Road To Stardom: Life Events That Turned Norman Reedus Into The Walking Dead Badass


Actor Norman Reedus should have never been a star. The actor best known as Daryl Dixon has become one of television’s most unlikely leading men. The racist-turned-leader-walker-killer did everything against the book but still made it. This is actually because of Reedus and his influence on the AMC drama.

The Walking Dead | Photo Credit AMC

The sculptor, painter, photograph, filmmaker, actor, and occasional model has done a little bit of everything in his time. During his twenties, he was just as likely to be arrested as he was to be cast in a new movie. When he wasn’t running from the cops on his dirt bike, he would travel, selling the occasional $20 painting for food.

If Norman Reedus resembles anyone, it’s perhaps Dennis Hopper, who focused on unconventional films, a photo shoot for Hustler, and a collaboration with Andy Warhol.

Norman Reedus Only Works On Passion Projects

Norman Reedus | Photo Credit Cigarette Burns

Despite the fact that Norman Reedus isn’t a movie star, he gets spotted all over the world. Thanks to his new show, Ride with Norman Reedus, fans can actually see how the actor interacts with fans. For the most part, he seems to take his time, occasionally posing in dozens of photos, signing autographs, and even trading hats.

The leading man is a sex symbol on one of television’s most popular drama and somehow did it by playing a redneck. Before AMC’s The Walking Dead, Reedus was mainly known for his co-starring role in The Boondock Saints. In fact, he still does press for the movie at Comic-Con because of the cult following.

When he’s not filming The Walking Dead, he also shoots new movies like Sky, as long as no one asks him to trim his hair. The 49-year-old actor got his unique traits from his mother.

Raised By A Public Speaker And A Playboy Bunny

Norman Reedus and his son | Photo Credit Fashion Style

According to GQ, “His mother, Marianne, was a Playboy bunny, sold coffins, and taught school in Kurdistan.” The star of The Walking Dead said his mother was the true rolling stone of the family. “You know how they say, ‘Papa was a rollin’ stone’? My mom is the rollin’ stone in my family.”

“’Trust yourself and go with your gut’—she lives like that,” said Reedus. His father was a businessman who would occasionally give motivational speeches. “It was like this weird fishing game with his tone,” he said about his dad. “I was so impressed that he had the balls to do that.”

“Even now, when I speak in front of people, I’ll put on sunglasses,” he added. His parents broke up when he was young, so he didn’t know his dad all that well.

How Drunken Screams Turned Into Acting

Norman Reedus | Photo Credit Patrick Hoelck

With his “rolling stone” mother, Reedus started to travel. When he was 17, he went with his mother to Japan. There, she taught but he eventually decided to exit and travel with friends to London. After getting into Jane’s Addiction, he took some lyrical advice and went to Spain.

In the city of Sitges, he started selling cheap paintings to pay for an apartment. Eventually, he followed a girl back to Los Angeles. Then, in the early 1990s, he got more involved in the art world. “No one would go to an art show unless there was free alcohol and a band,” he said about these early art shows.

Ironically, Norman Reedus got drunk at a party, and after a yelling nonsense, someone said he was born to be an actor. This ironically led to a comedy about AIDS. As the understudy, he actually had to act day one when the lead bailed on the show.

Working With David Fincher And Discovering Art

Norman Reedus | Photo Credit NBC

Soon after the unusual comedy, Reedus was asked to do several music videos. At the time, icons like David Fincher, Mark Romanek, and Tarsem Singh were giants in the MTV music-video resolution. “They kind of passed me around,” he said. “We know this kid. He’s got a weird face,” he joked about his early work.

Norman Reedus can still be spotted in the background of music videos from Radiohead, R.E.M., and Bjõrk. After making $20 bucks a painting, this “acting” work started to bring in real money. “Just watching them work and hearing ideas—it opened up a whole world,” he said as an inspiring filmmaker.

“I can film that wall and have these books fly by in slow motion and add a dead bird in the corner, and it’ll be magical,” he mused. This led to a Prada campaign. “What’s Prada?” he asked his manager at the time.

The Path That Led To Helena Christensen

Norman Reedus | Photo Credit CNET

The young actor hated that he eventually got linked to the model-turned-actor genre, even though it was the other way around. He hated sitting still but he did eventually meet Helena Christensen, who became the mother of his child, Mingus. “I just followed her lead,” he said about the work.

Then, in 1999, he landed on the cover of Vanity Fair’s Hollywood issue, along with stars like Adrien Brody and Giovanni Ribisi. A year later, he got cast in The Boondock Saints, which made his career with folks who now watch The Walking Dead on AMC. But more trouble happened in 2005.

A few years after The Boondock Saints, he got into a car accident in Berlin which left his face looking like “…a hamburger. I was thinking, I’ll never act again.”

From “Hamburger Face” To The Iconic Daryl Dixon

Ride with Norman Reedus | Photo Credit AMC

According to rumors, legends, and the truth, Norman Reedus came in to audition for Merle Dixon, but the role went to Michael Rooker. According to Reedus, the roles had already been cast but he was obsessed with the idea of the apocalypse. He actually just wanted to do a guest spot on the show.

He came in to read Merle’s lines and Frank Darabont liked him so much they decided to write a part for him. As Merle’s younger brother, he was written as a racist redneck bowhunter. Despite this, the actor worked hard and fought to keep out the lines so his character would be more empathetic.

By rejecting the redneck/racist/druggy path, his character became lovable.

The Ongoing Growth Of Daryl Dixon

The Walking Dead | Photo Credit AMC

“The dynamic has changed,” he explained. “In Season 1, it was ‘Here’s some clay, mold it into something.’ Season 2, it’s ‘Okay, here’s the mold—we’re all sharing ideas on how big the hands should be.’ And then Season 3: ‘He may or may not have long or short hair,’ and a bunch of people are making that decision.”

Since he’s the longest running non-comic character on the show, many of Daryl’s actions are rooted in Reedus’ interpretation. Thanks to those early seasons, Daryl was shaped into the character he is today. It’s certainly hard to imagine anyone else playing the role but it literally sounds like it wouldn’t have worked without him.

What’s your favorite thing about Norman Reedus as Daryl Dixon?

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