See the Cast of ‘They Live’ Then and Now
John Carpenter’s ‘They Live’ has become a cult classic since its initial release in 1988. The film starred professional wrestler Roddy Piper as a drifter who discovers — with the aid of some awesome sunglasses — that the upper class members of the population are actually aliens controlling society through a TV signal. 25 years after ‘They Live’ first hit theaters, we take a look back at the cast of the film and see what they’re up to now.
Roddy Piper, John Nada
Then: Director John Carpenter had a limited budget of $3 million for ‘They Live,’ so he needed an actor that wouldn’t come with a big price tag, which was fine, since he didn’t want a huge star anyway. He met wrestler Roddy Piper at Wrestlemania in 1987, and cast him in the role of John Nada, the drifter who unwittingly discovers that aliens are controlling human affairs. Nada’s famous line, “I have come here to chew bubble gum and kick ass, and I’m all out of bubble gum,” was actually ad-libbed by Piper.
Now: Piper has retired from professional wrestling a couple of times, but can’t seem to stay away. In 2013, he created Portland Wrestling Uncut, a local Oregon wrestling show. The wrestler has appeared in several B-movies, including the recent releases ‘Medusa’ and ‘Pro Wrestlers vs. Zombies.’
Keith David, Frank Armitage
Then: Carpenter was impressed by Keith David’s performance in his film ‘The Thing,’ and knew he could kick ass and hold his own as John Nada’s sidekick. The director wrote the part of Frank specifically for David.
Now: David’s many film credits include ‘Dead Presidents,’ ‘Requiem for a Dream,’ and ‘Crash,’ and he recently starred in ‘Cloud Atlas.’ The actor has an incredibly notable voice, and has used it to do a ton of voice-acting work, including narration for WWE games (Piper was a member of the WWE for many years) and playing the role of Nick Fury in ‘Marvel Heroes.’
Meg Foster, Holly Thompson
Then: Meg Foster, who had previously played Evil-Lyn in ‘Masters of the Universe,’ portrayed Holly Thompson, a local news channel assistant director. John Nada tries to convince her of the alien conspiracy and save her, but she shoves him out a window.
Now: Foster played the role of Chris Cagney in the first six episodes of ‘Cagney and Lacey,’ but when the show was picked up to series, she was replaced by Sharon Gless. She has guest-starred on several others shows, including ‘The Cosby Show,’ ‘Miami Vice,’ and ‘ER,’ and recently appeared in Rob Zombie’s ‘The Lords of Salem.’
Peter Jason, Gilbert
Then: Peter Jason, who had previously appeared in Carpenter’s ‘Prince of Darkness,’ played Gilbert, a member of a group of underground activists who help John Nada and Frank.
Now: Jason has appeared in seven Carpenter films and 12 Walter Hill films, as well as over 100 commercials and dozens of TV shows, including ‘Mad Men,’ ‘Desperate Housewives,’ and ‘Deadwood.’ He played two recurring characters on ‘Arrested Development’: Storage Dave and Mr. Jackson.
Sy Richardson, Black Revolutionary
Then: Sy Richardson, who made his acting debut as the fairy godmother in the 1977 erotic musical comedy ‘Cinderella,’ played an unnamed black revolutionary in ‘They Live.’
Now: Richardson is known best for his work with director Alex Cox, appearing in the films ‘Repo Man,’ ‘Sid and Nancy,’ and ‘Straight to Hell,’ among others. He had a recurring role as the coroner on the TV series ‘Pushing Daisies,’ and had guest-starred on ‘NCIS’ and ‘Rizzoli and Isles.’ Richardson currently teaches an acting workshop.