Thursday, November 15, 2012

In Character: The Cast of Lincoln

If Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln is nothing else, it is a glorious roll call for many of the finest character actors currently working in film. As often as I can, I dedicate this blog to character actors in my recurring column, In Character, and I thought this would be a great opportunity to mix things up.

So, below I have called out more than 20 character actors who appear in Lincoln, highlighting some of their best work, and drawing attention to their one particular best role.

Hope you enjoy putting names to the faces!

Bill Camp
Role in Lincoln: Mr. Jolly
Notable roles: Public Enemies, Lawless, Damages
Best role: Camp was utterly perfect as Ann Dowd’s at-first sympathetic (then devastatingly manipulated) fiancĂ© in the masterful thriller Compliance.

David Costabile
Role in Lincoln: James Ashley
Notable roles: Flight of the Conchords, Damages, Afterschool, Solitary Man, Breaking Bad
Best role: As the do-whatever-it-takes-to-win-a-Pulitzer Baltimore Sun editor in the fifth season of The Wire, Costabile was the perfect business slime ball.

Joseph Cross
Role in Lincoln: John Hay
Notable roles: Flags of Our Fathers, Untraceable, Milk
Best role: I didn’t like Ryan Murphy’s Running with Scissors (at all), but as Augusten Burroughs, Cross did his damndest to carry the film as best he could.

Dane DeHaan
Role in Lincoln: Second White Soldier
Notable roles: True Blood, Chronicle, Lawless
Best role: DeHaan was a perfect encapsulation of teenage angst in the third season of HBO’s phenomenal show, In Treatment.

Adam Driver
Role in Lincoln: Samuel Beckwith
Notable roles: You Don’t Know Jack, J. Edgar, Frances Ha
Best role: His Adam Sackler on HBO’s Girls is currently the best character on television.

Wayne Duvall
Role in Lincoln: Senator Bluff Wade
Notable roles: Apollo 13, The District, Love Liza, In the Valley of Elah, Pride and Glory
Best role: Duvall is hilariously pathetic as a Grand Wizard of the KKK in the Coen Brothers’ O Brother, Where Art Thou?

Walton Goggins
Role in Lincoln: Clay Hutchins
Notable roles: The Apostle, House of 1,000 Corpses, Miracle at St. Anna, Justified
Best role: What Goggins did with Shane from The Shield marks one of the finest character arcs I have ever seen a television character go through. By the end of the show, he was completely stealing every scene.

Lukas Haas
Role in Lincoln: First White Soldier
Notable roles: Witness, Mars Attacks!, Alpha Dog, While She Was Out, Inception
Best role: I loved his snaky, curiously commanding The Pin from Brick. No idea how I guy like that was able to maintain control for as long as he was.

Jackie Earle Haley
Role in Lincoln: Alexander Stephens
Notable roles: The Bad News Bears, Breaking Away, Watchmen, Shutter Island
Best role: Tough call, but I still think Haley should’ve won the Oscar for his icy portrayal of a pedophile in Little Children.

Jared Harris
Role in Lincoln: Ulysses S. Grant
Notable roles: Natural Born Killers, Dead Man, I Shot Andy Warhol
Best role: What Harris did in the most recent season of Mad Men should’ve earned him the Emmy. Period. Long live Lane.

Role in Lincoln: Robert Latham
Notable roles: Deadwood, Me and You and Everyone We Know, Martha Marcy May Marlene, The Sessions
Best role: His unrecognizable, remorseless Teardrop in Winter’s Bone justly catapulted his career. A perfect performance.

Hal Holbrook
Role in Lincoln: Preston Blair
Notable roles: All the President’s Men, Wall Street, The Firm, The Majestic
Best role: Holbrook is utterly devastating in Sean Penn’s Into the Wild. That final send off, when he asks to adopt Chris? Wow.

Bruce McGill
Role in Lincoln: Edwin Stanton
Notable roles: Animal House, My Cousin Vinny, Matchstick Men, Collateral, Cinderella Man
Best role: McGill doesn’t have a huge role in Michael Mann’s The Insider, but he steals every second he is on screen.

Boris McGiver
Role in Lincoln: Alexander Coffroth
Notable roles: Rescue Me, Fur, John Adams
Best role: Nothing beats McGiver’s helplessly clueless lieutenant from The Wire. Dude just wanted his camera back.

Peter McRobbie
Role in Lincoln: George Pendleton
Notable roles: The Purple Rose of Cairo, Shaft, World Trade Center, Law & Order, Boardwalk Empire
Best role: His one scene as John Twist represents one of the more heart breaking moments of Brokeback Mountain. He knew what his son was, and he couldn’t care less.

