What ever happened to James Marshall?
Whenever the subject of Twin Peaks comes up, that question gets asked a lot. Marshall played the sensitive (and oft-ridiculed) motorcycle-riding rebel James Hurley on Twin Peaks and, after the show’s cancellation, he went on to play a key supporting role in A Few Good Men. Marshall’s role may not have been huge but he managed to hold his own against actors like Tom Cruise, Jack Nicholson, and Kevin Bacon.
And then after A Few Good Men, nothing.
Why did James Marshall disappear?
He starred in a movie called Gladiator.
No, not the Russell Crowe movie that won all the Oscars. This Gladiator is about Tommy Riley (played by James Marshall), a teenager who moves to Chicago from Massachusetts. As one of the only white kids in his new neighborhood, Tommy finds himself being harassed by the local gangs. One night, he gets into a fight in a parking lot. (Fortunately, none of the neighborhood gangs carry guns or knives. They settle everything with fists.) Pappy Jack (Robert Loggia) is so impressed with Tommy’s fighting skills that he recruits Tommy to fight in illegal, underground boxing matches. Normally, Tommy would say no but he needs the money to help his father (John Heard) pay off his gambling debts.
Once recruited, Tommy is trained by the wise Noah (Ossie Davis) and works for boxing promoter, Jimmy Horn. Horn is played by all-purpose bad guy Brian Dennehy, who gives such a villainous performance that even Lance Henriksen would say, “Dude, dial it down a notch.” Tommy befriends two other boxers, Romano (Jon Seda) and Lincoln (Cuba Gooding, Jr.). At the time that Gladiator was filmed, Marshall was hot off of Twin Peaks and Gooding was hot off of Boyz ‘n The Hood. Fortunately, Gooding’s role is actually pretty small so he survived Gladiator and was able to go on to win an Oscar for Jerry Maguire and play O.J. Simpson in American Crime Story. Marshall was less lucky.
At one time, I thought that no one could be a least convincing boxer than Damon Wayans was in The Great White Hype. Then I watched Gladiator and saw James Marshall dancing around the ring and throwing punches. Normally, good editing can be used to disguise a lack of athletic ability but both Marshall and Gooding are so miscast as boxers that all the editing in the world can’t help. Jon Seda, who actually was an amateur boxer before getting into acting, is more convincing in the ring but his character is so saintly that anyone watching will know better than to get too attached to him.
A still notorious flop at the box office, Gladiator was directed by Rowdy Herrington but it’s no Roadhouse.