Brion Howard James (February 20, 1945 – August 7, 1999) was an American character actor. Known for playing the character of Leon Kowalski in the movie Blade Runner, James portrayed a variety of colorful roles in well-known films such as 48 Hrs., Another 48 Hours, Tango & Cash, Red Heat, The Player and The Fifth Element. James' commanding screen presence and formidable physique at 6 feet 3 inches (1.91 m) tall usually resulted in his casting as a heavy, appearing more frequently in lower budget horror and action films throughout the 1980s and 1990s. James appeared in more than 100 films before he died of a heart attack aged 54.
James was born in Redlands, California, the son of Ida Mae (née Buckelew) and Jimmy James. He spent his early years in Beaumont, California, where his parents owned and operated a movie theater; James had said, "My story is like Cinema Paradiso. Every night in my life since I was 2 years old... I ran movies". After graduating from high school in 1962, James attended San Diego State University as a Theater Arts major. James was good friends with actor Tim Thomerson, as both served together as cooks in a tank company while in the Army Reserve in California. After their service, they both went to New York to break into acting. Migrating to New York, James immersed himself in the theater scene, taking on bit roles here and there.
His only starring role was in the low-budget 1989 supernatural horror film The Horror Show (aka House III), where he played serial killer "Meat Cleaver Max" Jenke.
In 1994, he played a grouchy sponsor who became a victim of the gruesome goings-on during a 1939 radio show in the film Radioland Murders. Another of his most memorable roles came near the end of his career, as the amiable General Munro in The Fifth Element (1997).
Concerning his talent for playing villains in films, he stated in an interview in Fangoria magazine, "'I consider myself a classical character actor like Lon Chaney, Wallace Beery, Charles Laughton. I always like to play bad guys. I'm real good at psychotic behavior."