S. Epatha Merkerson
Role in Lincoln: Lydia Smith
Notable roles: Terminator 2, Lackawanna Blues, Slipstream, Mother and Child
Best role: She killed it on Law & Order for damn near 20 years. Impossible to top.

Tim Blake Nelson
Role in Lincoln: Richard Schell
Notable roles: The Thin Red Line, Donnie Brasco, The Good Girl, Syriana, Leaves of Grass
Best role: There are many entertaining nincompoops in O Brother, Where Art Thou?, and Nelson’s Delmar O’Donnell ranks chief among them.

David Oyelowo
Role in Lincoln: Corporal Ira Clark
Notable roles: The Last King of Scotland, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, The Paperboy
Best role: Actually, I’m going to go with his Lincoln role. His brief monologue to Lincoln (in which he recites Lincoln’s own words) perfectly sets the tone.

Bill Raymond
Role in Lincoln: Schuyler Colfax
Notable roles: Dogville, Michael Clayton, Damages
Best role: Raymond’s The Greek proved to be one of the most subtly menacing and memorable characters from The Wire.

James Spader
Role in Lincoln: W.N. Bilbo
Notable roles: Less Than Zero, Wolf, Crash, Secretary, The Practice, Boston Legal
Best role: Spader has a rather impeccable body of work, but he’s never been better than as the manipulative Graham in Steven Soderbergh’s Sex, Lies, and Videotape.

Role in Lincoln: William Seward
Notable roles: L.A. Confidential, Harrison’s Flowers, The Bourne Identity
Best role: Strathairn is one of the finest, most reliable actors currently working in film. I am a huge admirer of his, and I can say with upmost sincerity that his work as Edward R. Murrow in Good Night, and Good Luck represents one of the finest performances of the ‘00s.

Michael Stuhlbarg
Role in Lincoln: George Yeaman
Notable roles: Afterschool, Boardwalk Empire, Hugo, Seven Psychopaths
Best role: While I love Stuhlbarg’s work as Arnold Rothstein in Boardwalk Empire, I simply can’t turn my back on Larry Gopnik, that desperate, curious, lost man from the Coen brothers’ A Serious Man.

David Warshofsky
Role in Lincoln: William Hutton
Notable roles: Running Scared, Public Enemies, The Master
Best role: Warshofsky has one of the best deliveries of the line, “What?!” in cinema history. Because, really, how would you respond to having Daniel Day-Lewis tell you he’s going to come into your home when you least expect it and slit your throat? Ah, the power of There Will Be Blood.


  1. Joseph Cross is an OK actor and I did like him in Flags of Our Fathers but man... I absolutely loathed Running with Scissors. Cross looked uncomfortable in that film and I don't think he knew what he was in for where everyone else overacted.

    Michael Stuhlbarg I do love. He's great as Rothstein. I'm with you on Hal Holbrook in that scene in Into the Wild, that was devastating.

    1. Running with Scissors sucks, doesn't it? Really hated that movie aside from a few performances. I honestly have no recollection of Cross in Flags of Our Fathers... I need to give that one another go.

      Holbrook in Into the, just wow.

  2. Hey didn't know you were a Mad Men fan too! Yes, poor Lane Pryce... the only one thus far to teach Cambell a much needed lesson. One of my first posts on CUAH was a Mad Man Season 5 review. Great list, of all the faces in the cast. Got to say I was most impressed with Spader, didn't even recognize him as the head 'persuader', his best work in long time. Since we were talking about what bores us in the Lincoln review, does season two of The Wire ever pick-up the pace? Lordy would something freaken happen, I'm really trying to power through before HBO GO gets rid of it but Season two is taking forever.

    1. LOVE Mad Men. One of the very few shows I actually watch in real time. I loved the beating old Lane gave Pete, well deserved.

      Unfortunately my friend, Season 2 of The Wire does not pick up its pace. It's a great season of television in its own right, but when you compare it to the show's other four seasons, it is a major let down. The good news I have for you is that Season 3 fucking kills it, and Season 4 is the single finest season of television in the history of the medium. Yup.

    2. Hmm, perhaps I'll just skip ahead to season 3 then... anyway what did you think of the latest season of Mad Men? I felt it was fine for Mad Men but just didn't have a season defining episode like in previous seasons, like The Wheel or The Suitcase, much more was set-up in this one for the supposed final season than what was delivered.

    3. I actually loved last season. I thought the season before was more or less crap. Hard to think of a best episode from this most recent season. I did like the one that depicted Lane's demise. Poor bastard.

  3. Great post! They definitely put together a solid cast. John Hawkes was amazing in Winter's Bone, and I love Tim Blake Nelson, especially in O Brother, Where Art Thou, which is one of my favorite movies.

