The cast of Black Hawk Down was packed with famous actors at both the beginning and peak of their careers. Ridley Scott’s 2001 urban war movie pulled recognized actors like Josh Hartnett, Ewan McGregor, and William Fitchner to fill its cast, but it also recruited actors little known in Hollywood at the time. For its young and international cast members, Black Hawk Down was a debut film that jump-started their careers in the American film industry.
Black Hawk Down told the story of Task Force Ranger on the disastrous 1993 mission that spiraled into the Battle of Mogadishu. During a raid against the Somali National Alliance, a Somali militia shot down two Black Hawk helicopters and left members of Task Force Ranger stranded in hostile territory. The cast of Black Hawk Down primarily played these American soldiers who had to survive on their own for 18 hours. Many of the actors played versions of real people, although a few played fictional characters.
As Task Force Ranger consisted of 160 elite U.S. troops, Black Hawk Down used a large cast in order to cover as many facets of the operation as possible. The challenge of covering so many characters meant that even the most famous actors cast in Black Hawk Down received limited screen time. Debut actors like Danish actor Nikolaj Coster-Waldau and Ty Burrell played roles so small that viewers who weren’t paying attention risked missing them. With so many characters and so little time focused on them, here’s a guide to keeping track of every famous actor cast in Black Hawk Down.
Josh Hartnett as Matthew Eversmann
Josh Hartnett played Staff Sergeant Matthew Eversmann, a young soldier from the 75th Ranger Regiment who received his first command right before the mission. Eversmann led his squad through the chaotic 18 hours of the Battle of Mogadishu, and in real life he earned a Bronze Star Medal with Valor device for his actions during the crisis. Before being cast in Black Hawk Down, Hartnett was already known for playing Michael Fitzgerald in Cracker, Danny Walker in Pearl Harbor, and Hugo Goulding in O. He went on to appear in The Black Dahlia and Penny Dreadful, and he will play Ernest Lawrence in the upcoming film Oppenheimer.
Hugh Dancy as Kurt “Doc” Schmid
Sergeant First Class Kurt Schmid was the medic for Eversmann’s squad in Black Hawk Down, but in real life, he worked with the Delta Force instead of the Rangers. Hugh Dancy was cast as Schmid after starring as David Copperfield in a television film adaptation. Dancy is best known for his role as Will Graham in Hannibal. He has also played Adam Raki in Adam and Ted in Martha Marcy May Marlene.
Eric Bana as Norm “Hoot” Gibson
Eric Bana joined the cast of Black Hawk Down as Delta Force soldier Sergeant First Class Norm “Hoot” Gibson. Although chafing against authority, Hoot showed his dedication by returning to the battle multiple times to aid his fellow soldiers. Hoot was a fictional character created to represent soldiers John Macejunas, Norm Hooten, Thanh Nguyen, and Matthew Rierson. Bana had gained recognition in Australian film with The Castle and Chopper, but he entered Hollywood with Black Hawk Down and the 2003 Hulk. He later played Hector in Troy, Anver Kaufman in Munich, Erik S. Kristensen in Lone Survivor, Erik Heller in Hanna, and the title character in the series Dirty John.
Ewan McGregor as John Grimes
Specialist John Grimes was a longtime desk clerk who saw first saw combat at Mogadishu. Although initially separated from Eversmann’s unit after an RPG explosion, the inexperienced Grimes managed to survive the battle. Grimes was a fictional character created to replace John Stebbins, who does not appear in Black Hawk Down’s cast of characters due to his criminal conviction. Grimes was played by Ewan McGregor, who had previously starred in Trainspotting, the Star Wars prequel trilogy, and Moulin Rouge! He also appeared as Dr. Alfred Jones in Salmon Fishing in Yemen, the title character of Christopher Robin, and Black Mask in Birds of Prey.
Tom Sizemore as Danny McKnight
Tom Sizemore was cast in Black Hawk Down as Lieutenant Colonel Danny McKnight, who led the convoy evacuating the prisoners that the mission initially intended to capture. After delivering the prisoners to base, he returned to the crash site to aid his men. Although wounded in the battle, McKnight went on to complete a total of 28-and-half years of military service in real life. Sizemore has appeared in other notable war films Saving Private Ryan and Pearl Harbor as well as the crime dramas True Romance, Natural Born Killers, and heist movie Heat. He also provided the voice for Sonny Forelli in the video game Grand Theft Auto: Vice City.
