Steven Berkoff - The Most Mercenary Actor In Hollywood

Whilst we watched Fair Game last week, Gort was oddly silent. Eventually, he admitted his concern that his data banks had become corrupted. "This Russian villain played by a man named Berkoff?" he asked, "My information says he's English and a famous playwright?"

After briefly considering allowing Gort to spend several hours unnecessarily debugging his software for a laugh, I owned up and told him that Berkoff was a man who funded his plays by taking on the crappiest roles he could find, even ones that he only got because people thought he was Russian, all the while slagging these films off to the press.

"Fascinating," Gort muttered, with an evil, respectful glint in his ocular visor, "Tell me more..."


Born Leslie Steven Berks in the East End of London in 1937, the man who would take the name of Steven Berkoff has become one of the greatest playwrights of the twentieth century. His work covers everything from adaptations of Kafka stories to a play set in a - ahem - massage parlour. To subsidise his work, he takes any and all Hollywood roles he is offered, while showing outright disdain for the trashy movies that are his bread and butter. Despite this, the man is a professional and chomps the scenery in every screen appearance, which exactly why we love him.

B-movie highlights

Rambo First Blood: Part II

Playing the film's main villain, a sadistic Russian General, Berkoff proves himself to be the man you want to go to when you need a really nasty bad guy. Despite minimal screen time, Berkoff still comes off as a guy you love to hate and watching him get blown up is almost enough to make you forgive Stallone for The Expendables... almost.


Despite not being the main villain in this Roger Moore outing, not to mention coming across as slightly cowardly and his Russian accent making it seems like he's trying not to dribble a mouthful of porridge at all times, Berkoff's sinister General Orlov has a delicious air of mania about him. Also note that, despite playing an almost-identical character to his role in Rambo above, Berkoff doesn't just act out the same part.

Beverly Hills Cop

Given what has come since, it is hard to remember that Eddie Murphy actually used to be good. Particularly, his scenes here with Berkoff's drug smuggler pretending to be an art dealer are both funny and tense. Berkoff actually gets centre stage here and he manages to be menacing and dislikeable, but still charismatic; perfect fodder for Murphy to foil.

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