Al Matthews found dead at his home in Alicante

Al Matthews, the actor best known for playing cigar-chewing Gunnery Sergeant Apone in Aliens, has died aged 75.

Before beginning his acting career, Matthews served in the Marine Corps in Vietnam, receiving 13 combat awards and two Purple Hearts.

The American’s body was found at this home in Alicante, Spain, by his neighbors. He is believed to have died of natural causes.

According to his website, he was the first black Marine in the 1st Marine Division in Vietnam to be promoted to sergeant.

A glorious acting career

Matthews had several key roles in blockbuster films throughout his acting career. He played the fire chief in Superman III (1983), a workman in Omen III: The Final Conflict (1981) and General Tudor in The Fifth Element (1997).

He also had small parts in Rough Cut (1980), Ragtime (1981) and Tomorrow Never Dies (1997).

He enjoyed a celebrated television career in the UK, including a role as the father of Benny Green on Grange Hill. He had a folk single titled Fool reach #16 in the UK Singles Chart in 1975 and became the first black person to serve as a presenter on BBC Radio 1.

His final acting role came in The Price Of Death, a 2018 Western that reportedly remains in post-production.

Matthews’ role as Sergeant Apone

Despite his glittering career, Matthews undoubtedly won the biggest plaudits for his role as Gunnery Sergeant Apone in the James Cameron sci-fi horror film Aliens.

The character, who would chew cigars throughout the film, endeared cinema audiences across the world with this no-nonsense attitude.

Speaking about his role in 2006, he said: “Yes, I was the only person in the movie not pretending to be a Marine; in fact, I taught the other actors how to look and act. Mr. Cameron was pleased with my input. He said he had no idea I was that good; had he known, my part would have been bigger.”

At the start of the film, the sergeant yells: “All right, sweethearts, what are you waiting for? Breakfast in bed? Another glorious day in the Corps. A day in the Marine Corps is like a day on the farm. Every meal’s a banquet. Every paycheck a fortune. Every formation a parade. I love the Corps!”

The character is later ambushed in the film and ends up as a host in the alien queen’s cocoon.

Almost 30 years after the film’s release, he voiced the same character in the video game Aliens: Colonial Marines (2013).

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