Tom Towles, a character actor best known for his roles in horror films who frequently worked with writer-director Rob Zombie, has died. Zombie announced the news Sunday on his Facebook page; Towles’ agent then confirmed to The Hollywood Reporter that Towles had died in the hospital April 2 after suffering a stroke. He was 65.
Towles was born and raised in Chicago, Illinois, where he got his start acting in local theatre productions. His first film role was a bit part as a cop in Dog Day Afternoon (1975), but his breakthrough role didn’t come until 1986, when he co-starred in John McNaughton’s disturbing serial-killer classic, Henry: Portrait Of A Serial Killer. Towles played Otis, the spree-killing sidekick to Michael Rooker’s title character based on real-life serial killer Otis Toole.
Towles would go on to work with McNaughton again, as a hunter whose head gets stolen by an alien in 1991’s The Borrower. He would appear in a number of horror movies over the next two decades, including the 1990 remake of Night Of The Living Dead, Stuart Gordon’s 1991 remake of The Pit And The Pendulum (1991), Adam Wingard’s debut feature Home Sick (2007), and Blood On The Highway (2008), which would turn out to be his last feature. But his best-known contributions to the genre were with Rob Zombie, who cast Towles in his films House Of 1000 Corpses (2003), The Devil’s Rejects (2005), Halloween (2007), and the “Werewolf Women Of The SS” segment of Grindhouse (2007).
Towles’ work was not limited to the horror genre, however; he also appeared in The Rock (1996), Gridlock’d (1997), More Dogs Than Bones (2000) and Michael Mann’s Miami Vice (2006), among other roles. He also appeared frequently on TV, and was featured in guest spots on Seinfeld, ER, Firefly, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, and CSI, and in a recurring role as Inspector Anthony Lastarza on NYPD Blue.