I don’t usually make a point of repurposing lists from mainstream movie sites on this blog – that’s what Twitter is for. But a recent list from The Playlist is simply too good to ignore.
Their list, titled 10 Undervalued Actors Who Deserve To Get More Work, was published yesterday afternoon and aims to draw attention to excellent actors whose faces are known, but names are largely overlooked.
A little over a year ago, I started my column In Character solely to draw attention to such people. Today will mark my 40th In Character post, so I thought I’d change things up and ask the same essential question The Playlist did: which undervalued actors do you think deserve more work?
My Top 10 (many of which show up on The Playlist’s original tally) is below. Do feel free to tell me yours. And really, thanks so much for your support of this In Character column. I’m glad a lot of you enjoy putting names to the faces as much as I do!
It seems silly to include an Oscar-winning actress on this list, but The Playlist’s reasoning sold me. Because really, what the hell has happened to Jennifer Connelly? For four years in the late ‘90s-early ‘00s, Connelly had an unparalleled streak of hits that eventually resulted in Oscar gold. Inventing the Abbotts, Dark City, Walking the Dead, Requiem for a Dream, Pollock, and A Beautiful Mind all feature perfect Connelly performances. And then what? She’s excellent and fearless in House of Sand and Fog, steady in Little Children, and then nothing. I suppose you either love Dustin Lance Black’s Virginia or hate it, but how many people have even heard of that movie, let alone seen it? Maybe her work in Darren Aronofksy’s Noah will turn her career around. She totally deserves it.
I’ve been in love with Rosemarie DeWitt ever since she quietly broke my heart as the titular character in Rachel Getting Married. I thought she deserved an Oscar for her work, but many (including the nominating committee) disagreed. Since that film, I’ve gone out of my way to track her work, spotting her all-too-brief cameos in Cinderella Man, Rescue Me, Purple Violets, Mad Men, Afterschool and Margaret. She was darling in Your Sister’s Sister, and I’m thrilled by her recent Independent Spirit nomination, but she deserves to be a big big star.
In many of the reviews I’ve read for Flight, people have made specific mention of Greenwood’s subtle work in it, which is completely justified. My fascination for Greenwood’s delicate sensibilities started with his one-two punch of Rules of Engagement (playing a ruthless politician) and Thirteen Plays (playing the most famous politician). Since then, I’ve caught up on his flawless older work, including Exotica, The Sweet Hereafter, Double Jeopardy and... The Malibu Bikini Shop (don’t judge, that flick is a camp classic), and reveled in his current performances in Being Julia, Capote, I’m Not There and Meek’s Cutoff. J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek helped make him a household name; Flight accelerated that further. Now, let’s bring in some solid steady roles for a man who consistently gives it his all.
Thanks to his impeccable work in Warrior, The Grey and End of Watch, Grillo has been on a roll as of late. And for damn good reason. He’s charming, reliable, and a little unnerving in the best possible way. There’s a very brief moment in Warrior (that excellent, flawless work of contemporary art) when Joel Edgerton watches on TV from his locker room as Tom Hardy destroys a guy in the ring. Edgerton looks back and locks eyes with Grillo, who raises his eyebrows as if to say, “Yeah… it’s coming.” He raises his eyebrows, but he actually doesn’t raise his eyebrows. Try to make that facial expression in front of a mirror. It’s so small, so simple and so difficult. Give too much and the expression is laughably overblown. Hold too much back, and you’re doing nothing.
Grillo’s doing something all right. I just wish he had the chance to do more often.
I’m sensing a trend. My captivation with most of the actors on this list started with That One Role. That performance that begs you to take notice and dive deeper. For Hawkins, it must be her courageous work in Mike Leigh’s criminally underrated Happy-Go-Lucky. An out-and-out comedy romp, Hawkins plays lead character Poppy as, well, a woman who lives her life exactly as the film’s title suggests. It was the best female performance I saw in 2008 (and that was a pretty solid year for female performances). The Golden Globes were nice enough to award her work, but with roles like Poppy, and work in An Education, Never Let Me Go, Made in Dagenham, Jane Eyre and more, Hawkins should be known by all.