William Fitchner as Jeff Sanderson
William Fitchner played SFC Jeff Sanderson. Sanderson ended up stranded with fellow Delta Force soldiers and Eversmann’s squad after the helicopter crash but managed to make it through the resulting overnight standoff. He was a fictional character created to represent the real-life soldier Paul R. Howe. Before joining the cast of Black Hawk Down, Fitchner portrayed multiple characters in the soap opera As The World Turns, Roger Van Zant in Heat, Danny’s Father in Pearl Harbor, and Colonel Willie Sharp in Armageddon. After Black Hawk Down, he played Captain Knauer in The Longest Yard and General Adams in Independence Day: Resurgence.
Tom Hardy as Lance Twombly
Actor Tom Hardy played Specialist Lance Twombly, a soldier that got separated from Eversmann’s squad with Specialist Shawn Nelson. Twombly and Nelson were able to reunite with the group and survive the Battle of Mogadishu. Black Hawk Down was Hardy’s debut role, and he went on to star in Mad Max: Fury Road, The Dark Knight Rises, Dunkirk, Venom, and Venom: Let There Be Carnage.
Ewen Bremner as Shawn Nelson
Specialist Shawn Nelson got separated from Eversmann’s squad with Twombly. He was deafened by the sound of gunfire but still managed to make his way back to the group. Before Black Hawk Down, he was cast as Spud in Trainspotting and Red in Pearl Harbor, Michael Fry in The Secret World of Michael Fry, and Charlie in Wonder Woman. He most recently appeared as the superstitious Buttons on Our Flag Means Death.
Jason Isaacs as Mike Steele
Captain Mike Steele led another group of Rangers struggling to reach the crash sites under heavy fire. After the real-life Battle of Mogadishu, he went on to take part in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Iron Triangle. In Black Hawk Down, he was played by Jason Isaacs. Among his many memorable roles, Isaacs has played Colonel William Tavington in The Patriot, Lucius Malfoy in the Harry Potter movies, Field Marshal Zhukov in The Death of Stalin, and Captain Hook in the 2003 Peter Pan. He also provided the voices for The Judge in Castlevania, The Emperor in The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance, and Captain Zhao in Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra.
Sam Shepard as William F. Garrison
Sam Shepard played Major General William F. Garrison. As he led the mission from the command center, Garrison had to watch as his forces were pinned down and decimated by the Somali militia. He took full responsibility for the mission’s outcome, and he retired after the leader of the Somali National Alliance, Mohamed Farah Aidid, was killed. In addition to being cast as Garrison in Black Hawk Down, Shepard has appeared as Beverly Weston in August: Osage County, Frank Calhoun in The Notebook, Tom in Mud, and Chuck Yaeger in The Right Stuff.
Black Hawk Down Supporting Cast & Characters
Orlando Bloom as Private First Class Todd Blackburn – A bright-eyed recruit who falls while descending from a helicopter and must be evacuated by the initial convoy. Orlando Bloom’s best-known roles are Legolas in The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit movies and Will Turner in The Pirates of the Caribbean franchise.
Ty Burrell as United States Air Force Pararescue TSgt Timothy A. Wilkinson – a medic who arrives at the first crash site to treat survivors and recover the bodies of the pilots. Black Hawk Down was one of Ty Burrell’s first film roles. He is most famous for his role as Phil Dunphy in the sitcom Modern Family, although he has also appeared in The West Wing and Out of Practice.
Nicolaj Coster-Waldau as MSG Gary Gordon – a Delta Force sniper sent to the second crash site with SFC Randy Shughart (played by Johnny Strong). Although Nikolaj Coster-Waldau was a known actor in Denmark, Black Hawk Down was his debut film in the United States. He later became best known for his role as Jaime Lannister in Game of Thrones.
Jeremy Piven as CW4 Clifton “Elvis” Wolcott – the pilot of the first helicopter to be shot down. Piven had previously played Spence Novak in Ellen and the title character in Cupid. He later had roles in Entourage, Serendipity, and Spy Kids 4: All the Time in the World.
Ioan Gruffudd as Lieutenant John Beales – A solider in the 75th Ranger Regiment. After Black Hawk Down, Gruffudd played Reed Richards in the 2005 Fantastic Four and Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer, Carl in Sanctum, and Dr. Daniel Harrow in Harrow.
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