I'll nail your ass to the wall.
~ Augustus Steranko

Augustus Steranko is the primary antagonist of the 1990 film If Looks Could Kill. He was portrayed by Roger Rees.


Steranko was the chancellor of Orenbourg, a small European country located somewhere near France. He lived in the Chateau Richelieu with a retinue of servants and guards to attend to him. In addition to being Orenbourg's chancellor he was also its finance minister and the chairman of the European financial community. On the surface, he was well-liked with foreign officials and his desire to bring financial stability to 1990's Europe earned him many accolades and awards, and appearances in popular magazines.

But there was a darker side to Steranko. He did intend to bring financial stability to Europe, but under his direct control. He put forth a plan whereby he would persuade the finance ministers of other countries to send their countries' gold to the Chateau Richelieu. Steranko boasted it would become "the Fort Knox of Europe." The plan found support with most of Europe and the rest of the world, with Steranko appearing on the cover of Time with the slogan "The Gold Stops Here."


Steranko tries to persuade Jacques Lafevre to hand over France's gold.

In reality, once cooperating nations turned their gold supplies over to him, Steranko melted them down into gold coins emblazoned with his stylized scorpion emblem. He planned to poison the rulers of other European common market nations at a party, and in the confusion seize control of the continent with his private army, uniting Europe into one super-country, with the newly minted coins as its currency. He was assisted in this endeavor by his diminutive and deceptively harmless-looking assassin Ilsa Grunt.

There were a number of thorns in his side. Firstly, French finance minister Jacques Lafevre refused to hand over his nation's gold. Steranko had him murdered by his and Ilsa's henchman Zigesfeld. British secret agent Blade, who'd followed Lafevre and was on to Steranko's plan, attacked the Chateau. Zigesfeld lost his hand in the process, necessitating its replacement with a golden robotic one. Ilsa took care of Blade using her whip, though, and they put his and Lafevre's bodies in a car and staged an accident to disguise their murder.


Steranko gloats over Michael Corben.

British Intelligence knew that someone was killing finance ministers, but didn't suspect Steranko. In fact, they believed Steranko himself would be the killers' next target, and so the Queen of England asked the President of the United States for assistance. He sent deep cover operative Michael Corben, a CIA agent, to Europe to protect Steranko. Ilsa however had a mole placed in British Intelligence who told her of Corben's arrival, and she intercepted and murdered him at an airport in Detroit. However, another Michael Corben, a high school student on a class trip to France, boarded the plane and was mistaken for the dead CIA agent by British Intelligence's Derek Richardson. He unwittingly ended up filling the original Corben's role, and, assisted by Blade's daughter Mariska, slowly became of Steranko's duplicity.

Zigesfeld captured Michael's classmates and took them to the Chateau as prisoners. In attempting to rescue them, Michael and Mariska were captured and put in the dungeon. They escaped using exploding chewing hum, and Michael freed his imprisoned friends and killed several of Steranko's guards in a firefight and also killed Zigesfeld. He stopped Steranko from poisoning the European dignitaries attending the party and revealed the wine was poisoned. His duplicitous nature exposed, Steranko took Mariska hostage and attempted to leave in his private helicopter with Ilsa.

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Steranko attempts to escape in his helicopter.

Before takeoff, he ordered his guards to load the copter up with boxes full of the coins he'd smelted. This resulted in the aircraft being too heavy. When Steranko attempted to take off, the copter would only get a few feet off of the helipad. While under fire from Corben, several attempts were made to lighten the helicopter. First Ilsa threw Mariska out. She survived the fall. When that failed, Ilsa suggested they toss the gold out. Instead, Steranko threw her out, killing her, but still the copter wouldn't get any higher. Mariska grabbed a dead guard's gun and she and Michael shot at the aircraft.

Their bullets punctured the undercarriage, and due to the weight of all the gold, the perforated metal buckled, creating a big hole through which several tons of gold coins began to pour. Desperate to save his wealth, Steranko turned around in his seat and tried to grab it, and ended up being pulled out of the hole with it. He crashed into the helipad below and the coin still raining down from the hovering copter buried him alive. The pilotless helicopter than fell down and landed atop him, crushing him to death.


Steranko is extremely arrogant. He compares himself to past conquerors such as Alexander the Great, Napoleon and Hitler. He uses a scorpion as his personal emblem, possibly because the image of it appears fearsome. He seems to relish the limelight, and enjoys giving public speeches and hosting lavish parties where he can lord himself over others. In particularly, he insists on a private dinner with the captured Michael just so he can gloat over his victory and explain his plans to him, like many similarly arrogant villains before and since.


Steranko and Ilsa stand before a large version of Steranko's scorpion symbol.

He mistreats his underlings regularly. Although he did replace Zigesfeld's lost hand, he seems to regard the man as little more than a mindless attack dog, and despite her loyalty to him, and her willingness to kill for him, Steranko shows absolutely no respect for Ilsa, snidely telling her not to think for herself and saying she is boring to listen to. He also discards her when he has no further use for her, and when forced to choose between her and his gold.

His arrogance makes him extraordinarily rude when in situations away from the public eye. Although he has convinced many people that he is not a villain, and does a good job of keeping up the facade when in public and at official functions, when left to his own elements he is extremely offputting and rude and seems to have a particular dislike of foreigners, especially the British.

Although he wields great influence and power, he is not a hands on kind of evildoer. By his own admission, violence unnerves him. He turns away when people are killed on his orders. Because of this, he relies on Ilsa, Zigesfeld, Areola and his army of guards and henchmen to do his killing for him. When backed into a corner, however, he can become violent, but his inexperience with fighting and firearm use make him a very poor opponent indeed.


Steranko possesses no abilities beyond those of a normal human. Even then, he is not a good fighter and exhibits poor firearm use. This is likely due to his over-reliance on his henchmen. He is however a clever manipulator and managed to convince most of the civilized world he was a good and charitable person, cultivating many friends in high places.