12 SUPPORTING ACTORS/ACTRESSES WHO DESERVE TO PLAY THE LEAD
Born in Lynchburg, Virginia in 1959, Baker attended Holy Cross Regional Catholic School before completing his education in 1980, when he graduated from the Southern Methodist University of Texas. His first role came in a United States Postal Service training film called “Was It Worth It?”, but his big break wouldn’t come until 1998 in Todd Solondz’s dark ensemble dramedy Happiness. He played Bill Maplewood, a family man and therapist, who is also a pedophile and has fantasies of shooting sprees. With this role, Baker launched himself into controversy and Hollywood’s eye. His brand of intense, slithering character study was a winning formula for that film, as he gave gravity to and elicited sympathy for a monster. He soon became popular with established filmmakers, and began appearing as solid support in bigger movies such as Road To Perdition (Sam Mendes, 2002), eventually scoring the part of Dr. Connors in Sam Raimi’s blockbusting Spider-Man 2 (2004), which made good use of an actor with easy-to-channel intellect. This led to high-profile TV work including a Primetime Emmy nomination for his guest spot on The Good Wife. A versatile actor, he also frequents the stage, and will soon be seen in Julie Delpy’s 2 Days In New York (2011).
Recommended: Happiness, Trick ‘r Treat (Michael Dougherty, 2007).
One of the most dedicated character actors of our time, Davies was born in 1969 in Saugus, California. After a tough childhood (his parents divorced early and he lived with his mother until she died of lupus in the mid-70s) he attended the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. While in attendance he scored a number of small roles in commercials and TV series including The Wonder Years and a Showtime thriller special called Guncrazy. He really garnered critical recognition for his hysterically sympathetic performance in David O. Russell’s superb black comedy Spanking The Monkey (1994), but what has been most evident throughout his career is Davies’ physical and mental dedication to his roles. He lost 33 pounds for his role in Werner Herzog’s Rescue Dawn (2006), becoming a bearded, stick-thin prisoner of war, and also excelled in his minor roles in Lars von Trier’s ‘America: Land Of Opportunity’ entries Dogville (2003) and Manderlay (2005). For his role on the hit ABC series Lost, Davies studies physics and maths – in fact, most of the equations his character writes in the series were Davies’ own work. He is most recognizable for his intensely saddening eyes and softly spoken delivery, as seen in films such as Secretary (2002) and Solaris (2002).
Recommended: Spanking The Monkey (1994), Rescue Dawn (2006).
Born in Honolulu, Hawaii, Olyphant is a brilliant actor who always rises above B-movie material. At the age of 2 he moved with his family to Modesto, California, where he grew up to study fine art. After attending some acting classes Olyphant became passionate about performing and moved to New York to study with William Esper. After a healthy start in theatre he won small parts in A Life Less Ordinary (1997) and TV’s Sex And The City, but scored box office success in Wes Craven’s slash-tastic sequel Scream 2 (1997). After some critically-panned movies he scored a starring role in HBO’s acclaimed Deadwood, where he plays Sheriff Seth Bullcock. In movies, however, he has struggled to find roles worthy of his talents, delivering great performances in terrible films such as Dreamcatcher (2003), The Girl Next Door (2004), Die Hard 4.0 (2007) and Hitman (2007). He continues to find great success as chisel-jawed tough-guys on TV in Justified, and has brought his charmingly playful style to surprisingly solid horror/thrillers such as A Perfect Getaway (2009) and The Crazies (2010). His constant display of versatility, through comedy, drama, horror and western genres continue to impress, and his voice will next be heard in the animated Rango (2011).
Recommended: Deadwood, The Crazies.
The son of actor and playwright Jason Miller (The Exorcist), Jason Patric was born in Queens, New York, in 1966. He attended Roman Catholic High School and appeared in school productions of popular plays and musicals, such as Grease. One of his first roles came after graduation, in a TV movie called Toughlove, where he starred alongside the legendary Bruce Dern, who he would reunite with in the underrated After Dark, My Sweet (1990), a ruthlessly sinister and heartless neo-noir, still begging to be rediscovered. His biggest success was The Lost Boys (1987) a rebellious vampire classic where he got to display the considerable zeal and charisma he would later channel into even darker territory. He took a leading role in the dull Speed 2: Cruise Control (1997) to help fund and produce Neil LaBute’s Your Friends And Neighbors (1998), a shockingly dark comedy with a stunning performance from the supporting actor, as the slimy, misanthropic Cary, who delivers a chilling monologue in a sauna scene you’ll never forget. He earned a reputation as an intense character actor, and an actor willing to take chances in brave, uncompromising material – which is also true of the hard-hitting drugs drama Narc (2002) which seems him on commanding form.
