The cast of Platoon (1986) Then vs Now in 2024

The cast of Platoon (1986) Then vs Now in 2024
Platoon 1986, Cast Updated in 2024

Oliver Stone's 1986 Vietnam War film Platoon stands as one of the most impactful and acclaimed war movies ever made. Known for its gritty realism and emotionally honest portrayal of a soldier's experience, Platoon earned critical praise and box office success upon its release, winning Academy Awards for Best Picture and Best Director.

Over 35 years later, Platoon remains a landmark achievement in filmmaking. Its influence echoes through countless modern war films, which continue to build upon the solid foundation that Stone's masterwork established. However, a key element that makes Platoon so enduring is the strength of its cast. This group of talented yet mostly fresh-faced actors brought an authenticity and conviction to their roles that resonated deeply with audiences.

Let's take a look back at the main stars of Platoon—then relative unknowns who shot to fame through their unforgettable performances—and see where life has taken them in the decades since they first portrayed these unforgettable soldiers on screen.

Charlie Sheen as Chris Taylor

"I wasn't sure why I got to be one of those lucky few chosen to go home to my parents and my girl. But Barnes and Elias had fought over me; and Elias had won." —Chris Taylor

Film Release Age: 22 years old (Platoon released in 1986)
Age While Filming: 21 years old
Current Age: 58 years old

In Platoon, Charlie Sheen took on the lead role of Chris Taylor, a young college student who drops out of school and enlists in the army, quickly losing his idealism once exposed to the harsh realities of combat. Serving as the audience's entry point and guide through this nightmarish realm, Chris provides an Everyman perspective on the war, narrating his internal thoughts through frequent voice-over narration.

Sheen brings a combination of innocence, anguish, and indignant fury to his performance as Chris bears witness to the senseless violence unfolding around him. Echoing many of Sheen's own personal struggles with addiction and mental health issues, Chris begins to spiral into disillusionment and instability. Yet ultimately, he clings to the last shreds of his humanity, refusing to become numb to the cruelty he sees in figures like Sgt. Barnes.

In the 35 years since Platoon's release, Sheen has become a household name through starring roles in films like Wall Street and Hot Shots! as well as his long-running lead performance on the hit sitcom Two and a Half Men. However, while blessed with acting talent, Sheen has also battled highly public personal problems over the years related to substance abuse issues.

Now 58 years old, Sheen maintains a steady stream of acting work in both film and television projects, though he has never fully recaptured the critical acclaim of earlier career high points like Platoon. Still, his raw and expressive performance in that film endures as a testament to his natural screen presence and ability to connect to the emotional core of troubled characters.

Tom Berenger as Sgt. Barnes

"You eyeballin' me boy? You eyeballin' me?" —Sgt. Barnes

Film Release Age: 37 years old
Age While Filming: 36 years old
Current Age: 74 years old

As the ruthless Sgt. Barnes, Tom Berenger shapes one of cinema's most chilling portrayals of the brutality and madness offspring of war. Representing the sharp end of war's dehumanising effects, Barnes rules his platoon through violence, intimidation, and manipulation.

Coldly dispatching enemies and civilians alike, Barnes feels little remorse over his many vicious acts, concerning himself only with increasing his personal power and securing tactical wins. His clashes with the far more scrupled Sgt. Elias fuel much of the film's central moral conflict, as impressionable soldiers like Chris become caught in the middle of their tug-of-war for the platoon's soul.

Matching Barnes's intensity frame for frame, Berenger delivers an incredible performance that rightfully earned him a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination. His commanding screen presence accentuates Barnes's domineering qualities, while sudden mood swings between eerie calm and explosive rage heighten the character's frightening unpredictability.

In subsequent decades, Berenger has amassed over 100 acting credits across film and television, often gravitating towards similar tough guy roles. Highlights include acclaimed performances in films like Betrayed, Sliver, and Training Day, qualities, as well as a memorable guest role on the smash TV series Cheers.

Now 74, Berenger continues acting today, recently appearing in action movies like The Substitute franchise. While arguably typecast due to Platoon's success, Berenger's chilling take on Barnes remains an incredible acting achievement—one responsible for elevating the film's dramatic stakes.

Willem Dafoe as Sgt. Elias

“We did not fight the enemy, we fought ourselves—and the enemy...was in us.” —Sgt. Elias

Film Release Age: 32 years old
Age While Filming: 31 years old
Current Age: 68 years old

As Sgt. Elias, Willem Dafoe provides the film's moral compass and sympathetic voice of reason. Displaying compassion for the suffering villagers and his own men alike, Elias pushes back against Barnes's cruelty through nonviolent resistance rather than retribution. He shepherds vulnerable soldiers like Chris while encouraging his veterans to retain their humanity despite the desensitisation of war.

