Character Actors ( Pt 2) – Today’s Best?




10     Joe Pantoliano 

Joe Pantoliano

was born in Hoboken, New Jersey and was 32 before he hit it big playing the ruthless pimp Guido in Tom cruise’s first major success Risky Business in 1983. Since then he has played opposite many of the top Hollywood actors in such memorable films as Midnight Run (1988), The Fugitive (1993), U S Marshals (1998) and The Matrix (1999). Pantoliano has suffered from clinical depression since the 90s.  He usually plays a fast-talking, profane, deceitful wise-acre. In my opinion, his best performance in a movie was in Risky Business, although he won an Emmy in 1999 for his work on The Sopranos TV series.


9          Peter Stormare in Fargo

clutch_c - Separated at Birth? Peter Stormare and Ryan Gosling

Having enjoyed watching his performance as Steve Buscemi’s homicidal, moronic partner in Fargo (1996), it is difficult to imagine that Swedish-born Stormare was Associate Artistic Director of the Tokyo Globe Theatre from 1990-3, directing productions of Shakespearean plays, most notably Hamlet. So far, this highly versatile performer has played an American, a German, an Italian, a Dane, a Swede, a Norwegian, a Frenchman and a Russian (three times) on-screen. Stormare is a seriously talented individual, being a playwright and musician as well as actor and director. I thought he was quite brilliant in Fargo, yet he scarcely spoke.


8          Gary Oldman in JFK

Gary Oldman

Today, Gary Oldman is probably best known to young audiences for his roles as Detective (later Lieutenant) Jim Gordon in the ‘Dark Knight’ films, and as Sirius Black in the Harry Potter franchise. I always picture him as a most convincing Lee Harvey Oswald in Oliver Stone’s JFK (1991). He almost looked more like Oswald than Oswald did. He was good in the title role in 1992’s Dracula, given that I find the Dracula character rather boring most of the time, having been done to death over and over. Oldman at least gave him a personality of sorts. In 2011, he finally got a much-overdue Oscar nomination for his performance in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, even if the movie itself was an exercise in ennui. His great ability is to alter both his appearance and his voice almost at will, which makes for some brilliantly original portrayals. A class act.


7          Tom Wilkinson in The Full Monty

Tom Wilkinson

Like most cinema-goers, I did not really notice Wilkinson until his terrific performance in the hugely successful ‘sleeper’ The Full Monty in 1997. Soon after that he seemed to be in just about everything. He was especially good in Shakespeare in Love (1998), and was twice Oscar-nominated (for In the Bedroom in 2001, and for Michael Clayton in 2007). When asked which actors were best to work with, his response was enlightening: ‘All good actors are easy to work with. It’s the ones that aren’t very good who tend to be very difficult’. Fair enough. Significantly, this excellent actor has appeared in no fewer than eight movies that have been nominated for a Best Picture Oscar. Clearly, he knows quality when he sees it.


6          James Cromwell in L A Confidential

James Cromwell

James Cromwell began his screen career with a small part in The Rockford Files on TV in 1974, but had to wait over 20 years until he at last gained recognition in his role as a farmer in the popular Babe in 1995. His great height (nearly 6’7” or 199m) caused many directors to overlook him, primarily because he towered over their leading men, but after his masterly portrayal of Captain Dudley Smith in the fabulous LA Confidential two years later, he suddenly found himself in demand, his stature no longer an issue. He did recall, however, that director Blake Edwards (Julie Andrews’ husband) embarrassed him with the comment: ‘What am I supposed to do with that?’, when Cromwell auditioned for him.


5          Ving Rhames in Pulp Fiction

Pulp Fiction

‘Ving’ is short for his Christian name Irving, and was given to him by a former room-mate, actor Stanley Tucci. Just a year after performing well in Dave (1993), alongside his Julliard School of Drama classmate Kevin Kline, Rhames landed the role that made him famous, that of Marsellus in the highly acclaimed Pulp Fiction. Since then he has made the part of Luther Stickwell in the Mission Impossible franchise his own, and is in demand all over. Renowned among his peers as a kind and generous man, he once donated the Golden Globe Award he won for Don King: Only in America to fellow nominee Jack Lemmon, saying he felt Jack was a more deserving winner.


4          Alan Rickman in Die Hard


What movie fan is not familiar with the name Alan Rickman? Ever since he burst onto the screen as Hans Gruber in 1988’s Die Hard, the world has been his oyster. Possessed of one of the most distinctive voices in movies, he is more often than not the most memorable thing in most of his films. Leading actors must hate working with him because he effortlessly steals scene after scene. Admittedly, Bruce Willis matched him in Die Hard, but most critics would agree that Kevin Costner played second fiddle to his Sheriff of Nottingham in 1991’s Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. His Colonel Brandon in Sense and Sensibility (1995) almost stole that fine film as well. It is hard to believe that he will turn seventy in February 2016. Yet another Harry Potter actor, he played Severus Snape in the franchise.


3          William H Macy in Fargo

FARGO with Frances McDormand, William H. Macy, Steve Buscemi ...

William H Macy has been in scores of fine films, but the most memorable (as far as I am concerned) has to be Fargo (1996), a role he lobbied hard for with the Coen Brothers. ‘I essentially told them I’d shoot their pets if they didn’t give me this role’, he recalls, ‘and I wasn’t leaving the room until they cast me’. Throughout his lengthy career in film and television he was won 33 awards and been nominated for a further 45, including an Oscar nomination for Fargo. He has been married to actress Felicity Huffman since 1997.


2          John Turturro in O Brother Where Art Thou?

Oh Brother, Where Art Thou? | Did You See That One?

The first time I saw John Turturro was when he played Bernie Bernbaum in Miller’s Crossing (1990), and was pleading for his life in a wonderful scene in the forest. Since then he has graced many fine films, not all of them dramas either. He was quirky in The Big Lebowski (1998), downright annoying in Redford’s Quiz Show, sinister in Secret Window (2004) and hilarious in O Brother Where Art Thou? (2000). In short, he is always entertaining and never dull. Turturro enjoys making films with Spike Lee (eight so far) and the Coens.


1         Stanley Tucci in The Pelican Brief

Stanley Tucci - Internet Movie Firearms Database - Guns in Movies ...

I have lost count of the number of terrific movies Stanley Tucci has enhanced in his amazing career. His versatility is staggering. He went from playing Lucky Luciano in Billy Bathgate (1991), to a very funny criminal named Muerte in Undercover Blues (1993), to a callous assassin in The Pelican Brief in the same year. In 2001 he played Adolf Eichmann in the TV movie Conspiracy; in 2002 he was back portraying a gangster (Frank Nitti) in Tom Hanks’ superb Road to Perdition, then in 2004 he made a terrific ballroom dancer in Shall We Dance. Lately, he has appeared in The Hunger Games features as Caesar Flickerman, the bizarre host of the games. Tucci is probably the most sought after character actor in movies today.


    • Me too, Sheila. One of my favorite movies of all time, and Stormare is one of those brilliant actors that looks genuinely mean. In Australia, most of our ‘heavies’ look like nice guys trying to act tough.

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