Recommended: After Dark, My Sweet, Your Friends And Neighbors, Narc.
Born into a showbiz family in Los Angeles in 1974, Ribisi’s mother was a manager of actors and writers, and his father a musician; the keyboard player of 1960s rock band called People!, one of the first bands to stage a rock opera. He began in television in episodes of Married With Children, The X-Files and a recurring part on Friends as Frank Buffay Jr., brother of Phoebe (Lisa Kudrow). Like Leonardo DiCaprio he has retained his boyish looks, but has marked himself as an intense performer of dark, unconventional roles – key examples being The Other Sister (1999) as a mentally challenged young man who falls in love, and The Gift (2000) where he played an impulsive, violent drifter named Buddy Cole. His distinctive voice also lent itself as narrator to Sofia Coppola’s The Virgin Suicides (1999) and his finest performance came in the shockingly underrated Heaven (2002), the last project Polish filmmaker Krzysztof Kieslowski worked on before he died. Always one step away from cracking the big-time (he was last seen in Avatar) Ribisi has also demonstrated serious comedic chops on TV series My Name Is Earl and Entourage. Stardom surely beckons.
Recommended: The Other Sister, Heaven, I Love Your Work (Adam Goldberg, 2003).
An English actor best known for his role as Remus Lupin in Harry Potter, David Wheeler was born in Blackpool in 1963. His parents owned a toy and wallpaper shop and his initial interest emerged in music – with rock bands QED and Door 66. He came to London with the band but soon enrolled himself in the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, which he graduated in 1984, and registered with the actors union under his mothers maiden name, Thewlis. He worked in TV for eight years, starting with an episode of Only Fools And Horses and after a small part in Mike Leigh’s Life Is Sweet (1990) came to the directors attention. As well as having perfect diction, his fast-paced performances are also quintessentially English, perfectly fitting the Mike Leigh mould. Thewlis was cast in Naked (1993), a largely improvised movie in which his vile, rambling drifter Johnny dispenses philosophical rage over one dark night in London. He won Best Actor awards for his portrayal, including the coveted award from Cannes. He soon appeared in several Hollywood blockbusters (Dragonheart, 1996) and British comedies (Divorcing Jack, 1998) but also made his mark in character pieces such as Seven Years In Tibet (1997). He is currently banned from China.
Recommended: Naked, The Street (TV).
Born in Englewood, New Jersey in 1964, Davis graduated from Tenafly High School, New Jersey, and after studying ballet as a teenager moved to Chicago to be an actress. It was here that she started her career on the stage, taking over Madonna’s role in David Mamet’s Speed The Plow. Although she still frequents the stage, Davis also has an established film career, normally starring in indie/arthouse films that receive little audience attention. Death-defying horror Flatliners (1990) saw her in her film debut, starring alongside Julia Roberts and Kevin Bacon. She came to wider attention in suburban thriller Arlington Road (1999), playing alongside Jeff Bridges, but soon retreated back to independent roots for American Splendor (2003), The Matador (2005) and Infamous (2007), all of which demand more attention. Softly spoken and down-to-earth, she’s able to slip between comedy and drama with ease, and always provides a likable anchor for otherwise dull films (Charlie Bartlett). She starred in seven episodes of TV drama In Treatment and will next be seen in sci-fi drama Real Steel (2011).
Recommended: Mumford (1999), Genova (2008).
Born in Forres, Morayshire, Scotland in 1965, Henderson grew up in a working class-family and was first exposed to performing when she sang in local pubs/clubs and charity events. After winning a competition at Butlins Holiday Camp she became interested in acting and was accepted into London’s Guildhall School of Music and Drama. She graduated to the stage before landing small parts in Rob Roy (1995) and Trainspotting (1996) which grabbed the attention of two of Britain’s finest contemporary filmmakers, Michael Winterbottom and Mike Leigh. Wonderland (1999) and Topsy-Turvy (1999) displayed the full range of her skills; drama, comedy and singing, and Hollywood took notice, casting her in a thankless but funny role in Bridget Jones’s Diary (2001). Her quiet, raspy voice soon became part of the Potter universe with Chamber Of Secrets and Goblet Of Fire (2002/05) but it’s her work in smaller projects such as the fantastic 24 Hour Party People (2002) and A Cock And Bull Story (2004) that has seen her win the attention of critics and film fans. Her scope has become more ambitious in the last few years, with Marie Antoinette (2006) and Meek’s Cutoff (2010) shining among likable TV work such as Doctor Who.
Recommended: Topsy Turvy, Once Upon A Time In The Midlands 2002).
