OK, more like four under-rated and one just plain old unfortunate. You’ll see why. For every Steve Guttenberg, Scarlett Johansson and Jason Statham, who seem to get regular work despite having little to no discernible talent for the job they’re paid obscene amounts of cash to do, there is a veritable legion of actors who plough through auditions and bit parts until they reach the point where they star in films and people still say ‘who’? There will be an article along soon pillorying talentless and pointless Hollywood wasters but for now, here’s to the heroes. No particular order, except the last.
Harry Dean Stanton: An actor so good, I named a cat after him. No, really. Although the feline Harry Dean has sadly departed this world, the human one is still knocking around, I am very happy to be able to report. Although he himself admits he may have been a little slack – “I’ve been rather like a cat. I’m finicky and I’ve done a lot of things, and made career choices, missed meetings and so forth that would have made me a much bigger actor, I think.” – there are actors out there who could attend all the meetings in the world and still be crap. If it wasn’t for directors like Wim Wenders who cast Stanton in the utterly beautiful Paris, Texas (1984) and Alex Cox coaxing an enigmatic and comic turn from him in Repo Man (1984), he may have stayed in obscurity. Anyone remember Stanton in Cool Hand Luke (1967) or Kelly’s Heroes (1970)? Thought not.
Pete Postlethwaite: Sadly no longer with us, Postlethwaite was a consummate actor who specialized in playing gruff, abrupt characters, many of whom hid unexpected quirks or kindness. He worked on TV and stage for many years before he received his first Oscar nomination (Best Supporting Actor) for his role as Giuseppe Conlon in In the Name of the Father (1993) – before the Oscars became the pointless circle-jerk it is now. A star of the British acting scene, Hollywood recognised him quite late in the day but he did solid work throughout his career. My only disappointment is that he took a part in Baz Luhrmann’s god-awful Romeo + Juliet (1996).
Franke Potente: ‘That one with the red hair in Run Lola Run (1998)’ is probably not the best way to go through life, particularly if you are a convincing and accomplished actor. Potente always puts in a solid performance – anyone who has seen Run… will see what she was capable of even back then. Tom Tykwer’s follow-up was a haunting and beautiful love story Der Krieger und die Kaiserin (2000), and brought another fine showing by Potente. Apart from being cast in two of the Bourne movies – one of which she has more screen time in than the other – she seems to be ignored by the big studios. Even in films that could be so much better (Creep (2004)), she works hard to shine through the dross. I find her incredibly sexy too. Sue me.
Juliette Lewis: I can kind-of see why she gets passed over a lot. (1) The expression ‘mad as a box of frogs’ leaps to mind. Whenever she’s interviewed, you’re just waiting for her to do something odd. Not in the oh-so-lame ‘controversial’ style of many rock stars, she’s the real deal – but still a fine actor. (2) She wants to be a rock star (hmm, maybe there is something in the controversy thing after all). Scorsese knew she was good, casting her alongside De Niro in his creepy and brutal remake of the Mitchum classic, Cape Fear (1991). She’s worked with and for some of the best in the business, and yet Keira Knightley still gets work. Doesn’t make any sense to me. Lewis is currently getting back into the movie business, and I for one would like to see her do more.
What’s-his-name: You know, the creepy one who put people in drains in that Clint Eastwood film. That one. Andrew Robinson – yes, evil has a name, and his name is Andy – is the one you’re thinking of. Famous or infamous for his portrayal of Scorpio, the killer in Dirty Harry (1971) he found himself typecast as a psycho, which I have to say, I found pretty convincing. Aside from getting the lead role in Hellraiser (1987), he seems to have been cursed by his greatness. No director alive would be casting him as a kindly uncle any time soon. Luckily for Robinson, he landed a regular role in the 1990s series Deep Space 9. This saved him from typecast obscurity and he now runs a theatre company in Los Angeles. There have been no reports of him actually killing anyone.