Life is brief. No less of a sage than Seneca mused on the brevity of The Great Equalizer in his ode, On the Shortness of Life: “Whatever can happen at any time can happen today.” For veteran character actor Danny Hicks (Evil Dead 2, Spider-Man 2, Darkman) today came entirely way too soon. This versatile thespian was a legendary part of director Sam Raimi’s acting troupe who always managed to find their way into whatever this auteur’s latest project may be. By the sheer grace of his quirky line readings and uber-acting chops, Hicks graced many-a Raimi flick and other often overlooked filmatic gems and created indelible moments that will live on in our celluloid history forever. Mr. Hicks died yesterday at the impossibly too young age of 68.
In a social media post Full Empire, Danny’s convention management team, issued a statement saying that the venerable actor had “passed away at his home in CA. We love you Danny, rest easy my friend.”
Earlier this month I had written an article asking that any fans who could afford to give a little bit of extra money to assist Danny with his mounting medical bills which had accumulated due to his battle with advanced cancer to please do so. Little did I know when I scribbled out that article that the end was so near for a man who had unknowingly brought so much joy to so many film fans, particularly those fans of the horror genre.
And speaking of the horror genre, Danny’s big calling card and ultimate epitaph was to be a part of Sam Raimi’s 1987 horror cult classic, The Evil Dead 2. In the film, Danny played the character of Jake, a through line descendant of Jethro Bodine and those creepy hillbillies from Deliverance. This Pontiac, Michigan native was new to film, but you sure wouldn’t know it as he went head to prominent chin with Bruce Campbell’s put upon Everyman, Ash Williams and he did so with considerable aplomb. Hillbilly Jake might have left that cabin in several different body bags, but Danny Hicks the actor dropped the mic and roared out of that Renaissance Pictures production with a legitimate and formidable career ahead of him.
And what a career it was: From ably trading dialogue with Liam Neeson in 1990’s Darkman to essaying to perfection a harried train commuter in 2004’s Spider-Man 2, Hicks left his mark on any and all parts he played, be they big or be they small. The man was cut from the same cloth and descended from the same acting league as other character actors such as Dick Miller, Ann Dowd and Pat Healy. Once you saw him you never forgot him. In that sense, Danny was a true star, a leading man in every sense of the word.
A quick word should also be put on public record about how generous and giving Hicks was to his adoring fan base. He was always approachable, always quick with a kind word and in giving out an autograph to a polite fan. As someone who has dealt personally with the opposite end of that spectrum (only a couple of times, thank the Ghost of Frank Capra), Danny was a true mensch.
And now, just a month after my first article on him, Danny Hicks is gone. Like I said, life is brief. Wordsmith Thornton Wilder once famously wrote that, “The highest tribute to the dead is not grief but gratitude.” Salient words and I’ll do my level best to remember them even as my genre-loving heart breaks into a million little pieces over this loss. Danny Hicks was an American Original and anytime I’m faced with the prospect of having to venture down into my cavernous and dark basement to fix a fuse I’ll remember him with a smile.