A screenshot from the Rambo film First Blood, where Sheriff Will Teasle (played by Brian Dennehy) arrests John Rambo (Sylvester Stallone). The scene a large portions of the film were shot in Hope in 1981.

Goodbye to Sheriff Teasle

Brian McKinney shares stories of actor Brian Dennehy’s time in Hope

Love or hate the sheriff in First Blood, you’ve got to admire actor Brian Dennehy who so expertly played the villainous antagonist in the classic Rambo film that put Hope on the cinematic map.

Dennehy died of natural causes April 15 in New Haven, Connecticut. He lived to be 81 and star in a range of films and stage productions, including his Tony award-winning performance in Death of a Salesman and his on-screen performances in Tommy Boy and Romeo and Juliet.

Yet Dennehy will always be most well-known in these parts as Sheriff Will Teasle.

Read more: Brian Dennehy, Tony-winning stage, screen actor, dies at 81

To mark his passing, Hope’s own promoter of tourism and all things First Blood Brian McKinney shared with us some tidbits about the sheriff he’s collected over the years.

You may be surprised to know that people across the world dream about coming to Hope to witness where the cult film that kicked off the Rambo franchise was shot. Fans of John Rambo – played by Sylvester Stallone – from countries as far off as China, England, Germany, Holland and the U.S. gather online and frequently ask McKinney what it’s like to live in Hope.

And every year up to 15,000 fans, from as young as five up to 90 years old, make it to our community for this very reason. With Dennehy’s passing, McKinney has been getting questions from these fans about what ‘Sheriff Teasle’ was like when the film was shot here in 1981.

Read more: Rambo fever boosts Hope business

“Brian became one of the ‘locals’ when he was here,” McKinney recalls of the stories shared with him by servers, bar staff, a paramedic who worked on set and other locals.

“He was very personable and very approachable, unlike Stallone which you were not allowed to approach – you needed to be introduced via a third party as his personal bodyguard did not leave his side. Brian on the other hand spent more time getting to know people.”

Switching from motorhomes to hotel rooms, Dennehy spent more time staying downtown than anyone else involved in the film McKinney said. You could catch him hanging out in his regular garb, or half dressed to go on set, at his favourite coffee spot at the Gateway Restaurant (where Dairy Queen now stands.)

“He would have coffee with the old guys and play the coffee game to see who would buy or sometimes Brian would just pick up the tab,” McKinney recalled. “Same went with the Hope Motor Hotel when it came to after work. He was known to buy a round of beer or two.”

Dennehy got involved in the community as well, with spare time spent helping Tillicum folks build bird houses and appearing as Santa Claus at a seniors Christmas luncheon.

“He never turned down an autograph. His large size, broad shoulders and intimidating presence was anything but, yet he was once described from a girl who served him a beer and got a hug as a ‘big teddy bear’ and really nice man,” McKinney said.

REMEMBERING RAMBO: Hope residents, visitors celebrate 30 year anniversary

And how this big teddy bear was able to play a much-hated character on First Blood is a true testament to his acting abilities McKinney added.

“The fact that director Ted Kotcheff allowed Brian to ad lib a lot of his lines was a true testament to his talent. Ted, in a lot of scenes, would just say to Brian ‘OK, act really pissed off and we’ll see how it comes across,’” he said. Fans would likely agree that he succeeded on screen.

Set life was not always kind to the sheriff.

During a scene where he falls onto his desk, Dennehy had to be bandaged up by a paramedic. “I need a Scotch” he told the paramedic, after which he proceeded to spend the night in his motorhome with some locals and crew, polishing off a 40-pounder of said beverage. He was on set the next morning.

“To think that Brian was able to work with a separated shoulder and finish some scenes says something about the man,” McKinney said.

Dennehy didn’t get away with just a shoulder injury. During the ‘arrest scene’ when the sheriff pulls Rambo’s knife out of his belt, Dennehy accidentally sliced his hand. “(He) didn’t break character until the director yelled ‘cut’ and Brian yelled out in pain as paramedics tended to his bleeding hand,” McKinney said.

“Of all the the characters who have passed away already; Alf Humphreys (Mitch) Jack Starrett (Gault) Richard Crenna (Colonel Trautman), Brian Dennehy who played Teasle has seemed to really hit the fan base. Even Stallone called him ‘one of the greatest’,” McKinney said.

A big thank you to Brian McKinney for so graciously sharing these stories with us.

Film industryhope

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here


FILE - In this June 6, 1999 file photo, actor Brian Dennehy, left, applauds playwright, Arthur Miller, before awarding him the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Tony Awards in New York. Dennehy, the burly actor who started in films and later in his career won plaudits for his stage work in plays, died of natural causes on Wednesday, April 15, 2020 in New Haven, Conn. He was 81. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens, File)

Just Posted

A second wave of COVID-19 is probable, if history tells us anything

B.C.’s top doctor says that what health officials have learned this round will guide response in future

Council talks trash: New garbage bylaw in the works

Draft bylaw to be voted on at Monday, May 25 council meeting

UPDATE: Police oversight agency investigating after shots fired Saturday night in Chilliwack neighbourhood

RCMP reported a ‘distraught male’ fired at police officers on Christina Drive – IIO is on scene Sunday

Prospera Credit Union, Westminster Savings lay off over 100 staff following historic merge

2020 merger was largest credit-union merger in Canadian history

‘Service beyond the classroom’: Gerry Palmer wins UFV award

Palmer has been involved with UFV for more than 30 years, starting as an instructor

Trudeau to seek 10 days of paid sick leave for Canadian workers, says talks are ongoing

Paid sick leave is key to keeping COVID-19 spread under control, prime minister says

Vancouver Island hasn’t seen a new homegrown case of COVID-19 in two weeks

Island’s low and steady transmission rate chalked up to several factors

Eight people arrested in Victoria homeless camp after enforcement order issued

Those living in tents were given until May 20 to move indoors

Andrew Weaver says he was ready to defeat John Horgan government

Independent MLA blasts B.C. Greens over LNG opposition

20 dead in COVID-19 outbreak at Langley Lodge

There were two new cases detected, according to the Lodge’s update

44% fewer passengers flew on Canadian airlines in March 2020 than in 2019

COVID-19 pandemic has hit airlines hard as travel remains low

UPDATE: One person dead, two in critical condition after Highway 1 collision in Langley

A man and woman were taken to hospital in critical condition

Commercial rent relief applications open as feds encourage landlords to apply

Program would see government cover 50 per cent of the rent

COVID-19: B.C. park reservations surge as campgrounds reopen

Keep trying, many sites not reservable, George Heyman says

Most Read