Ken Jennings


October 17, 2013

The other day I remembered this interesting 2009 thread from the message boards regarding actors who have appeared in multiple trilogies. You know, like Harrison Ford playing Han Solo and Indiana Jones, or Tim Allen playing Buzz Lightyear and Fred Claus, or whatever his name is in those Santa Clause movies.

We came up with a couple dozen, but I was increasingly interested in the Holy Grail: an actor who had appeared in three trilogies. There were plenty of near misses. Christopher Lee is in seven Hammer Dracula films, and three Lord of the Rings films (the Extended Cuts, anyway) but only two of three Star Wars prequels. Emilio Estevez made three Mighty Ducks movies, but the Young Guns and Stakeout franchises stalled at two. And so on.

In 2009, it actually looked like the first three-trilogy man would be that A-list movie star…John Cho. Wait, John Cho?

Yup. At the time, Cho had appeared in three American Pie movies, two Harold and Kumar movies (with a third on the way) and one Star Trek movie (but had signed a three-picture deal).

Well, it’s been four years and J.J. Abrams’ busy schedule means that Cho is still one movie away from the trifecta. And a few things have changed since then. For one thing, Peter Jackson decided to split two interminable Hobbit movies into three interminable Hobbit movies. If The Hobbit counts as a separate trilogy from Lord of the Rings, this means that not only Christopher Lee but also Ian McKellen (thanks to X-Men) and Hugo Weaving (thanks to The Matrix) will all be three-trilogy men as of December 2014. (Assuming Elrond is in all three Hobbit movies, that is. Pirates of the Caribbean star Orlando Bloom is out of luck, having been AWOL for the first Hobbit movie.)

But it seems a little cheap for these guys to steal Cho’s title, since those actors didn’t play three different characters three times. It’s almost like they each made one trilogy and one six-film mega-series. Luckily, there’s been another game-changer from Hollywood since this question first came up: the Expendables movies! It now appears that, when The Expendables 3 comes out next August, it will crown moviedom’s first three-trilogy man: Sylvester “Rocky + Rambo + Whoever the Hell He Plays in The Expendables” Stallone.

Have we forgotten anyone? Or is Stallone really the guy?

Bonus Question! Who has appeared in the most movie pairs (or better)? I can think of a six-pair man, counting one movie that’s in the can but not yet released. Is that the current record?

Edited to add: I totally missed this, but user grodney points out that I overlooked some of Christopher Lee’s trilogy filmography: he also played Rochefort in Richard Lester’s three Musketeers movies plus a bunch of Fu Manchu movies for Hammer. Even without The Hobbit or Star Wars, Christopher Lee may be our winner.

Edited again to add: Other readers have pointed out that, since 2009, Hugo Weaving completed his third trilogy. He’s the voice of Megatron in all three Transformers movies.

Posted by Ken at 9:07 pm