Take me right back to the track, Jack
-  Louis Jordan, "Choo Choo Ch'boogie"

Sean Connery (1930-     )

Sean Connery in the Rock

Sean Connery. What can you say about Sean Connery.
Sean Connery, basically, is the man. He made his name playing a DJ'd thug, murderer and sometime rapist, and nobody batted an eyelid. But while some may see his Bond days as his finest hours however, for my money Connery really came into his own when he started going grey.
I'm not denying that he's been in some total rubbish since then (Entrapment and The Presido leap to mind as but two examples), but weighed against that are the likes of Robin and Marion (the only film, to my knowledge, which deals with the grim final act of the Robin Hood legend), The Name of the Rose (the premature death of Bernard de Gui notwithstanding), and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. His earlier droll tough-guy act gave way to the grizzled campaigner of Robin and Marion and The Rock (a truly splendid film in its class and I'll fight anyone who says otherwise), or the patrician dignity of Dr Henry Jones and Brother William of Baskerville.
While he may not be the greatest of actors, Sir Sean brings dignity and force to roles which in lesser hands might seem positively ludicrous. He is - simply put - a star.

Sean Connery's page on the IMDB.

Ashur-Uballit and Rameses II

These are two men - both of whom I got to know about in detail from studying oriental archaeology - who are basically in the list because only Sean Connery could play them. Well, Sean Connery or Oded Feyd, the world's largest living arab. The hard men of the ancient near and middle east, Ashur-Uballit and Rameses II were both military rulers, conquerors, politicos and all-round bad ass mothers.

Ashur-uballit (reigned c.1365-1330BC) was the king of Assyria. His daughter married Burnaburiash II, King of Babylon, but following Burnaburiash's death Ashur-uballit's grandson, Karu-hardash, was murdered and usurped by a Babylonian named Nazi-bugash. While most men of that time - including kings - were dead before they managed to become great-grandfathers, Ashur-uballit apparently retained sufficient capacity, command and sense of security to take an army into Babylon to depose Nazi-bugash and place his great-grandson, Kurigalzu II, on the throne, with his daughter acting as regent in the boys infancy. Ashur-uballit makes the list therefore on the grounds of longevity and being a family kinda guy, as well as just a tough guy.

Rameses the Great (1279-1213BC) - immortalised by being beaten by Moses in many a film and TV presentation - was one of the mightiest rulers of the Egyptian New Kingdom. A mighty warrior, he was also a great builder, responsible for some of Egypt's greatest temples, most featuring the not entirely humble image of Rameses, towering godlike over the earth. He was also - along with a number of other Dynasty XIX pharaohs - a staunch supporter of the cult of the God Seth. Seth was ruler of all foreign lands, and when he was in favour you can usually be sure that Egyptian 'foreign policy' was enjoying considerable success. (For the record, as well as his military success, Rameses forged a successful peace treaty with the - presumably rather battered - Hittites to the East).
He was also - like Ashur-uballit - something of a family man, and a long-lived one at that. His sixty-six year reign was considerably longer than most Pharoah's lifetimes, as demonstrated by the fact that he not only outlived his (principal) wife, Nefertari, but also many of his children, so that on his death he was succeeded not by his first but by his thirteenth son. His mummy, when excavated, proved to still have some red hair on the dessicated scalp.

Merodach-baladan (c.700-689BC)

Merodach-baladan - another guy I came across during my studies - was a persistent bastard. He first rises to power in c.721BC, in Babylon. In 720BC he refused to pay tribute to the Assyrian king Sargon II, and in the ensuing battle the surviving records of both sides claim a decisive victory. Whatever the case, Merodach-baladan continued to rule Babylon until 710BC, when Sargon returned and drove him out.
In 704BC Merodach-baladan returned, reclaimed his throne, and was promptly run off by Sargon's successor, Sennacherib. In 700BC this whole thing was repeated. In 694BC, Sennacherib - presumably following further uprisings, pursued Merodach-baladan into the marshes of Southern Babylon, at which point the Elamites swept around his flank and bagged Babylon for themselves. A few years later Sennacherib, aparrently sick to death of the whole business, returned to Babylon, stole the main statue of the chief god Marduk (as just about every self-respecting conqueror of Babylon had done), diverted the water supplies and razed the city to the ground.
We hear little more of Merodach-baladan from history, but I admire his pluck, if not his tactical success, common sense or survival instinct.

Aethelflaed, Lady of Mercia (d.918)

OK; admittedly this tough guy is a tough girl, but I say more power to her.
These days frequently referred to as 'The Warrior Princess', Aethelflaed was pretty much just that. Daughter of Alfred the Great, brother of Edward the Elder, wife of Aethelraed, Aeldorman of Mercia, she fortified Mercia with the system of defended settlements, or burghs, pioneered by her father, and is believed to have led her troops personally in battle. After her husband's death in 911, she seems to have ruled Mercia on her own until she too died, and was known as the Lady of Mercia. While it is quite possible that she has been subject to a certain amount of romanticising, she was certainly a remarkable woman.

Jean Reno

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The world's coolest living Frenchman, bar none, Jean Reno first impacted on me in the film Leon, known in America as The Professional. In other roles - or perhaps the same one with different names - Reno also shone in La Femme Nikita (the original movie, not the God-awful Australian TV series) and in Ronin, a film which traded heavily on the charisma of its stars to balance out a pretty paltry storyline, and which basically scraped in as acceptable solely on the basis of Reno's - surprise surprise - moody French gunman.
Hell; the man was even cool in Godzilla, and that has to be worth something.

James Earl Jones

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James Earl Jones has a gift, which is basically that he could make cheese sound important and dramatic. Not for nothing is he a prolific narrator as well as an actor, and the voice that tells you - without a shadow of a doubt - that this is CNN.

James Earl Jones' page on the IMDB