Joe Turkel, Actor in ‘The Shining’ and ‘Blade Runner,’ Dead at 94

Joe Turkel, who portrayed the haunting bartender in Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining and the creator of the replicants in Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner, has died. He was 94.

Turkel died Monday at Providence St. John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, his family announced.

Turkel also appeared in two other Kubrick films: as a gunman in the climactic shootout in The Killing (1956) and as a soldier sent to the firing squad in Paths of Glory (1957), which the lanky Brooklyn-born actor called the greatest film ever made. (Only Philip Stone has appeared in as many as three Kubrick movies.)

For Bert I. Gordon, Turkel appeared as Abu the Genie and as a gangster, respectively, in the 1960 releases The Boy and the Pirates and Tormented. He also played a prisoner of war in Robert Wise’s The Sand Pebbles (1966) and was the real-life bribe dispenser “Greasy Thumb” Guzik in Roger Corman’s The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre (1967).

Kubrick first spotted Turkel at work in the B-picture Man Crazy (1953). As the actor recalled on the Kubrick Universe podcast, the filmmaker told him “the picture was terrible, but I liked you and what you did and so I said I’ll have to hire that guy sometime.”

After his minor role in The Killing, the meticulous Kubrick cast Turkel, then 30, as one of the three soldiers used as scapegoats for a failed World War I attack in the classic Kirk Douglas-starrer Paths of Glory.

His character, the decorated soldier Private Arnaud, is chosen by drawing lots to be sent to his death along with Pvt. Ferol (Timothy Carey) and Cpl. Paris (Ralph Meeker). His spiral into despair and drunkenness leads to a fight; knocked unconscious, he absurdly is propped up on a stretcher before a firing squad.

Midway through The Shining (1980), aspiring writer and recovering alcoholic Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) wanders into The Overlook Hotel’s empty Gold Room and over to the bar, where in a state of insanity he pleads for a glass of beer.

Suddenly the lounge’s bartender, Lloyd (Turkel), appears and pours him a bourbon, even though Torrance doesn’t have any money. “I like you Lloyd, I always liked you,” Torrance says. “You were always the best of them. Best goddamned bartender from Timbuctoo to Portland, Maine — Portland, Oregon, for that matter.”

When Torrance returns to the room, Lloyd is still behind the bar, but now it’s packed with party guests from the 1920s.

Turkel speaks a total of 96 words in his two scenes. In 2014, he pointed out that rehearsals took six weeks while “Stanley was looking for the perfect shot” and he was on the set one day from 9 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. “I got to my dressing room, took my shirt off, took my T-shirt off and wrung [the sweat] out.”

Turkel’s dressing room was next to Nicholson’s, and in Scott Edwards’ 2018 book Quintessential Jack, he recalled how he spotted an open book about the effects of freezing laying across Nicholson’s chest before the filming of The Shining’s final snow sequence.

“Look, for the last scene, my character freezes and I want to know just how it happens. I want to get it … feel it … show it … as it is,” Nicholson told him.

Thanks to The Shining, Scott cast him as Dr. Eldon Tyrell in Blade Runner (1982). “Joe had this kind of waxen make-up or quality of his skin,” the director says on the film’s DVD commentary, “and Joe was so cleanly shaven that it was almost like polished ivory.”

Tyrell, living in a giant pyramid, runs a corporation that creates replicants with a life span of four years — “more human than human,” his company slogan reads.

Late in the film, while cocooned in a heavy white robe and wearing large glasses, Tyrell is visited by his most prized and advanced replicant, Roy Batty (Rutger Hauer), who demands an extension to his soon-to-be expiring life.

Tyrell tells him that “the light that burns twice as bright burns half as long, and you have burned so very, very brightly, Roy.”

In one of the movie’s most astonishing moments, Batty, realizing his creator cannot fulfill his wish, kisses Tyrell on the lips before crushing his head and eyes in with his bare hands.

For the bloody effect, tubes were run behind Turkel’s ears, and as Hauer (on his first day on set) began squeezing his face, makeup artist Marvin G. Westmore pumped fake blood through the tubes. (The crew had created a prosthetic dummy head of Turkel, but it was never used onscreen. It would find a home in the office of visual effects maestro Douglas Trumbull.)

Born on July 15, 1927, Turkel got started on his film career in the late 1940s, appearing in film noirs including City Across the River (1949), The Glass Wall (1953), Duffy of San Quentin (1954), The Human Jungle (1954) and The Naked Street (1955); in war films like Halls of Montezuma and Fixed Bayonets!, both from 1951; and in such comedies as Down Among the Sheltering Palms (1952) and A Slight Case of Larceny (1953).

He played the crime cousin Chuck Darrow in The Bonnie Parker Story (1958), the sheriff in Gordon’s Valley of the Giants (1965) and a detective in Wise’s The Hindenburg (1975).

On television, he could be seen on Boston Blackie, Public Defender, The Lone Ranger, The Lineup, Bonanza, The Untouchables, Tales From the Darkside and Miami Vice.

His final film appearance came in 1990 in The Dark Side of the Moon, and he reprised his role of Tyrell, in voice only, for a 1997 Blade Runner video game.

Just before his death, Turkel completed a memoir titled The Misery of Success, which the family plans to publish this year.

He lived in Santa Monica since the early ’90s, and he could be spotted at various restaurants and businesses around town, including Fromin’s Deli, Izzy’s, Bagel Nosh, Marmalade, Rosti, Spumoni and the Aero Theatre.

Survivors include his sons, Craig and Robert; daughters-in-law Annie and Casilde; brother David; and grandchildren Ben and Sarah. Those wishing to attend his funeral at Hollywood Forever Cemetery are asked to email JosephTurkel1927@gmail.com.

In Dennis Fischer’s 2000 book Science Fiction Film Directors, Turkel recalled asking Kubrick why he called for a 17th take of an actor simply walking down a corridor. “I’ve worked four years preparing this film, I want it fucking perfect,” was his reply.

On Paths of Glory, Turkel witnessed Adolphe Menjou getting frustrated with the constant reshooting of a lengthy and wordy scene he had with George Macready.

“Mr. Kubrick, when are you going to say cut and print?” he remembered Menjou yelling at Kubrick. “I broke in with Charlie Chaplin, who gave me my start, but never have I been put under such pressure as you are putting us under now.”

But Kubrick continued with more retakes. When shooting wrapped, Turkel asked the director which take he would use in the film. “The very first one after the screaming,” Kubrick said. “There was a certain tone to his voice that matched the fucking scene that appeared only in the first take after the anger.”

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