Brian Thompson has played parts ranging from the Zen Buddhist Birkenstock-wearing sheriff of Key West, to the raging psycho cult leader in the film Cobra, the universe-conquering super villain in Mortal Kombat II, and numerous science fiction, fantasy, and comedy films, including the part of Buffalo Bob, where he “put Joe Dirt in the hole” in Joe Dirt.
He began his career with a bit part in 1984’s The Terminator.
He followed that up with “bad guy” roles on Otherworld, Street Hawk, and Knight Rider before landing the role in the Sylvester Stallone 1986 vehicle, Cobra. Although the film was critically panned, it was a commercial success. The New York Times wrote of Thompson’s portrayal, “the archvillain, a character that is a cross between a James Bond fantasy villain such as Jaws and a raging psychopath, delivers a scorching monologue – a feat of linguistic sophistication that Cobra would have a hard time matching.”
He appeared in the film Rage and Honor (1992) as Conrad Drago. In 1993, Thompson landed a role in the large ensemble series Key West which was filmed on location in the Florida Keys. The series lasted for 13 episodes. In a departure from his previous work, he played a “new-age sheriff”, which Thompson stated was his favorite role of his career.
The following year, Thompson began his tenure on X-Files and followed that with roles in the science fiction-fantasy series Seven Days, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and Charmed. Between these, Thompson made dozens of appearances in other shows and films, often in similar roles. In 1996, he appeared in Dragonheart as the lead henchman of David Thewlis’ villainous king. The fantasy film, starring Dennis Quaid and Sean Connery, was a moderate success.
Thompson then returned to the big screen as lead antagonist Shao Kahn in the film adaptation of Mortal Kombat: Annihilation.
In 2014, Thompson released The Extendables, a film he produced, written and starred in. A parody of movies like The Expendables, Thompson stated that it contained true-to-life instances from his own career.