Born in London in 1971, Mortimer is the daughter of the late Sir John Mortimer, QC – creator of Rumpole Of The Bailey. After attending St. Paul’s Girls’ School she studied at Lincoln College, Oxford. Here she became fluent in Russian and appeared in several amateur plays. After graduation she acted in standard television roles (Silent Witness, Midsomer Murders) and landed her first film role opposite Val Kilmer and Michael Douglas in hunting drama The Ghost And The Darkness (1996). Her innocent charm and natural good looks won her work in Notting Hill (1999) where she displayed winning comic timing which won the attention of Hollywood – soon she was in Scream 3 (2000) and The Kid (2000). She turned to the independent scene to give a dedicated and bare performance in affecting dramedy Lovely & Amazing (2001) before delivering excellent work in low-budget dramas such as Bright Young Things (2003), Dear Frankie (2004) and Match Point (2005), Woody Allen’s London-based thriller. She has continued to walk the line between indie (Lars And The Real Girl) and mainstream (Shutter Island) with a satisfying blend of comedy and drama. The ever-sweet character actress will next be seen reuniting with Martin Scorsese on Hugo Cabret (2011).
Recommended: Lovely And Amazing, Dear Frankie, Match Point.
Mary Lynn Rajskub
Born in Detroit, Michigan in 1971, comedienne, singer and actress Rajskub is best known for her role as Chloe O’Brian on TV’s epic series 24. Her family is of Irish, Czech and Polish descent, giving her a unique appearance and oddly deadpan sense of humour. She graduated from Trenton High School in 1989 and furthered her education at the San Francisco Art Institute, graduating as a painter (she still paints, holds installations in galleries, and sells her work for charity). She soon became noticed as a comedic actress as David Cross cast her in the TV series Mr. Show With Bob And David. She frequented TV shows and indie films, perfecting her comic timing, also appearing in a deleted scene from Magnolia (1999) as assistant to Frank T.J. Mackey (Tom Cruise). She soon flexed more serious muscles in Punch-Drunk Love (2002) and Mysterious Skin (2004), two of last decades most beautiful and underrated films. Most will recognize her distinctive voice in a recent episode of The Simpsons and her dramatic work extended to 2009’s Julie & Julia, reuniting her with Sunshine Cleaning (2008) star Amy Adams. A 24 film is in the works but she still has the makings of a classic comedy actress; her biting sarcasm and dark wit complemented by a deadpan stare and deceptive intelligence.
Recommended: Punch Drunk-Love, Mysterious Skin, 24.
Born in Springfield, Massachusetts in 1974, Sevigny grew up in Darien, Connecticut with her Polish-American mother and French-Canadian father, giving her a distinctly offbeat but attractive look, and deep, alluring voice. She took weekend trips to New York as a teenager, where she was spotted by the fashion editor of Sassy magazine. While working as a model she met a young filmmaker by the name of Harmony Korine, which led to her casting in the controversial drama Kids (1995). She continued along the indie/arthouse circuit, taking on dark and challenging in films like Trees Lounge (1996) and Gummo (1997), boosting her profile and likely leading to her casting in the affecting Boys Don’t Cry (1999), a harrowing drama. She started mixing indie/arthouse sensibilities with unconventional mainstream products, such as American Psycho (2000). The Brown Bunny (2003) launched her all over the world for a controversial unsimulated oral sex scene but it was her work on Dogville (2003) that year which demanded attention. The publicity did her favours, however, as she landed parts in films by Woody Allen (Melinda And Melinda) and Jim Jarmusch (Broken Flowers). She now stars on the hugely successful HBO series Big Love, as well as working on oddball projects such as the Herzog/Lynch collaboration My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done? (2009).
Recommended: Boys Don’t Cry, Zodiac (2007), Big Love.
Perhaps the most underrated actress of our time, Walters was born in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia in 1959, to American parents. She attended Lake Forest Academy for her education and began work as a painter. She soon made a move into acting with the critically acclaimed Dead Poets Society (1989) and episodes of the TV series Roseanne. She struggled on TV for a number of years before landing a small role in P.T. Anderson’s Hard Eight (aka Sydney) and continued to work with the director on Boogie Nights (1997), and took a significantly larger role in Magnolia (1999), delivering an emotional performance as a lonely and desperate drug addict. She landed a few studio parts, notably in the underseen drama/thriller WiseGirls (2002) but began to struggle with leading roles again, with an uncredited turn in Ridley Scott’s Matchstick Men (2003) and small parts in Cold Mountain (2003) and The Butterfly Effects (2004) showing considerable supporting skill, but didn’t make the most of her talents. She last starred in Love Ranch (2010) and has found TV success with Big Love.
Recommended: Magnolia, WiseGirls, Big Love.