There's a long history of actors winning Oscars for portraying Nazis in war films. But playing a Neo-Nazi? That's a different story. Be it neo-Nazi, KKK member, skinhead or white nationalist, actors such as Edward Norton, J.K. Simmons, Patrick Stewart and even Daniel Radcliffe have all given fiery, hateful performances on screen. Now Topher Grace has made headlines playing former Ku Klux Klan grand wizard David Duke in Spike Lee's "BlacKkKlansman," opening in theaters Friday. Here are some other famous actors who have shaved their heads or donned a white hood for a role.
Tim Roth in "Made in Britain" (1982)
Tim Roth made his onscreen debut in Alan Clarke's TV movie "Made in Britain." He played a teenage, British skinhead who rejects authority, frequently gets violent and has a torrent of four-letter words in his arsenal. Roger Ebert called
Roth's performance "truly satanic."
20th Century Fox
Russell Crowe in "Romper Stomper" (1992)
Before he was famous, Russell Crowe played a skinhead fighting to keep his neighborhood from changing in this provocative and rambunctious Australian film that the trailers compared to "Mad Max" and "A Clockwork Orange."
Columbia Pictures Corporation
James Woods in "Ghosts of Mississippi" (1996)
James Woods portrayed real-life Klansman Byron de la Beckwith in the Rob Reiner courtroom drama "Ghosts of Mississippi." Beckwith was convicted of murder for assassinating civil rights leader Medgar Evers in 1963.
J.K. Simmons in "Oz" (1997)
For six years, J.K. Simmons played the incarcerated neo-Nazi Vern Schillinger on "Oz." In an interview with NPR
, Simmons joked that Schillinger may appear evil, but he's really just a "sweetheart." "My general philosophy of playing bad guys, which I've sort of done, you know, half the time is, you know, very few people who we view as bad guys get out of bed and think what evil, terrible thing am I going to do today? Most people see their motivations as justified -- as, you know, justifying whatever they do," he said.
New Line Cinema
Edward Norton in "American History X" (1998)
Tony Kaye's cult film "American History X" is notorious for its hyper-violent curb stomping scene, its pointed dialogue and Edward Norton's ferocious and scarily eloquent performance as Derek Vinyard, who tries to reform and prevent his brother from following his same hateful path after getting out of prison.
Lions Gate Films
Ryan Gosling in "The Believer" (2001)
After winning big at Sundance in 2001 and sparking protests at screenings, "The Believer" delayed its release to 2002 in the wake of 9/11. Ryan Gosling plays a Jew and apple of his rabbi's eye turned into a scarily intelligent anti-Semite. The film is based on the true story of a New York Times report in the '60s that revealed a KKK member to be Jewish.
Kismet Entertainment Group
Jeremy Renner in "Neo Ned" (2005)
In this unusual romantic comedy, Jeremy Renner plays a member of the Aryan Brotherhood recently out of a mental institution who falls for a woman (Gabrielle Union) who believes she's the reincarnation of Adolf Hitler.
Stephen Graham in "This Is England" (2006)
Shane Meadows' British coming-of-age story follows an outcast boy who falls in with a group of other outcasts (skinheads) and is taken under the wing of a gang leader named Combo (Stephen Graham).
Marilyn Manson in "Sons of Anarchy" (2014)
Rocker Marilyn Manson provided a surprising jolt to the final season of "Sons of Anarchy," portraying white supremacist Ron Tully, who helped Charlie Hunnam's Jax expand his power. Manson said
he took the part to make his father proud.
Patrick Stewart in "Green Room" (2015)
Patrick Stewart was quite the surprise casting choice as a villain in Jeremy Saulnier's "Green Room." A punk band finds themselves trapped after witnessing a murder, and Stewart plays the leader of a group of neo-Nazis with a menacing calm.
Daniel Radcliffe in "Imperium" (2016)
Since leaving Harry Potter, Daniel Radcliffe has played everyone on screen from a millennial looking for love to Alan Ginsberg to a farting corpse. And in 2016, he didn't quite play a white supremacist, but an FBI agent attempting to infiltrate a group of skinheads. His performance was praised by critics as bearing the weight of his job and empathizing with his hateful brothers.
Topher Grace in "BlacKkKlansman" (2018)
Topher Grace told Vanity Fair that his portrayal of David Duke in Spike Lee's latest film represented a more clean-cut, polished person than how Hollywood typically portrays racist characters. “This really intelligent, really evil guy kind of figured out this rebranding,” Grace said
. “Obviously, David Duke is a horrible person. But the role was so juicy.”