Robbed of his non-combatant status after refusing Sgt. Barnes's orders, Elias finds himself marked for death yet never abandons his pacifistic principles. Even when gravely injured, he declines the offer of a weapon, choosing dignity over vengeance, even to his last breath. Through this selfless sacrifice, he proves his beliefs stronger than Barnes's nihilism, serving as lasting inspiration to impressionable witnesses like Chris Taylor.

Dafoe's gentle wisdom and rugged charisma breathe nobility into Elias, making him the tale's tragic hero. His performance nets Platoon its greatest emotional and moral impacts, with Elias's murder leaving young soldiers like Chris Taylor utterly lost in a world suddenly devoid of hope or honour.

Since his memorable turn in Platoon, Dafoe has become an acclaimed and prolific actor across theatre, film, and television. His four-time Academy Award-nominated career includes unforgettable performances in films like Mississippi Burning, Shadow of the Vampire, Spider-Man, and The Florida Project—the latter of which won him the Volpi Cup for Best Actor at the 74th Venice International Film Festival.

Now 68 years old, Dafoe maintains legendary status as one of Hollywood’s most versatile and consistently outstanding character actors. While forever intertwined with Platoon in film history, his Sgt. Elias represents just one early high note among a brilliant body of acting accolades accrued over an exceptional decades-spanning career.

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Keith David as King

"Yeah, well, I still got both my balls. I don't know what I'd do without them." —King

Film Release Age: 31 years old
Age While Filming: 30 years old
Current Age: 67 years old

In Platoon, Keith David plays the supporting yet pivotal role of squad veteran King, who takes Chris Taylor under his wing once the younger soldier joins the platoon. Jaded yet caring, King looks after Chris while teaching him survival basics. Through their many conversations, King sheds light on long-timers' perspectives regarding the war’s hardships and ethical dilemmas. Stoic and collected, he represents a model of calm, experience, and mental toughness that Chris greatly lacks, providing a sobering yet sympathetic mentor figure.

Since Platoon, Keith David has become an acclaimed and instantly recognisable character actor across film, television, and video games thanks to his distinctive bass voice and grizzled gravitas. Especially prolific in voiceover work, his credits include roles in hit animated films and series like The Princess and the Frog, Coraline, Rick and Morty, and countless video games, including the Saints Row franchise, in which fans deeply identify him with his recurring role as quintessential tough guy Julius Little.

On camera, David has provided memorable performances in movies like Men at Work, Clockers, Armageddon, Barbershop, and Green Lantern,games, while also starring in acclaimed TV series like Community and The Nice Guys. Still very active today at 66 years old, he currently plays leading roles in the hit Disney+ Marvel shows She-Hulk: Attorney at Law and the animated series Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur.

While arguably underutilised in Platoon, Keith David's gravitas and camaraderie with Charlie Sheen made his scenes quite impactful. His character King's mentoring presence offered crucial guidance to Sheen's green recruit while allowing David to provide a subtle yet superb supporting performance.

Forest Whitaker as Big Harold

"Words don't mean nothing. Look at Elias." —Big Harold

Film Release Age: 29 years old
Age While Filming: 28 years old
Current Age: 62 years old

Although largely silent, Forest Whitaker brings harrowing depth to his minor yet meaningful role as Big Harold. Haunted by trauma yet forced to bottle his pain, Big Harold embodies the plight of young soldiers shattered emotionally and spiritually by the savagery surrounding them. Through telling gestures and anguished expressions, Whitaker conveys immense character complexity despite little dialogue.

Whitaker’s star continued rising after his brooding Platoon performance put his immense acting talent on display. Just a year later, he stunned critics in Good Morning Vietnam, going on to become one of Hollywood’s most decorated performers over subsequent decades thanks to unforgettable award-winning lead turns in prestigious films such as Bird, The Crying Game, Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai, and his Oscar-winning lead performance as Ugandan dictator Idi Amin in 2006’s The Last King of Scotland. His piercing eyes and hulking physicality ensure he leaves an indelible impression, regardless of genre or role size.

Now an eminently respected veteran at 62, Whitaker remains a commanding onscreen presence in films ranging from Black Panther to Rogue One: A Star Wars Story while also segueing into prestige television with acclaimed performances in hit series like Empire and Godfather of Harlem, for which he serves as both lead actor and executive producer. Though largely silent in Platoon, Whitaker maximised his screen time through heartbreaking expressions echoing countless soldiers’ unspeakable trauma, previewing the staggering dramatic talents he’d fully unleash in subsequent star turns.

