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Cigar Culture

Popular Cigar Smoking Movie & TV Characters We Love

J. Bennett Alexander Alexander's picture

J. Bennett Alexander

So, have you ever been watching a movie or TV show when a character lights up a cigar? The first thing I try to figure out is the brand. It’s pretty tough since there’s rarely a close-up of the cigar itself. Then I wonder why it is that, until fairly recently, only bad guys smoked cigars in the movies. The iconic exception, I think, is Groucho Marx. All his characters were cigar smokers. Many of the characters smoking on-screen are tough guys. Some good, some not so good. There are way too many to include them all. Some, like Edward G. Robinson’s original cigar-smoking gangster in 1931’s Little Caesar, and Independence Day’s Will Smith celebrating with a Bering Imperial, and the old TV show The A-Team’s George Peppard certainly bear mention. Here’s my list; a quick look at eight characters from movies and TV, some of whom, as they say, are “based on a true story.”

WINSTON CHURCHILL

It’s well known that the real Winston Churchill, the prime minister of the United Kingdom most famously during World War II, was a prodigious cigar smoker, even having a cigar shape named after him. In the 2017 movie, Darkest Hour, Churchill was played by Gary Oldman. In his first scene, Oldman-as-Churchill lights a cigar while in bed (at about 3:05 in the clip). Oldman, famous for immersing himself in the roles he plays, smoked more than 400 cigars during the 48-day filming. About $30,000 worth of cigars, they figured. The cigars were Cuban, reportedly Cohiba Siglos. The longest Siglo is the Siglo V at 6.75 x 43.

 

“I got serious nicotine poisoning,” Oldman said. “You’d have a cigar that was three-quarters smoked and you’d light it up, and then over the course of a couple of takes, it would go down, and then the prop man would replenish me with a new cigar — we were doing that for 10 or 12 takes a scene.”

Oldman won an Oscar for his portrayal.

TONY SOPRANO

Tony Soprano: Good guy or bad guy? It’s complicated, as they say. The mob boss, played by the late James Gandolfini, would smoke cigarettes and cigars in the role. Among the cigars on the set, for the whole cast, were Davidoff, Fuente, and Cubans. CAO actually created a unique cigar brand for the series.

Cigars were an intentional prop added by The Sopranos creator, David Chase. Chase explained that cigars would fake the look of power and authority. For his part, Gandolfini was a true lover of Cuban cigars, but also smoked Macanudo and CAO L’Anniversaire Maduros. In one episode, “Executive Game,” Tony asks another character if he’s “Got the Macanudos?

COSMO KRAMER

The quirky neighbor from Seinfeld (played by Michael Richards), Cosmo Kramer (known mostly as Kramer), breaks with the tough guy mold. Still, he was a true cigar lover. When George’s (Jason Alexander) girlfriend gives George a box of Cuban Ramon Allones Gigantes, he has no interest in smoking them. George gives them to Kramer and hilarity ensues. In another cigar moment, Kramer lights his hair on fire.

 

JOE

Joe? Joe who? In the 1964 classic spaghetti-western, A Fistful of Dollars, Clint Eastwood has an Italian Toscano cigar seemingly attached to his jaw. Eastwood is “Joe,” or “The Man with No Name.” He issues warnings with the cheroot clenched in his teeth before taking out the bad hombres. The cigar became as much a part of Eastwood’s characters as his steely squint in most of his westerns.

 

MAJOR ALAN ‘DUTCH’ SCHAEFER

Arnold Schwarzenegger could appear on this list for any number of roles he’s played in which his characters smoke cigars, but the 1987 movie Predator establishes the cigar almost as a character in its own right. Schwarzenegger, as Schaefer, is seldom without a cigar in his mouth during the movie. He is reported to have smoked constantly off-screen as well. As Cigar Aficionado reported, Arnold’s co-stars were not always on board with the smoking. But it seems they’d come around.

Carl Weathers objected the first time he [Schwarzenegger] lit up around them, [Schwarzenegger] says. Weathers "started coughing loud, pretending like he's dying" on the set of Predator. "He said, 'Get away with your stinking stuff. I can't breathe.'" But Schwarzenegger explained to Weathers that he found a cigar "soothing," especially amid the chaos and uncertainty of the first day of shooting. Schwarzenegger says he took his cigar outside, away from Weathers. Six hours later, Weathers asked if he could have a cigar–"just to chew on. I hate to smoke." Schwarzenegger gave him an Ashton. A little later, Weathers asked Schwarzenegger to clip off the wet end and "let me just light it for a minute." He smoked half the cigar, asked for another the next day and "by the time the movie was half done, he had his manager and his agent flying in boxes and boxes of Ashtons," Schwarzenegger says. "He was smoking up a storm. I had to say to him, 'Carl, you're not supposed to smoke from seven in the morning to seven at night.'"

WOLVERINE

Hugh Jackman can do anything. He’s starred in Broadway musicals, been Jean Valjean in Les Miserables, but the role we’re interested in is the brooding “X-Man” Wolverine. While Jackman does occasionally enjoy Cuban Montecristo No. 2s and Cohibas socially in real life, Wolverine smokes much more in the X-Men movies (and in the comic books). Cigars, reportedly Cohibas, are tools for Jackman to express his character’s roiling personality.

 

"It's a symbol of manliness," Jackman has said. "It's the kind of thing you automatically associate with tough, rebellious guys. The cigar is great for that character. He's the most politically incorrect, non-rule-following person out there. The more something is considered bad, the more he'd do it. It's funny: Cigar smoking is something that, seemingly, relaxes you. The cigar made me think that Wolverine always has this relaxed exterior—but, deep down, he's the opposite, very tightly wound. I like that juxtaposition."

TONY MONTANA

Al Pacino’s accent as the Cuban exile drug dealer Tony Montana in Scarface is reason enough to watch the movie. Supposedly, Montana smokes only Cuban cigars, but some of the cigars look like movie fakes. The best of several cigar scenes is Pacino in a bubble bath, smoking and arguing with his wife, played by Michelle Pfeiffer.

GORDON GEKKO

Wall Street’s not-so-good-guy Gordon Gekko is possibly the slickest (as in slimy) of all our on-screen cigar smokers. The 1987 movie is a hit-you-over-the-head morality tale about greed. “Greed is good,” Gekko says in the movie. The line captured a generation of money-grubbing climbers. Gekko favors Cuban Cohibas. In real life, Douglas enjoys Cuban El Rey del Mundo, and H. Upmann. “I like the Dominican Cohibas,” Douglas told Cigar Aficionado. “I like Romeo y Julietas a lot. And of course, the Monte No. 2, which is everybody's favorite."

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