Who is That Actor: Vondie Curtis-Hall
Vondie Curtis-Hall showed up in two films I’ve screened recently – the still dazzling 1996 “hip” adaptation of Romeo+Juliet as Captain Prince and the Renny Harlan craptorium Die Hard 2: Die Harder, which Mr. Ebert felt was, “so skillfully constructed and well-directed, it develops a momentum that carries it past several credibility gaps that might have capsized a lesser film.” Those points might all be valid – not really – but nevertheless the film still stunk. Maybe, Ebert and I watched a completely different film! It stunk when I watched it with La Mommie 20 years ago and it still stinks now. Anyway, I noticed Vondie Curtis-Hall’s handsome chiseled face immediately, but I couldn’t think of his name, despite knowing he was one of those actors with three names a la James Earl Jones or Courtney B. Vance – an actor who he is often mistaken for. Curtis-Hall, a prolific actor/writer/director, is best known for his work as Dr. Dennis Hancock on Chicago Hope – the nice black doctor, versus Eriq La Salle who played the mean black doctor in ER. Oddly enough they both were in Coming to America! I am more familiar with Curtis-Hall’s voice from the cast recording of Dreamgirls where he originated the role of Marty, James “Thunder” Early’s original manager!
Despite having scant screen time in Romeo & Juliet, Curtis-Hall was quite memorable and took that Shakespearean English to school. With his strong features, smooth voice and commanding presence Curtis-Hall is your go to “handsome black doctor” when someone like say – Blair Underpants – would be far too sexy and obvious. Also, he is an accomplished thespian, which besides subtlety is also a quality Blair Underpants lacks. (I love Blair Undies! LOVE HIM.) He also seems to lose out on roles I think he’d rock – like the part Mykelti Williamson had in Heat – and often to Williamson! I find Curtis-Hall far more enjoyable on screen and bring gravitas to roles that Williamson definitely does not. In any case, Curtis-Hall is doing quite nicely for himself and appears to have several projects in the works! He even directed an episode of Boston Legal for his old boss David E. Kelley.