I love every actor on this list, but only two of them, if forced to choose, would be among my Top 10 favorite actors currently working in film, period. One is Elias Koteas, the other we’ll get to next.
I love Koteas in everything, namely David Cronenberg’s Crash, Zodiac, Shutter Island, Fallen and Two Lovers, but really, there’s only one role that needs to act as evidence for the case in giving Koteas an A-list career. The role is Capitan Staros in Terrence Malick’s The Thin Red Line, and it is one of the best, most reserved, most gut wrenching performances I have ever seen. Koteas gives Staros such open levels of humility and vulnerability, that it can actually be quite uncomfortable to watch a times. This is a man lost amidst the chaos around him. And when he fights with Nick Nolte to get some of his dignity back, it’s a fight that is as harrowing as it is desperate. A truly masterful performance.
Count Campbell Scott as my other favorite actor on this list, a guy whose effortless charisma has forced me to seek out most all of his work. I love that Scott was given a rare opportunity to flex his work in a major blockbuster (playing Peter Parker’s father in this year’s The Amazing Spider-Man) but really, this man is a king of independent cinema. Best known for his iconic, groundbreaking turn in Roger Dodger, Scott has wowed me in a handful of other films: as a gay man living within the AIDS epidemic in Longtime Companion, a duped fool in The Spanish Prisoner, a husband trying survive a marriage in The Secret Lives of the Dentists, and oh so much more. I only wish I had the chance to see Scott’s work more often. The man’s talent warrants limitless roles.
Ever since getting lucky on a casting call for United 93, Olivia Thirlby has quietly and steadily asserted herself as a young indie powerhouse. Perhaps best known for playing Ellen Page’s wiseass best friend in Juno, she’s stolen scenes in The Wackness, New York, I Love You, Uncertainty, Bored to Death, and Margaret, while being the best part about lesser films like No Strings Attached, The Darkest Hour, and Dredd 3D. This year, she’s delivered two very solid performances in Being Flynn and the upcoming Nobody Walks. She’s young, talented and gorgeous, so, for the love of God, give her more great roles so she can speak to that.
If Shea Whigham makes even the slightest appearance in a film, I make it a point to highlight him specifically in my review. I simply love everything about his process, and ever since his shattering work in Tigerland, I’ve lobbied hard to make him as known as possible.
Hilariously stealing scenes in The Bad Lieutenant, The Lincoln Lawyer, Fast & Furious, Machete, and many more, there are really two sides to Whigham’s talent, both of which deserve their own recognition. There’s his unique comedy, and his soft intensity, evident in All the Pretty Girls, Boardwalk Empire, Take Shelter, Pride and Glory, and more. This year so far, he’s been whacked by Benicio Del Toro in Savages, hammed it up as Bradley Cooper’s brother in Silver Linings Playbook, and will soon pop up in Malick’s King of Cups and Scorsese’s The Wolf on Wall Street. Here’s to hoping this year and next propel him to higher status.
Taking 2012 off after stealing the show in 2011’s Source Code, The Ides of March and Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, there is no actor on this list that is more deserving of more pronounced recognition than Jeffrey Wright. A chameleon who has seamlessly morphed himself into Jean Michel Basquiat, Martin Luther King, Colin Powell, Muddy Waters and many many more, there is simply no reason for a name like Jeffrey Wright to not be common knowledge among even the most carefree movie goer.
Many know him as Felix Leiter in Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace. Believe me, that role only scratches the surface of Wright’s range. There is far more to be discovered here.
Michael Clarke Duncan
Philip Baker Hall
Philip Seymour Hoffman
the Cast of Lincoln
William H. Macy
John C. Reilly