Angus Scrimm was best remembered for his portrayal of “The Tall Man” in Don Coscarelli’s Phantasm and its four sequels. With his imposing height and menacing scowl, Angus was the perfect choice for the role of the mysterious, supernatural undertaker that was the center of the film series.
But, Angus was the opposite of his big screen persona. He started his career as Lawrence Guy, a prolific and respected journalist, whose writing appeared in TV Guide and The Los Angeles Herald. He also worked for Capitol Records, contributing liner notes to releases from everyone from Frank Sinatra to The Beatles. In 1974, he won a Grammy for his efforts.
Angus made his acting debut in 1951 in an 18-minute Encyclopedia Britannica educational film in which he portrayed Abraham Lincoln. After a twenty-year gap, Angus was featured in the psychological thriller Sweet Kills, using the name “Rory Guy.” He made a few more films until he was cast in Phantasm in 1979 under his new stage name “Angus Scrimm.” He went on to a productive career in film and television, with guest roles on Quincy, Trapper John MD and a recurring role in Alias. He even played Walt Disney’s father in a dramatization of the icon’s life on a segment of The Wonderful World of Disney.
I met Angus at a collector’s convention years ago, where he was seated behind a folding table signing autographs for fans. After purchasing a photo, I asked if he would mind posing for a photo with my son. At first he was hesitant, expressing his concern for my son’s health, as he revealed that he was currently battling a “nasty head cold.” He agreed to the photo, however, keeping a safe distance from my son. He sported a wide smile. He was soft-spoken, gracious and gentle — a surprising contrast from the malevolent figure he cut on the silver screen.
Angus passed away in 2016 at the age of 89, making one final appearance in a Phantasm film that was released posthumously.