Love Always: Sybil Danning

Introducing “Love Always,” a new recurring feature in which we pay tribute to the women who helped shape our views on pop culture.

To kick things off, we’re going to pay a birthday tribute to one of the greatest queens of action cinema. Sybil Danning’s career has spanned over 40 years, covering every genre of film imaginable, and wears her “B Movie Queen” title as a badge of honor. Through it all, she’s kept a sense of humor, a fierce determination, and an uncanny ability to cut through the bullshit of Hollywood.

I fell in love with her charms as a boy, and will always look forward to what she has to offer. Here are ten reasons why I will Love Always … Sybil Danning.

Her LGBT Support

Back in 2009, Sybil starred in the final season of the HERE TV gay-themed supernatural series The Liar as vampire seductress Frau Von Hess, and in this interview, she talks about her support for marriage-equality, and considering this was almost five years ago, her words are quite prescient:

“I am totally for equal rights. When I came to this country I was happy to leave Europe because everything was so confined and inadequate and not equal … I am absolutely an advocate for equal rights. I think that if men, women, or men and men or women and women want to get married, that’s their right. I think they are citizens of this world just like anyone else, and I do hope that this will get passed soon. I know that it’s just a little bit of a delay, California, we’re always slow out here. I think maybe we just missed the boat a little bit in not being aggressive enough, ad not promoting it soon enough, and the other side got the upper hand.

But I feel eventually, it’s just a matter of time, and I think it will be, and is already slowly moving from state to state. I think a lot is still going to change for the better under Obama, but it’s percolating underneath, and I think he’s taking on a lot of other things like healthcare right now, and of course our terrible war that we’re dealing with in Afghanistan. But I think it’s going to be during his time period that we’re going to see changes in several states, and I think California is going to be one of them.

Battle Beyond The Stars

Possibly Sybil’s most recognizable role was in the cult classic Battle Beyond The Stars. Written by John Sayles and produced by icon Roger Corman, it was a low-budget slice of B movie heaven, with Sybil a … standout … as the Valkyrie Warrior Saint-Exmin, who was trying to seek battle glory.

She Gives Great Interview

Sybil is always a fantastic interview subject, direct, smart, and hilarious. I first learned this with her Roger Ebert interviews back in 1982, 1983, and 1986.

Here are some choice quotes. On her private life:

I live in a Spanish-style bungalow in the Hollywood Hills, which Howard Hughes built for Jean Harlow. I have a German shepherd. I love to make pork roast with garlic. I have a boyfriend, but we’re not serious. I can’t stand rich men, because rich men have power, and they want to control you. I am very proud of the fact that all I own, I earned myself.

On her August 1983 Playboy layout:

Then the Bo Derek issue came out. Remember? Where you could see everything except her chromosomes? And so my photos were not daring enough. Playboy kept after me, though, and finally, this year, I felt emotionally and physically ready to do a totally nude layout. Also, we made a good arrangement involving display on the cover for both the American and foreign editions. If you’re going to do something like that, you want people to know, don’t you?”

On becoming an action star:

“I’ve done so many sexy roles, but I always wound up being the victim,” she said. “Now I’m declaring my independence from that. I feel we women can go out and do more than just work with our bod ies. Hollywood is making action pictures, and we can do action, but the industry doesn’t want to admit it. Who would you rather watch in an action scene? Me, or Sylvester Stallone?”

On the dearth of action roles for women:

A few. Sandahl Bergman in Conan the Barbarian. Grace Jones in Conan. Look how they messed up Sheena, Queen of the Jungle by giving the role to Tanya Roberts. Remember her in her snakeskin bikini? If you knew how I wanted that role.”

Here he she is from a couple of years ago, reflecting on her career.

She Out-Hulked Lou Ferrigno

One of my favorite Sybil anecdotes involves the 1983 glorious turkey Hercules, in which she tangled with star Lou Ferrigno, who wanted her to keep her arms and shoulders covered, afraid her muscles would distract from his. From the aforementioned Ebert interview:

The tension had been building. Ferrigno had already insisted that Sybil give up the role of Circe, the good sorceress, and play Adriana, the evil Greek princess. Now he wanted her to wear a cloak.

“None of the other gladiators wore cloaks,” Danning said. “I was the only female gladiator. Why did I have to wear a cloak? It wasn’t fair. Also, all the gladiators rode in together on horseback, except me. Lou wanted me to ride at least five feet behind him.”

It didn’t work. Sybil could have worn a potato sack and she still would have been the standout in that fantastically awful film.

Werewolf Women Of The S.S.

Why the hell hasn’t this been made yet?

Her 80’s Fashions

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L.A. Bounty

Sybil at her kickass best.

Chained Heat

In 1983 Sybil starred with Stella Stevens, Tamara Dobson and Linda Blair in the ultimate Women In Prison film. “Chalk-Faced Whore!”

Operation Thunderbolt

Sybil’s best received film was 1977’s gripping Operation Thunderbolt, the greatest cinematic retelling of the Raid On Entebbe. The film was nominated for the Best Foreign Film Oscar, and Sybil was a major part of the success, playing icy German terrorist Halima.

Sybil Danning’s Adventure Video!

Back in the 80’s Sybil gave us her “Adventure Video” series, in which she’d present low-budget, forgotten action films, (and occasional episodes of 70’s series), and provide introductions ala Elvira. Growing up in that decade, it was the only way for an impressionable kid to see such fare as A Man Called Rage and Kill The Ninja.

80's Pop Culture Expert, Shooting At The Walls Of Heartache.