No.2 Michael Jai White
Claim To Fame: The ability to act.
If there’s one person on this list deserving of the label “actor,” it would be Michael Jai White. Multi-talented, equally at ease delivering roundhouse kicks or soliloquies, he’s starred in movies, television shows, lent his voice to countless animated projects, and has recently started writing and directing his own movies.
Most people will be familiar with his work on Spawn, the adaptation of the popular comic book. Or as a gangster who ends up on the wrong end of one of the Joker’s pranks in The Dark Knight. He earned massive kudos for his performance as Mike Tyson in a 1995 TV movie about the boxer’s life.
And yet, true fame continues to elude him. It shouldn’t. With superior speed that belies his massive bulk, impressive martial arts skills, and acting ability, there’s no valid reason why Michael Jai White isn’t a well known star. To see what all the fuss is about, it’s hard to beat the self-aware silliness of Black Dynamite.
For a taste of his lightning quick skills, go rent Blood And Bone, a truly superior example of direct-to-martial arts badassery.
Potential Expendables 3 Role: The Expendables roster is already crowded, so White could easily step into the villain’s shoes. I picture him taking on the entire Expendables lineup, single-handedly, and coming out on top.
No.1 Jeff Speakman
Claim To Fame: The Perfect Weapon
File this one under the “whatever happened to…?” label. For a brief window of time in 1991, Jeff Speakman was going to be the next Van Damme, the next big thing to happen to the martial arts genre. Sure, his breakthrough role in that year’s The Perfect Weapon was pretty standard genre fare aside from introducing audiences to Kenpo Karate, but Speakman had undeniable charisma and the skills to back it up and then – crickets. His next feature, Street Knight, went straight to video, as did the rest of his oeuvre, and Speakman himself seemed more and more bored with each subsequent film.
His output during the 2000s was almost nil, finally ending in 2006 with the release of Striking Range. According to his biography he’s spent the intervening years teaching Kenpo and earning several martial arts accolades. The man may be dedicated to his art, but he’s due for a comeback. Get on it, Stallone! In the meantime, we’ll always have this overwhelmingly ’90s moment:
Good Lord that song was annoying!
Potential Expendables 3 Role: Maybe a cameo. Something that makes Speakman’s fans say, “Hey, isn’t that the guy from…?”