Bell was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He is known for his roles in the 1985 horror film A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge as the cruel Coach Schneider, 1986's Stand By Me as Gordie's grieving father, and in the 1988 comedy Twins as the ruthless hitman Webster. Bell's other well-known film role was in the 1990 blockbuster science fiction movie Total Recall as the Martian resistance leader, Kuato. Bell also appeared in the 2005 award-winning film, Capote. His most recent film was 2007's Nancy Drew.