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Francesco Quinn as Rhah

"Sarnt, under fire would not be a good time to confuse us, would it?" —Rhah

Film Release Age: 23 years old
Age While Filming: 22 years old
Current Age: Deceased at 48 years old

As the sage, whimsical Rhah, Francesco Quinn adds thoughtful maturity and nuance to Platoon's wide-ranging personalities. A spiritual centre amidst chaos, Rhah draws from Hinduism and Buddhism in processing the conflict's calamities, retaining empathy through conscious cultivation of inner peace. His tranquility contrasts starkly against the surrounding violence, offering a flickering beacon that even war's darkness cannot wholly extinguish.

Tragically, Rhah proved to be the only main Platoon cast member who didn't live to see old age. Francesco Quinn passed away due to a heart attack in 2011 at just 48 years old, cutting short a promising acting career. The son of Hollywood icon Anthony Quinn, Francesco lacked his father's name recognition yet had accrued over 60 acting credits in Italian and American film and television productions before his premature death.

While Quinn's decades-long acting career prevented his name from becoming synonymous with Platoon, later, like several co-stars, Rhah remains his most memorable role. Through profound quotes and practices of mindfulness amid madness, the character exemplifies resilience against war's traumas, providing sage counsel that resonates as strongly now as ever. Had fate allowed, Quinn’s talents seemed destined for even greater renown.

Kevin Dillon as Bunny

"Contact left! Here they come!" —Bunny

Film Release Age: 22 years old
Age While Filming: 21 years old
Current Age: 58 years old

Playing the supporting yet pivotal role of Bunny, Kevin Dillon depicts one infantryman's harrowing descent into drug addiction and madness spurred by sustained traumatic exposure. Initially gung-ho about combat, Bunny grows increasingly manic and paranoid when plunged into the nightmare of Vietnam. His psychological disintegration serves as a cautionary tale on war's mental health tolls.

While granted minimal dialogue, Dillon brings nervous energy and emotional intensity to Bunny. His unravelling creates tension within the platoon while also drawing sympathy, given the clear PTSD triggers provoking his downward spiral.

Since his intense performance in Platoon, Dillon has enjoyed a prolific career largely in television, most famously playing the cocksure Johnny "Drama" Chase across 89 episodes of HBO's hit Hollywood satire series Entourage (2004–2011).

Now 58 years old, Dillon's continued success proves his Platoon character Bunny is no mere fluke. While arguably typecast as cocksure tough guys in the ensuing decades, Dillon clearly boasts the charismatic presence and acting range, allowing him to thrive across drama and comedy alike on both film and television.

Johnny Depp as Lerner

“Get a real job!” —Lerner

Film Release Age: 23 years old
Age While Filming: 22 years old
Current Age: 60 years old

In one of his earliest film roles, Johnny Depp brings innocence and attitude to his minor yet memorable turn as Lerner. Barely grown from boyhood despite his soldier's garb, fresh-faced Lerner symbolises naive youth not yet calloused by the horrors soon unleashed upon him.

During his single scene, Lerner displays playful rebellion and endearing awkwardness when chatting with veteran soldiers awaiting transport. Yet soon he’ll face the same traumas that have scarred their psyches. While his ultimate fate remains unknown, we sense Lerner will never be the same carefree soul again.

Depp immediately built upon the early momentum gained through Platoon to become one of Hollywood’s biggest stars across subsequent decades thanks to iconic performances in eclectic films like Edward Scissorhands, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, Ed Wood, Donnie Brasco, the Pirates of the Caribbean series, and many more quirky yet complex characters spotlighting his impressive acting range.

Now 60 yet still instantly recognisable with a timeless anti-hero swagger, Depp remains an A-list leading man despite recent personal controversies. While Platoon offered just a small preview of the legendary career soon to unfold, Depp brought humour and heart to his cameo, which still delights fans on repeat viewings.

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Mark Moses as Lt. Wolfe

"Make friends with 'em. They'll help you survive." —Lt. Wolfe

Film Release Age: 28 years old
Age While Filming: 27 years old
Current Age: 65 years old

As Lt. Wolfe, Mark Moses plays Chris Taylor's direct commanding officer, overseeing infantry platoons enduring the daily hell of combat patrols. Hardened yet humane, Lt. Wolfe tries shielding raw recruits from the worst experiences while instilling wisdom gained through his own tortures. His warnings to "make friends" underline the war's mental health tolls that isolate fragile minds.

