at this point in time, when everyone else is lavishing their cinematic attention on Tom Hanks and Bruce Willis and the rest of the leading men in the movie business, i’m busy promoting the character actors in their films as the major reason to see them. but i fear that, at this point, everyone already knows that i love Joe Pantoliano to death and that the mere voice of Keith David alone is enough of a reason for me to watch a bad movie containing him. so it’s in this vein that today i celebrate some additional character actors who are, if no Joey Pants, still pretty fucking awesome. and no, i will not be naming Christopher Walken. he’s very cool and he dances and it’s all very good, but everyone already knows he rocks.
i said NO! actually, it’s probably fair to note the following non-leading men also don’t need my attention: Steve Buscemi, Philip Seymour Hoffman, William H. Macy and Danny Trejo. all very cool dudes, but i think we all know that we’re in for some awesomeness when they pop up in a picture, right? okay, on with the list.
i’ve recently advanced the theory that John Turturro is always weird in every movie he’s ever been in, though in fairness, he’s not always creepy-weird (Jesus Quintana), but also sometimes normal-weird (Herbie Stempel). like most awesome character actors, Turturro’s key is that he’s legitimately a great actor (my main case in point being the “i can’t die here, like an animal” scene in Miller’s Crossing or, for that matter, his role in Miller’s Crossing, period) mixed with the fact that he’s a weird-looking dude. generally, i feel a little bad about describing guys i like the work of as “gifted by weird looks,” but that’s probably what being a character is all about. or something. and seriously, even when you’re not convinced that Turturro’s character is weird (Det. Larry Mazilli) … well, you just know he is.
top Turturro moments: the aformentioned scene(s) in Miller’s Crossing (“i’m praying to you … look in your heart!”); threatening John Goodman in the Big Lebowski (“nobody fucks with the Jesus”); being a regretful jackass in Quiz Show (“you never leave a guy alone unless you’re leaving him alone”).
there’s a decent chance that James Hong is the best dude to ever come out of Minneapolis; Prince is an awesome musician, to be sure, but he wasn’t in Big Trouble In Little China. he will show up on terrible shows (“the King of Queens,” also known around here as “Fat Guy, Hot Wife”) and terrible films (any of those Bloodsport movies he was spotted in) in bit roles (“government worker”) and lend an aura of respectability to them. there’s also a good chance he’s that “one Asian guy who was in that movie that i’ve seen in twenty other films but whose name i don’t recall,” so if he is, now’s the perfect time for you to learn his damn name.
top Hong moments: constructing replicant eyes in Blade Runner (“i just make eyes”; plus, his name is fucking Hannibal Chew); the classic “Chinese Restaurant” episode of Seinfeld; every last second of awesome screen time as David Lo Pan (“you were not brought upon this world to ‘get it!'”).
Anthony Anderson is my rising character actor star, but admittedly, for a long time i was wary of whether or not he could be in anything serious after a run of pictures like Kangaroo Jack. but luckily for Anderson, he strung a series of quality work together (Key, Antwon Mitchell, Brown) and the sad fact is that the promise of him decked out in Clinton Portis paraphenalia and acting crazy was problem my major reason for seeing the Transformers, especially with them making my hero Megatron weird and lamer than he could have been and so on. very disappointing! but i digress. Anderson also gets labeled stuff like “rotund comic,” which is code for “will never be a leading man.”
top Anderson moments: Glen Whitmann losing his fucking mind in the Transformers; the omninous but still flippant crime lord Antwon Mitchell on the Shield (“from now on, when i say, “suck my dick”, you say…”), and, of course, production-machine Key in Hustle & Flow (let’s beat that bitch, then” … a quote which i also realize has so little context here that it’s actually a negative amount).
so there you go! okay, one more time: