John Vernon, né Adolphus Raimundus Vernon Agopsowicz, actor (b at Zehner, Sask 24 Feb 1932; d at Los Angeles, 1 Feb 2005). John Vernon, with his strong presence and deep, resonant voice, made a career predominantly out of playing the villainous, the officious and the corrupt.
Vernon began performing onstage in high school before going on to study theatre at the Banff School of Fine Arts. He was then awarded a place at London's prestigious Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. Upon completion of his formal training, Vernon spent time with London-based repertory troupes before returning to Canada and first working as a spear-carrier with the STRATFORD FESTIVAL OF CANADA.
His first screen work was his uncredited vocal contribution to the 1956 version of George Orwell's enduring tale 1984, for which he provided the voice of Big Brother. His first significant work onscreen was with the CBC, performing theatre live on-air every week. This stint ultimately led to his breakthrough role as a coroner in one of the CBC's first hit drama series, Wojeck (1966-68). Its cinéma-vérite style of shooting was innovative at the time, and though the run was limited to 20 episodes, the series brought Vernon to the attention of viewers as well as of Hollywood production heavyweights. In 1992 he reprised this role for the TV movie Wojeck: Out of the Fire.
Vernon started his career in Hollywood doing voice work for animated series likeThe Sub-Mariner, Captain America, Hulk and Iron Man in the mid-1960s. He made guest appearances on the hit shows Mission: Impossible, Hawaii Five-O, The A Team, Murder She Wrote, Knight Rider and MacGyver while pursuing his film career at home and abroad. Vernon played a supporting role in the NFB-funded psychological docudrama NOBODY WAVED GOODBYE (1964). Largely improvised, this film was the first feature to successfully combine documentary filming techniques with narrative fiction and remains a landmark of English-Canadian cinema.
Highlights of Vernon's prolific film career include 1967's neo-noir classic Point Blank opposite Lee Marvin, Alfred Hitchcock's thriller Topaz (1969), and Dirty Harry (1971), starring Clint Eastwood, with whom he worked again on The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976). In 1977 he played opposite Sophia Loren and Marcello Mastroianni in the Italian-Canadian co-production A Special Day. John Landis's 1978 cult classic Animal House allowed Vernon to stretch his comedic muscles as the officious Dean Vernon Wormer, who declares war on the worst campus fraternity. Vernon went on to appear in such comedies as Herbie Goes Bananas (1980), Airplane II (1982) with William SHATNER, and the blaxploitation spoof I'm Gonna Git You, Sucka (1988).
In the last 10 years of his life Vernon returned to voice work, providing numerous vocals for video games. He was a member of the Actors Branch of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.