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Steve James
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Steve James

Steve James may have been most famous for a role in which he spoofed his heroic screen image, as the accident prone street fighter Kung Fu Joe in Keenan Ivory Wayans' blaxploitation parody I'm Gonna Git You Sucka (1988). But James was also the genuine article, a rising star in the world of martial arts action movies when he died of cancer in 1995, at the age of 43.

A native New Yorker, born into a show business family, James attended C.W. Post College as an Arts and Theater major, and did his first work in films as a member of the Baseball Furies street gang in Walter Hill's The Warriors (1979). This literally faceless appearance in full clown make-up led to steady work as a stuntman in New York-based productions like The Wanderers (1979), Dressed to Kill (1980), and Ragtime (1981).

Like many American martial artists James first found work as a star performer in Hong Kong, in Enter the Game of Death (1978) and Bruce vs. Black Dragon (1977). Upon his return to the States, he worked in mainstream films like Mask (1985), Weird Science (1985), and The Player (1992), while quickly becoming a favorite of action fans in The Exterminator (1980), the American Ninja film series, and many others. He was often cast as the hero's sidekick, observes an on-line fan site devoted to James, "despite usually being a better actor and a better fighter than the star."

Steve James played the title role in the pilot episode of the Fox TV series Mantis, which aired shortly after his death.

Note: This profile was written in or before 2002.

Steve James Facts

Awards1995 MTV Movie Awards: Best New Filmmaker (for Hoop Dreams)

Selected Filmography

Not available.