Mystery is an odd thing. You can’t ask for it, nor can you will it. It can’t be an act, it simply has to be. Joaquin Phoenix is, perhaps, the current leader of self-imposed oddity, taking over for the King of All Strange Kings, Christopher Walken. Casey Affleck is in there, as is Tilda Swinton. And lest we forget the Crispin Glover and Tim Curry’s of the world. I could go on, but you get the point. And when having a conversation about odd yet talented performers, Jeremy Davies deserves to be listed chief among them. The man moves to his own beat, rarely delivering a role that isn’t directly spawned from his own unique sensibilities. There’s no phoning it in for Jeremy Davies, the man goes all in, using his peculiarity to reel us, before flooring us with his quiet power.
Note: I gave up on Lost long before Davies began appearing on the show. So unfortunately, his work as Daniel Faraday was not considered here.
Five Essential Roles
Spanking the Monkey (1994)
Saving Private Ryan (1998)
Cpl. Timothy Upham
Now, for anyone who has seen Saving Private Ryan, you know Davies’ work in the film comes down to one pivotal, horrific scene. A scene in which Davies stands mortified in a stairwell, paralyzed by fear. I remember watching this movie once with one of my best friends and his father, who was a war veteran. After this scene, my friend, perhaps in an effort to be macho, said of Davies’ character, “Wow, what a pussy.” His dad paused the movie and looked at him. “You try going to a fucking war, then tell me who the pussy is.”
Pretty much exactly how I’ve always thought about the scene. You can’t know, unless you know.
Margo Martindale, who won an Emmy for playing ferocious psycho Mags Bennett, Walton Goggins, Justified’s primary villain-turned antihero, and Neal McDonough, who still attains the title of Justified’s best villain. And now we get Davies’ Emmy-winning work as Dickie Bennett, son of Mags. The unkempt, narrow minded, ruthless Dickie. Dickie is a toilet bug that won’t go away – you think you flush him down, and he just rides the wave and rises again. There is no end to my fascination with what Davies does with this character. I’m sad that Dickie has been absent as of late, but it was a joy to see him pop up late in Season 5, still thinking he’s the smartest guy in the room.
The Best of the Best
Rescue Dawn (2007)
The shot directly above is one I’ll never forget: a shell of a man, circling alone in the dense jungle, talking to himself, chuckling, lost. What quiet power, indeed.
Other Notable Roles
Going All the Way (1997)
The Million Dollar Hotel (2000)
The Laramie Project (2002)
Helter Skelter (2004)
It’s Kind of a Funny Story (2010)