    1. Thanks! Both great actors dishing out great performances, right there.

  4. If you liked Walton Goggins in the Shield, you would love Justified. He is great in that show. Fire in the hole!!

    1. Oh man, I watched the first two seasons of Justified, but then just lost touch of it. Definitely want to go back and watch the whole thing. From what I saw, Goggins was killing it.

  5. Great post. Maaan, you watch so many films.

    I have become such a fangirl of Stuhlbarg it's scary. He, along with Jack Huston, were my favourite things about Boardwalk.
    ZOMG James Spader in Sex, Lies and Videotape *fans herself*. Even with that hair.

    1. Ha, thanks. What can I say, they're my lifeline.

      Stuhlbarg and Huston are epic in Boardwalk. Love them both, no doubt.

      Spader is such a lady killer in that flick, isn't he?

  6. Nice call on Sex, Lies and Videotape. Probably my favorite film I've seen by Soderbergh.

    1. Oh really? I had no idea you liked it that much. Nice.

    2. It just goes to show you don't need a huge cast to make a damn great film.

    3. No, ma'am, you certainly do not.

  7. This just confirms that I'm the only person on the planet that didn't hate Running With Scissors. Oh God.

    All kidding aside, this is a great post! Lincoln really is packed with a lot of talent. Jackie Earl Haley was phenominal in Little Children.

    1. Ew no way, that movie SUCKS!

      Glad you liked the post! Haley was so good in that film. Oh so freaky.

  8. Glad you highlighted these actors man. (Just saw the film.) Good performances all around, from the character actors to the stars. I'm "meh" on the film though. Probably a B- for me at best.

    1. Thanks! That's my line of thinking as well, if not a little harsher on the film itself. Actors were great, and technically it was flawless, but the movie as a whole didn't work for me. Oh well.

  9. Wow, badass idea for an In Character post, man! Didn't realize Lincoln was stacked with so many great character actors.

    And I totally forgot that Costabile was in The Wire. I knew I recognized him from somewhere other than Breaking Bad!

    1. Thanks dude! Costabile was SUCH an asshole in The Wire. I worked in the newspaper industry for more than two years, and I'm so thankful I didn't have an editor like that. Shit would've sucked.

  10. Great idea for a post, Alex! I'm very impressed by your extensive knowledge of actors, films and television series. Good call on Stuhlbarg's performance in "A Serious Man." Quirky film, but I liked it alot.

    1. Aw thanks Fly! A Serious Man is so out there, isn't it? I need to watch that one again. Thanks for reading/commenting!

  11. My Good man! My favorite blogger you! You forgot someone! :)

    I'm actually delighted to see this post - I hardly had a chance to notice all of those fine actors with all that was going on. Everyone keeps going on and on about Lewis and Jones but everyone were so good, except for Sally Field- - what a desperate performance.

    1. Really? Who?! (I don't consider Jones and Field character actors, if that's who you mean...)

      Lincoln didn't really do it for me, but I did love the acting throughout. Field's performance is so odd. People either seem to love it or loathe it. I didn't particularly care for it, but oh well!

    2. Lee Pace :) I'm not sure what constitutes a character actor but the man was a transgender nightclub performer in Soldier's Girl, a killer in Infamous, The Elven king in The Hobbit and here he was just on fire as Fernando Wood. He is one of the few actors I've seen who can play the noble heroes and terrible villains with the same passion and conviction.

      Yeah, I know some people who loved her but for me she just seemed desperate.

    3. Dude that is so weird. I specifically remember writing his name in, and saying that his best role was as Dick Hickock. So either I'm completely losing my mind, or something got lost in copy/paste purgatory. Either way, I completely agree with you, Pace is a hell of a talent.

    4. Oh, awesome that you've seen Infamous! Him and Daniel Craig were fantastic there. Perhaps he disappeared from the post so that I could come here, whine and highly recommend Soldier's Girl :)

    5. Maybe! Soldier's Girl... I'm on it.

  12. Even if i did find the movie kind of boring, Lincoln had a fantastic cast. If there is one thing Spielberg always get's right, it's his casts. This also made me think that Bruce McGill would be a good fit for one of your future In Character posts. He always grabs my attention every time he pops on screen, yet no one ever seems to talk about him. I remember him best from Timecop of all movies. He was a great fit for the police chief in a 90's (time)cop movie.

    1. Bruce McGill is another guy I've been meaning to get to for quite some time. Just need to buckle down and do it. His ferocious work in The Insider is remarkable.

      (Also, I thought Lincoln was kind of boring too. Didn't work for me.)