You may not know the name but the face you will have seen on the big and small screen. For Robert Tessier being a tough guy was not an onscreen act – the man was a paratrooper in the Korean War who earned a Silver Star and Purple Heart!
Born on June 2nd 1934 in Lowell, Massachusetts (of Algonquian Indian descent), Tessier gained fame as an actor and stuntman who played heavy, menacing characters on film and television.
Known as an accomplished motorcycle rider, Tessier gained fame performing motorcycle stunts in the circus (later in his career he would form a stunt troupe called Stunts Unlimited with director Hal Needham). This brought him to the attention of director Tom Laughlin who cast him in The Born Losers as Cueball (his nickname). From there roles came flooding in and Tessier notched up big screen appearances in The Glory Stompers, Run Angel Run!, Five The Hardway, The Babysitter, and Cry Blood Apache.
In 1971, Tessier appeared on the small screen in the TV movie Cannon. Further TV roles included appearances on Kung Fu, Little House on the Prairie, Centennial, Starsky & Hutch, Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, Hart To Hart, The Dukes of Hazzard, The Incredible Hulk, Fantasy Island, CHiPS, Manimal, Magnum P.I., The A-Team, Spenser: For Hire, Silver Spoons, The Fall Guy, and Sledge Hammer.
Through his many roles Tessier shared the screen with numerous icons but appearing opposite his good friend Burt Reynolds as Shokner in The Longest Yard is one of the most memorable. He would later appear opposite Reynolds again in The Cannonball Run.
Another memorable turn by Tessier was as Jim Henry, the bare knuckle fighter, who clashes with Charles Bronson in Hard Times. Further film roles in The Deep, The Jesus Trip, Outlaw Riders, Gentle Savage, Doc Savage: The Man of Bronze, Starcrash, The Sword and the Sorcerer, Future Force, and Fists of Steel.
In his spare time, Tessier was an accomplished cabinet maker often making pieces for his co-stars.
Sadly, Tessier passed away at the age of 56 years old on October 11th 1990 following a battle with cancer. They really don’t make them like they used to.