Thirty seconds was all it took for famed director and film producer James Cameron to realize that he was in the presence of a star in Al Matthews, who took on the role of the intimidating Sergeant Apone in the science fiction blockbuster Aliens.
Unfortunately, Cameron and everyone else who loved the actor, singer and Vietnam veteran will be deprived of Matthews’ one-of-a-kind spirit after the 75-year-old passed away this weekend at his Spanish Mediterranean home.
Beloved actor is gone
According to the Spanish language newswire EFE, a neighbor found Matthews deceased in his bed around 10 p.m. local time on Saturday night. As of today, the exact cause of his death remains undisclosed.
Born in Brooklyn, New York in 1942, Matthews emigrated to the United Kingdom in the 1970s. He eventually retired to the Spanish Coast in 2005.
The larger-than-life characters Matthews portrayed were clearly influenced by his eventful and adventurous lifestyle. A Vietnam War veteran who served for six years and was honored with 13 combat medals, including two Purple Hearts, Matthews was a perfect fit for the hard-charging role of Sergeant Apone. While on the set of the cult classic space thriller, Matthews recalled how it was easy for him to take on the familiar role of a Marine sergeant.
“I was the only person in the movie not pretending to be a Marine, in fact I taught the other actors how to look and act,” he said. “Mr. Cameron was pleased with my input, in fact he said to me, he had no idea I was that good, had he known, my part would have been bigger.”
“What are you waiting for, breakfast in bed?”
In one particularly memorable scene where Apone wakes the crew of the USS Sulaco after a long sleep, Matthews’ hard-nosed dialogue was delivered with the ease of a drill sergeant:
“All right, sweethearts, what are you waiting for? Breakfast in bed? Another glorious day in the Corps. A day in the Marine Corps is like a day on the farm. Every meal’s a banquet. Every paycheck a fortune. Every formation a parade. I LOVE the Corps!”
While Matthews never experienced the long-term success enjoyed by some of his Aliens castmates, he continued landing roles in movies like Superman III, The Fifth Element and Tomorrow Never Dies. In 2013, he was even invited to reprise his Apone role for doing voice-overs for the video game Aliens: Colonial Marines.
Matthews’ influence on video game culture doesn’t end there, either. Gunnery Sergeant Avery Johnson from the XBox is said to be inspired by Apone.
Before landing any major acting roles, however, Matthews was a hit singer in Europe, releasing the successful single “Fool” in Europe. His official webpage notes that the song topped the charts throughout the continent, landing top ten honors is 15 nations and demonstrating his international appeal.
The exuberant actor also enjoyed a successful television career. He was invited to play Benny Green’s father in several appearances on Grange Hill, and also picked up roles in shows like Shelley, The Professionals, and The Comic Strip Presents.
Fans who want to see the actor perform in one last film can do so later this year when a Western film titled The Price of Death hits theaters.