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Quendrith Johnson


Quendrith Johnson is filmfestivals.com Los Angeles Correspondent covering everything happening in film in Hollywood... Well, the most interesting things, anyway.
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Your Daring Dozen, Top 12 Character Actors in Hollywood Now (Arguably)

 

by Quendrith Johnson, Los Angeles Correspondent

 

It has been 75 years since Gone With the Wind (1939) groundbreaker Hattie McDaniel won her Best Supporting Actor, but she remains the gold standard of character actors. That said, with Walter Brennan (1894-1974) and late great J. T. Walsh gone since 1998, here's a roster of the top dozen current heavyweight character actors. 

But wait, there's more...

Disqualified for semi-leading player potential are: John Hawkes (remember that Oscar nom?), John Goodman (a legend in Louisiana and The Big Lebowski), John Turturro (Fading Gigolo's writer/director), Catherine Keener (Capote moved her up in the credits), Mads Mikkelsen (Casino Royale, and a star in Denmark), Steve Buscemi (headling HBO's Boardwalk Empire) and Kathy Bates, who is a leading talent by dint of sheer will. Runner-ups include: Peter Stormare (who has evolved to the interwebs with Elder Scrolls Online, as the voice of Jorunn the Skald King), Mark Strong (the first Sherlock Holmes's culty warlock bad guy), and veteran Conchata Ferrell (now mostly TV), who is ever-awesome.

 

And Your Daring Dozen, starting with the titleholder at Number One (just to ruin the plot)... are...

 

1) William Fichtner - a/k/a Bill Fichtner was blind in Jodie Foster's Contact, the sexy fish chummer in Perfect Storm. But 2011, in the Amber Heard breakthrough heart-racer Drive Angry, he wowed to icon status as The Accountant. From stage to stagecoach, Fichtner is the ultimate character actor, full stop. Watch him in The Lone Ranger (2013), with helicopters in Black Hawk Down (2001) to The Longest Yard (2005) to freak-fringe in UltraViolet (2006) to the upcoming Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles as "The Shredder." If you have played Call of Duty or Grand Theft Auto, you have even heard him as voice talent. Don't forget the rogue mob-bank manager with a shotgun in The Dark Knight (2008). Even with a smoke grenade in his mouth, Bill Fichtner's acting is outstanding. 

 

2) Brendan Gleeson - yeah, he was in Far and Away, also that goofy grown "Hamish" with the club in Braveheart (1995) as a young man, in Gangs of New York (2002) as a strapping bruiser/barber "Monk,"  to fully evolved wry codger cop "Gerry Boyle" in 2011's hilarious Irish export The Guard, with Don Cheadle (who qualifies as a leading man, ps). Yes, he was voice talent in Smurfs 2 (2013). There is only one Brendan Gleeson, thankfully.

 

3) Tilda Swinton - Highlights from Wisest Waif Swinton include the androgynous goddess in Sally Potter's opus Orlando to the cheese-plate obsessed corporate shrew in the Coen Bros. Burn After Reading, to a wizen scene-stealing sexed-up matron in Wes Anderson's Grand Budapest Hotel this year. She kills on screen, and behind the scenes.

 

4) Ken Jeong - That naked trunk scene from The (original) Hangover cemented his place on this list, but Jeong also nailed it to the wall in Transformers: Dark of the Moon. This is a guy who threw away a bona fide medical degree to make us laugh in Despicable Me 2, ps.

 

5) Danny Trejo - often cast as everybody's worst Gang Warrior Nightmare, Trejo proved he can swing as the cynical bartender in the first Ron Burgundy installment, and then there's the gritty bonebreaker roles he excels in: Grindhouse (2007), plus all the Machete (2010) to Machete Kills (2013)movies from Robert Rodriguez. Not bad for a guy from Echo Park.

 

6) Billy Burke - Twlight's cop Dad seems like a clean-cut type with Kristen Stewart's Bella, until he you see him as the Frightanic Cult Leader in Drive Angry, which was Amber Heard's breakout movie. Holy Toledo, he is a Bad Man, followed by Amanda Seyfried's werewolf-weirdo Father from Hell in Red Riding Hood (2012). You get the feeling he is just toying with us.

 

7) Judy Greer - oh, the lady who played the wife in The Descendants (2011)? Not just, consider Jeff, Who Lives at Home (2011). And sometimes she just disappears in character as in "Erin the File Girl" in What Women Want (2000), to The Wedding Planner (2001), to 27 Dresses (2008). Why she was in the remake of Carrie (2013), who knows? Always mild-mannered comedic mayhem, her trademark. Next up for Greer, Jurassic World (2015).

 

8) Thomas Hayden Church - Heaven is For Real (2014) used him as a brown-noser, not the best use of this great talent, because in Sideways (2004) Hayden Church made the movie a laugh-riot, and in We Bought a Zoo (2011), he was back to his Good-Guy groove - recovered from Serial Killing 4 Dummys!

 

9) Michael Madsen - This guy is basically a haughty naughty, from Quentin Taratino's Mr. Blonde in Reservoir Dogs (1992) to Sonny Black in Donnie Brasco (1997) to a baddie Kill Bill Vol. 1 to whatever in Sin City. Plus he even did a turn in pal Dr. Cullen a/k/a Peter Fanchinell's directorial debut Loosies. Madsen can be uneven, but he is game, a trooper, a workhorse.

 

10) Sandra Oh - She can play a jilted pregnant lesbian in Under the Tuscan Sun (2003) with Diane Lane, sling drinks in Sideways, and they keep wanting to throw TV roles at her. Sandra is movie-quality talent, hilarious, subtle, and able to handle a few zingers at an award show, (i.e.; Neil Patrick Harris tossed a blue language b-word at her once, and she swatted him with a smile.) Can't wait to see her in Tammy (Melissa McCarthy as a 'gangsta'), coming Summer 2014.

 

11) Cedric the Entertainer - From Big Momma's House (2000), he killed in Intolerable Cruelty (2003) as Gus Petch, The "Ass Nailer, I Will Nail Your Ass," to 'Nighthawk' Bob Terry in 2007's Talk to Me, to playing a coroner now (no in pre-prod) in Fall From Grace. Basically this guy never disappoints; he either wounds or kills comedically.

 

12) Ray Winstone - Almost a leading man if not for the superficial Beauty Quotient for Men in Hollywood, but a little too hardcore for the marquee up high. The Departed's 'Frenchie' exemplifies him as Ballbreaker with a Heart of Gold. Watch for Winstone as the tribal boss badass in Noah (2014), giving Russell Crowe the violent treatment.

 

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LA Correspondent for filmfestivals.com


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