GALVESTON — Character actor Tommy Townsend didn’t pop the cork on a bottle of Champagne or dona tuxedo, but the debut of “Sin City 2: A Dame to Kill For,” which is playing in Galveston and in general release across the country, was still special because he’s in the movie.
Townsend plays two roles — a barfly watching a stripper perform and a wino saved from a fiery death by actor Mickey Rourke, who plays Merv.
The movie is a sequel to the 2005 “Sin City” and, like the earlier film, it’s based on the graphic novels of Frank Miller and directed by Robert Rodriguez.
Townsend was delighted when he was asked to audition for Rodriguez, although he admits the film is not his favorite genre.
His scenes were shot in a couple of takes, minutes apart at Rodriguez’ studio in Austin almost two years ago.
From wardrobe to cameras rolling, he enjoys the whole process of making movies, Townsend, 83, said. But at his age, there are fewer roles and a lot of competition.
“Older well-known actors are not getting as much work, and they suck up these roles,” he said.
Still Townsend keeps busy with independent films and has a project or two every year.
“I’m strong,” he said. “I don’t look my age, and I come to the set prepared.”
Townsend grew up in Galveston and took the bus downtown almost every Saturday to see the double feature at the Isle or the Queen, he said.
“I loved to watch the great character actor Strother Martin, who is known for ‘What we have here is a failure to communicate.” Townsend said.
Martin was his role model.
Townsend says he was always an actor at heart although his first career — as a longshoreman — lasted 30 years.
“I worked on the Galveston wharves like my father and great-uncles and my dozens of cousins,” he said.
When he retired from the wharves, he began doing theater, commercials, and, ultimately, movies and television programs.
“I never worry about being recognized or autograph seekers,” he said. “Character actors are not often noticed. They disappear into the character they play.”
Townsend has appeared in numerous movies and television shows since the 1990s, including “Bugsy;”“JFK: The Director’s Cut;”“the Newton Boys;” and “Toys.” And on television:“Lone Star;”“Beverly Hills 90210;”“Walker, Texas Ranger;”“Tales from the Crypt;” and “The Young Riders.”