Moses makes the most of his limited screen time, bringing gravitas and empathy to Lt. Wolfe's mentorship role. His leadership contrasts starkly with that of Sgt. Barnes, providing hope that some veterans emerge from war's trials with their conscience intact.

In subsequent decades, Moses has thrived as a top-tier character actor across film and television. Highlights include major recurring TV roles on smash hit series like Mad Men and Homeland as well as memorable guest appearances across countless iconic shows.

Now 65 years old yet still instantly recognisable, Moses remains an active, working actor with recent appearances in shows like 2023's Alaska Daily. While arguably underserved by Platoon's screenplay, Mark Moses maximized impact as Lt. Wolfe, distilling leadership lessons and PTSD subtext into his minor supporting role.

Tony Todd as Warren

"Be cool, young buck, it's gonna be all right." —Warren

Film Release Age: 32 years old
Age While Filming: 31 years old
Current Age: 69 years old

Although granted minimal dialogue, Tony Todd brings strength and sympathy to his minor role as Warren, a steadfast squad member aligned with Sgt. Elias. Displaying unshakeable courage under fire, Warren provides a model of perseverance and loyalty amidst unimaginable horrors.

Beyond Platoon, Todd steadily built an impressive acting career over subsequent decades thanks to his imposing 6'5" frame and uniquely deep, resonant vocal tones. Highlights include playing the title villain in 1992's Candyman—cementing horror icon status through seven chilling franchise film appearances—along with major supporting roles in box office hits including The Rock and Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.

Now 69 years old, Todd stays extremely active starring in numerous independent horror and sci-fi film projects that maximize impact from his towering physicality and vocal talents equally effective conveying kindness or menace at his discretion. Though arguably underutilized in Platoon, Todd's reliable strength and compassion as Warren demonstrated considerable untapped dramatic range.

John C. McGinley as Sgt. O’Neill

“Get that baby-san out of here!” —Sgt. O’Neill

Film Release Age: 27 years old
Age While Filming: 26 years old
Current Age: 64 years old

As hardened platoon leader Sgt. O’Neill, John C. McGinley fully inhabits a career infantryman desensitized by carnage yet not wholly numb to his environment's ethical bankruptcy. Following Barnes’s orders yet squirming under his sadistic excesses, O'Neill represents the masses obeying protocols while inwardly questioning superiors’ morality.

Veteran character actor McGinley maximizes impact through his limited supporting role, conveying O’Neill’s complicated inner journey through haunted expressions and bursts of misdirected temper. We sense his lingering humanity rattled by tireless immersion in senseless violence.

In subsequent years, McGinley has starred across film, television and Broadway thanks to his imposing height, sarcastic wit, and ability to radiate smoldering intensity. Highlights include an Emmy-nominated seven-season run playing the acerbic Dr. Perry Cox on smash hospital sitcom Scrubs along with major film roles in Point Break, Office Space, Identity, and Wild Hogs.

Now 64, McGinley stays busy acting while also nurturing emerging talent as an esteemed NYU Film School professor. Always blessed with dramatic range, McGinley's haunted portrayal of Sgt. O'Neill ranks among his most poignant performances.

A Stirring Portrait Emerges

Though relative unknowns when Stone cast them in his passion project, the core performers of Platoon quickly proved their dramatic skills equal to the ambitious film’s demands. Raw, honest, and emotionally devastating performances transport viewers alongside these terrified young infantrymen wandering through Vietnam’s figurative--and sometimes literal--Valley of Death.

Thanks to once-in-a-lifetime lead roles and Stone’s cinéma vérité filmmaking approach, Charlie Sheen and Tom Berenger enjoyed dramatic career boosts from their memorable starring turns. However, the film's entire ensemble creates staggering impact despite Wade's screenplay rarely delving below surface details for supporting characters. Through expressions conveying thousand-yard stares or anguished body language broadcasting cumulative mental tolls, otherwise overlooked actors like Forest Whitaker and Tony Todd seize spotlight moments demonstrating their formidable talents.

Upon release, Platoon's statuettes and box office rewards ensured its unforgettable band of brothers received recognition matching their harrowing ordeals enacted on screen. Decades later, their youthful talent captured in celluloid amber provides intimate time capsule glimpses into rising stars who'd soon become household names. Like the film they inhabit, these actors' memorable contributions portray innocence lost, spirits broken yet still struggling against the darkness. Their bond with viewers remains every bit as unbreakable now as during their initial triumphant march into cinema history.

To a man, they shine.

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