Billy Dee Williams turns 80: A look at 5 of his best roles

To celebrate his 80th birthday, a look back at some of his famous roles.

— -- Billy Dee Williams may have turned 80 today but he doesn't seem to be slowing down much.

The former heartthrob recently reprised his popular if somewhat controversial role as the brand ambassador for Colt 45.

"Sometimes a true original doesn't need to change a thing," he declares in a new commercial, talking as much about himself as the malt liquor he's shilling.

Williams, who was born and raised in New York City and graduated from the former High School of Music & Art, has been bringing his brand of charm and swagger to the screen for nearly 60 years.

Next month, he'll appear in ABC's television remake of the popular 1980s film "Dirty Dancing." He'll play Tito, the charismatic bandleader for the resort, replacing Charles 'Honi' Coles in the original film.

"If that's what they want me to do I would be very happy to do it -- as an old man," he told The Huffington Post last year.

As for another actor portraying a younger version of Lando, Williams was dismissive.

"I think I made that character into something very special, and I can’t imagine anybody else doing it, to be very frank with you," he told The Huffington Post.

To celebrate Williams' 80th birthday, we take a look back at five of his best known roles:

"Brian's Song"

"Lady Sings the Blues"


The follow-up project was "Mahogany," with Ross and Williams once again playing a couple forced to overcome obstacles to be together. The film became a success at the box office and its theme song, "Theme from Mahogany (Do You Know Where You’re Going To)" became a No. 1 hit and earned an Oscar nod. Because of Gordy's involvement, Williams told The Huffington Post, "It all made sense to me that it (the film) will always have a very important status in the world of film and music."

"Star Wars"

The 1980s brought Williams his best known role as Lando Calrissian, an old friend of Hans Solo's in "Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back" and "Episode VI – The Return of the Jedi." Once again, Williams charmed audiences and went on to lend his voice as Calrissian in a video game, an animated series and more.

Colt 45

At the height of his popularity, Williams signed on as the brand ambassador for Colt 45 in 1986. Although he got some flak for appearing in liquor commercials, he said the five years he spent doing the campaign turned into an "iconic experience." "No matter where I go, in this country or outside of this country, there are young people -- and I’m always surprised that young people know about me and Colt 45," he told the Huffington Post. "So, I obviously created a huge impact with this brand. And certainly during those days it was something different and very special."

Recapturing that experience and "the money" were among the reasons he signed on again to represent the company. "The whole idea of having been the face and the voice of something that turned into an iconic experience, and to come back to it, again, I found myself thinking about it and I thought, 'Wow, I was so good at it,'" he said.