It has been 30 years since audiences first watched Booger picking his nose in the memorable film, “Revenge of the Nerds”. The man who played the notoriously imprudent character, actor Curtis Armstrong, 61, is also known for his roles in television and films including “Risky Business,” “Moonlighting,” and “Ray,” though possibly his most distinguished character was Booger.
With a legendary cast and memorable quotes, “Nerds” gained notoriety on screen as it portrayed the stereotyped underdogs teaming together to triumph over the clichéd popular crowd. Armstrong said when he first accepted the role of Booger, he didn’t think it would amount to much in the box office.
“I wasn’t even that keen on doing ‘Revenge of the Nerds’ when it happened,” Armstrong said. “But why the movie holds up as well as it does is we all did so much work on who the characters were. While they may have been stereotypical, they were based in something.”
Three decades later, Armstrong’s latest work, which premiered its third season Jan. 23, is a reality game show, “King of the Nerds.” Competitors –who span the full nerd spectrum– come together to face challenges that test their intellect, skill, cleverness and pop-culture expertise. Armstrong and fellow “Revenge of the Nerds” actor Robert Carradine are the hosts in this ultimate nerd-off.
Along with three seasons of “King of the Nerds”, Armstrong continues to act in other television roles, like Principal Foster in “New Girl” and Metatron in “Supernatural.” Since his first film “Risky Business” in 1983, Armstrong has had acting roles every year.
“You go from one job to the next and the next and the next, and the next thing you know it’s 30 years later,” Armstrong said.
Armstrong is married to actress Elaine Aronson, and together they have a 19-year-old daughter, Lily Armstrong. With such a consistent schedule of acting jobs lined up, delegating time between family and work has been a necessity for Armstrong.
“It always just worked out some how,” Armstrong said. “You do what you can. You try to do as much as you can, but you can only do so much.”
Armstrong’s acting career began on stage, where he performed for about 10 years before his first on-screen break out role in “Risky Business.”
“The thing that I miss deeply about the theater is the process,” Armstrong said. “The process of rehearsing over a period of weeks, discovering things, rather than now, you basically walk into a room and they say, ‘okay do you have your lines?’”
Some of Armstrong’s favorite moments weren’t necessarily during his most notable roles. In 1993, he had a small role in a movie called “The Adventures of Huck Finn,” where he worked alongside actor Jason Robards, who Armstrong referred to as “one of the greatest American actors who ever lived.”
Armstrong recalled when he and Robards were waiting to begin filming the bar scene, the last scene that appears in the movie, the director announced that it was going to be the last scene, and everybody started applauding and cheering. Armstrong said that in that moment, he turned towards Robards, and the actor looked back at him, smiled and tipped his hat.
“For me, it was one of the greatest moments.” Armstrong said. “Jason Robards tipped his hat to me, and it was one of the greatest compliments I could have ever ever gotten from anybody.”
Armstrong studied at the Academy of Dramatic Art at Michigan where he learned about acting vocally, movement, stage combat, mask work, physical comedy and more. Armstrong said a lot of what he learned at the Academy has been a huge part of his make up as an actor and advised aspiring actors at SF State to keep motivated in order to succeed.
It can be a lonely existence and the rejection can be tough,” Armstrong said. “But what I’ve found is that people know pretty quickly, once you get out of the school environment, once you start actually doing it, you’ll get your lessons pretty quick.”