Who are your Favorite Character Actors?

Discussion in 'Movies' started by rich_d, Feb 28, 2008.

  1. rich_d

    rich_d Cinematographer

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    When I did a search I was surprised that this thread hasn't already been done. The thread's purpose is simple to identify and comment on those character actors that you have especially appreciated over the years.

    There is a thread that defines what a character actor is. My own definition is someone so excellent in a type of role that they often get typecast in doing those roles or like roles over and over.

    I suggest NOT dwelling on whether the role is a lead one or not. Many character actors have had lead roles such as Don Knotts who made a career out of playing the nervous, timid dude but who also got lead roles in several movies or Tony Randall who played the second banana (pal) in so many romantic comedies but who also got leading roles or Steve Buscemi who is the likeable ne'er-do-well character is so many films yet who also has had lead roles.

    Starting this off, my personal favorite is Thelma Ritter. Thelma plays the street-wise, plain-talking, plain-looking woman. A woman who is no stranger to hard work, quick with her wit and her mouth.

    What I like about her is that she can be used to great effect when the protagonist needs someone that will give as good as she takes. Thelma was terrific in Rear Window. In the role of Stella, Thelma stands up to Jimmy Stewart's character and tell him that he's a Peeping Tom not smart enough to drop the ideological crap and marry Lisa (Grace Kelly). Yet she does this while still being likeable.

    Thelma was also terrific in The Misfits playing Gal Pal to Marilyn Monroe's character. Poignant, as she came across as a woman with some hard luck, aware of her plain looks and how others view her.

    Another excellent role for Ritter was Pickup on South Street in the role of Moe, a woman scraping by as police informant and selling cheap ties to get by. Her biggest fear, to not have enough money to afford a proper burial, thus ending up in Potter's Field.

    So, what are your thoughts? Who are some of your favorite character actors and their roles?
     
  2. Lucia Duran

    Lucia Duran Screenwriter

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    Interesting question. I guess I have always thought of a character actor as someone who is great at getting into character, one who can play any part, not just a particular part.

    Based on that criteria, I think Johnny Depp is one of those people who can play just about any role. He is by far one of the greatest character actors.

    Based on your criteria, someone who I think gets typecasted all to often would be... Eugene Levy. I think Eugene Levy is a fantastic actor and could be great in any role.
     
  3. Walter Kittel

    Walter Kittel Producer

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    When I think 'character actor' the first choice that always comes to mind is M. Emmet Walsh. First discovered him in the early '80s with films such as The Pope of Greenwich Village, Blade Runner, and Blood Simple; the film I most closely associate with him.

    - Walter.
     
  4. JohnRice

    JohnRice Lead Actor

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    I'm with Walter. Walsh is a perfect example of what I consider to be an excellent character actor. Just to put in my $.02, the term "Character Actor" has not been traditionally used for lead actors. All actors are expected to "get into" the character, so by that definition, any talented actor is a "Character Actor".

    Others: Harry Dean Stanton, which reminds me of Roger Ebert's "Stanton/Walsh Rule" which states that "any movie with either M Emmett Walsh and/or Harry Dean Stanton can't be all bad."

    Danny Trejo
    Brion James
    Rance Howard
    Patricia Clarkson (also does some larger roles)
    Seymour Cassel
    Brian Cox
    Celia Weston


    Just scratching the surface
     
  5. mylan

    mylan Screenwriter

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    How about another Walsh, to me one of the finest character actors of our time, J.T. Walsh.

    J.T. Walsh
     
  6. Jacob McCraw

    Jacob McCraw Stunt Coordinator

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    JK Simmons
     
  7. dana martin

    dana martin Cinematographer

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    a good movie is made better by great charater actors, hence

    Wilfred Brimley
    Harry Dean Stanton
    Ward Bond
    Donald Pleasance
    J.T Walsh
    M.Emmett Walsh
    Steve Buscemi
    Neville Brand
    Anthony Zerbe
    John Carradine
    R Lee Emery
    Strother Martin
    Jack Wesson
    Richard Farnsworth

    just a short list of always watchable actors, and some A listers grow into that role over time,
     
  8. DaveB

    DaveB Stunt Coordinator

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    Great list!

    A few more of my favorites include Walter Brennan, Richard Marner, and Thomas Kretschmann.
     
  9. RickER

    RickER Producer

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    My favorite are a few guys whos name i dont know, but i know them when i see them. [​IMG]
     
  10. Ockeghem

    Ockeghem Ockeghem

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    I also like Wilfred Brimley and Donald Pleasance. I'd like to add Henry Jones and Richard Masur to the list.
     
  11. JeremyR

    JeremyR Supporting Actor

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    I think I would define this person as a character actor, I always like Tom Wilkinson.
     
  12. JeremyR

    JeremyR Supporting Actor

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    I dont' know.. I guess it's kind of hard to define "character actor" for me. I could argue that Harrison Ford, and Jerry Lewis are both character actors, and are nearly the best.

    Hmm.. another great one that comes to mind is Chris Cooper, but perhaps he's equally too high profile.
     
  13. Marianne

    Marianne Supporting Actor

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    One definition of a character actor:
    "A character actor is an actor who predominantly plays a particular type of role rather than leading ones. Character actor roles can range from bit parts to secondary leads. However, character actors often play supporting roles: characters who do not undergo a major change in the course of the plot, and whose role is less prominent than that of the leading actors."

    On that basis here are a few (although some of them have had leading roles, they usually have supporting roles):

    David Strathairn
    William H. Macy
    Robert Duvall
    Alfred Molina
    Paul Giamatti
    Eli Wallach
     
  14. DavidPla

    DavidPla Cinematographer

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    Gary Oldman can fall into that category every once in a while. And there's a character actor that changes SO dramatically from film to film he truly fits the term "character actor".
     
  15. JeremyR

    JeremyR Supporting Actor

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    Macy is fantastic.
     
  16. Bob Spears

    Bob Spears Stunt Coordinator

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    Harry Dean Stanton
    Adolf Menjou
     
  17. Rob P S

    Rob P S Cinematographer

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    Terry O'Quinn
    Joe Morton
    Bill Cobbs
    Clancy Brown
    Dylan Baker
    Hope Davis
    Ned Beatty
    Barnard Hughes
    Beth Grant
    Loretta Devine
    Alfre Woodard
    Barry Corbin
    Edie McClurg
    John Amos
     
  18. John Dirk

    John Dirk Second Unit

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    I'm with David. Gary Oldman is one of the best. He truly becomes the character and has an incredible range. Check out Immortal Beloved [where he plays Beethoven] for an example of this.

    John
     
  19. Jonathan

    Jonathan Second Unit

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    I agree 100% It hard to believe that it's the same actor in The Fifth Element & Air Force One which came out only a couple of months apart from each other.
     
  20. troy evans

    troy evans Screenwriter

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    My top 7: Michael Madsen, James Spader, Jeffrey Combs, Tim Thomerson, William Forsythe, Ray Walston and lastly, the ultimate character actor, Lon Chaney "Man of a 1000 Faces."
     

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