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Three Underappreciated Actors

August 21, 2010

Here’s a small tribute to three actors tirelessly churning out great work in films and television who never seem to be recognized for their troubles.  Let’s start with…

3.) Sam Rockwell

Rockwell may be small in stature, but he fills the screen with his dynamic skills.  He’s a born scene stealer, and works best as either a villain or a witty sidekick.  He can score big as a leading actor in small films, but also shines as a character actor, which is no small feat in today’s Hollywo0d system.

Memorable Roles:

Confessions of a Dangerous Mind (2002) – Channeling real life kook and game show impresario Chuck Barris, who claimed to have a secret life as a superspy, Rockwell was mesmerizing.

Matchstick Men (2003) – as a con artist’s protege in Ridley Scott’s overlooked dramedy, Rockwell acted circles around leading man Nic Cage, bringing a lively sense of comedic charm to an often bleak movie.

Iron Man 2 (2010) – Smooth operator Justin Hammer was an ideal role for Rockwell, who plays smarmy and conniving  like no other can.  Rockwell managed to take the emphasis off of villain Ivan Vanko (overplayed by MickeyRourke), and walked away with some of the movie’s best lines.

2.)Mark Ruffalo

Ruffalo manages to play the ultimate everyman with ease, making it look like a piece of cake.  In actuality, it’s one of the toughest things to do.  When other actors ham it up or go OTT, he’s sure but steady in both indie films and blockbuster hits.   Plus, he’s got the range to play both comedic and dramatic roles.

Memorable Roles:

We Don’t Live Here Anymore (2004) – As a man whose marriage is crumbling, Ruffalo’s lead performance made Andre Dubus’ realistic and painful short stories ring true with his subtle portrayal.  It’s not the flashiest role, but it’s the best.

13 Going on 30 (2004) – In any other actor’s hands, this fluff piece could have been painful, but Ruffalo’s effortless and easygoing charm made it easy to believe he was a man even the most ridiculous girl could fall for.

Zodiac (2007) – Tackling one of true crime’s greatest unsolved cases made for the performance of Ruffalo’s career.  As David Toschi, the inspector having to deal with both a murderer on the loose and a loose cannon cartoonist who thinks he can solve the crime, Ruffalo was nothing short of incredible.

1.) James Frain

James Frain is one of the most hardworking and consistently unnoticed character actors in the business.  You may not even know who he is by name, but start mentioning or describing his roles, and I’ll bet you’ll see the light.

Memorable Roles:

Elizabeth (1998) – As the scheming and slimy Spanish ambassador De La Quadra, Frain’s performance was chilling enough to send terror into the heart of England’s greatest queen.

Titus (1999) – Julie Taymor’s blood-thirsty adaptation of Shakespeare’s goriest play gave Frain a chance to play a good guy who is trapped in the machinations of his wicked and doomed family business.

The Tudors (2007-2009) – Frain’s best role to date was as the complex and captivating Thomas Cromwell, advisor to Henry VIII during his most turbulent years.  Wisely playing Cromwell as both a victim AND a bully, Frain gave dimension to a character who could have easily been portrayed as a one-note sideshow.

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