significantly older than his peers and even the professor, he would often dominate the discussions, irritate the professor and laugh the same way as his character Billy did, which was pretty creepy.
Following the lead of Schwarzenegger and Ventura, Landham had run for the post of Governor of Kentucky in 2003 unsuccessfully and while in school with us, he announced he was running for the U.S. Senate. At this point, not only do we have a former famous actor in our class but now a politician as well. Oh, and did I mention that Landham got his start in pornography before breaking into mainstream acting?
His politics were quite the opposite of our professor and he would routinely cause her to lose her marbles and have an outburst toward him. And every single time, his eyes would get big and he’d throw his hands up like, “What did I do?”
When class would end, he would take out a box of headshots and lay them on the desk and charge $10 for an autographed headshot for those who were actually interested. Needless to say, he came up empty quite a bit.
After one more failed attempt at politics in 2008, I never heard anything about him until he died of congestive heart failure in 2017. What’s even more bizarre is that Landham is not my only connection to the Predator franchise. The lead actor of 2018’s The Predator (Sept. 14 release), Boyd Holbrook (Logan, Narcos) was a guy I grew up with,worked with when he was discovered and was even on the same high school basketball team.
The Kentucky native plays Quinn McKenna, giving the franchise yet another Kentucky connection. I reconnected with him this spring at the Dallas airport. Big upcoming star in the industry and quite a decent person unlike Landham, who probably would terrify the actual Predator.
So, basically, I went to school with two people who fought an extraterrestrial species. If I ever pursue a master’s degree, I’m sure someone from Predator will be in the same classroom. Hell, I wouldn’t be surprised if I end up sitting next to this guy.