If you ever wanted a 6’ 5”, musclebound, broad-shouldered, shaved-head actor to play a terrifying bodyguard, a soldier of fortune or a fearsome gangster, then Tommy “Tiny” Lister Jr. was your man. The basketball player turned actor, who notched up appearances in roughly 132 films, first popped up in roles such as a prison guard in Runaway Train (1985), Andy Garcia's bodyguard in 8 Million Ways to Die (1986) and Powers Boothe's bodyguard in Extreme Prejudice (1987).
Hardly diminutive, 6’ 5” Lister was not just a recognizable figure on screen, but also a highly accomplished actor. Originally a professional wrestler known by the names “Zeus” and “ZGangsta” for the WWE (Formerly WWF), Tiny left wrestling in the mid 1980s to pursue an acting career. He worked with some of the best actors and directors, in a wide net of genres ‐ from thriller to science fiction and drama to comedy.
Tommy “Tiny” Lister grew up in Compton, California, but chose to break the curses of his generation at an early age. He stayed away from gang life, choosing instead to stay at home and watch westerns. He chose religion over wrongdoing, and developed an interest in films and television early. Growing up watching Gary Cooper, James Stewart, Charlton Heston and Errol Flynn allowed Tiny a chance to dream, and he envisioned his own life on film and television, creating characters on celluloid that transcended gender and color.
With his will set in stone, Tiny went out to make it possible. Tiny made his feature film debut in Runaway Train (1985) with Jon Voight, and spent the next few years learning the craft and appearing in films heavy in action and in talent: 8 Million Ways to Die (1986) with Andy Garcia, Beverly Hills Cop II (1987) with Eddie Murphy, and No Holds Barred (1989) with fellow WWE (WWF at the time) wrestler Hulk Hogan.
In the 1990s, Tiny expanded his résume, continuing to make his mark in films with the best in the business. He joined Johnny Depp and the legendary Marlon Brando in the quirky Don Juan DeMarco (1994) and worked with director Quentin Tarantino and actor Andy Garcia in Things to Do in Denver When You're Dead (1995). He would later work again with Tarantino in Jackie Brown (1997). Lister's 1990s career benefited from the decade's surge in African-American filmmaking, beginning with his starring role in Mario Van Peebles's western Posse (1993), in which he was thrilled to star with his childhood idol Woody Strode.
In a move that was sure to cement his popularity with young audiences across the country, Tiny went on to star as neighborhood bully “Deebo” opposite Ice Cube in the cult comedy Friday (1995), reprising the role for the successful sequel Next Friday (2000). After appearing in comedian Martin Lawrence's A Thin Line Between Love and Hate (1996), Lister played a supporting role in Ice Cube's directorial debut The Players Club (1998) and appeared in Master P's I Got the Hook Up (1998). He also starred in a slew of B-horror films including Soulkeeper (2001), Hellborn (2003) and Dracula 3000 (2004).
Tiny continued with his wide, often eclectic range of roles, and expanded on his original “fierce bodyguard” roles to include comedic and rather quirky performances. He played the President in director Luc Besson's science fiction epic The Fifth Element (1997) opposite Bruce Willis and worked with Adam Sandler in Little Nicky (2000), as well as Mike Myers in Austin Powers in Goldmember (2002).
He joined Dustin Hoffman, Andy Garcia and Rachel Weisz in the crime thriller Confidence (2003). Tiny worked with some of the greatest directors (Quentin Tarantino, Luc Besson, John Frankenheimer), many of our most noted actors (Marlon Brando, Samuel L. Jackson, Johnny Depp, Peter O’Toole) and a good share of the top talent in wrestling and Hip-Hop (Hulk Hogan, 50 Cent and Tupac Shakur, respectively). His wrestling exploits can be seen on Summerslam (1989), Survivor Series (1989) and WWF Superstars (1986).
However, it was Tiny's devotion to ministry and public speaking that made the biggest impression. Along with his wife Felicia, Tiny ministered across the country, reaching out to troubled youth, and sharing his powerful testimony and inspiration in churches and schools.
Tommy “Tiny” Lister may not have been an A-list star, but he was certainly one of Hollywood's most instantly recognizable and busiest character actors, until his death on December 10, 2020, in Marina del Rey, California. He was 62.
June 24, 1958
December 10, 2020
- Tom Lister began his acting career in 1984, playing a small role as Otis in the 1984 film titled 1st & Ten. He followed it in the next year, with a minor role as a security guard named Jackson in the independent action thriller film titled Runaway Train.
- As for his television career, Tom appeared playing many guest roles in the late 1980s and early 1990s, in series’ such as Perfect Strangers, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and Renegade.
- More recently, Tom has appeared in films such as White T, Hickey and Busy Day. He also appeared playing a voice role in the film titled Zootopia, landing his voice to a character named Finnick.
- Tom’s wrestling career began somewhat accidentally. He appeared playing a wrestler in the film titled No Holds Barred in the late 1980s. The film starred famous wrestler Hulk Hogan and was produced by the World Wrestling Federation. Tom’s character of Zeus in the film was acclaimed and he ended up making an appearance in the real life WWF ring.
- He has been a very religious person since his younger years as a devout Christian. He is a member of a Christian church named The Light of the World and appears frequently in the faith based networks and gives lectures in churches and other religious functions all over the country.
BIO: IMDB.com + Wikipedia.com
PHOTO: QuotesGram + ChoisirunFilm + Elmoudjaweb + IMDB + Yahoo
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