Sunday, October 23, 2011

The Best the Americans Have to Offer Us, Part One

Coming out this winter is Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, a film based on the seminal spy novel by John le Carre. While purists and old-timers will point to the seven-part BBC miniseries as the only "true" version of the le Carre story, I'm quite excited to see it, based on the trailer (which uses Danny Elfman's "Wolf Suite" from the Wolfman to excellent effect) and of course, the cast list:

-Gary Oldman
-Colin Firth
-Tom Hardy
-Mark Strong
-John Hurt
-Benedict Cumberbatch
-Toby Jones
-Ciaran Hinds

That's basically the 2007 New England Patriots of British actors, an All-Star team that I'm delighted to see put together on screen. It's like Harry Potter, if the unbelievable acting talent there wasn't playing second fiddle to a bunch of kids and CGI creatures (and also if that seven-part series was condensed down to one movie). The only actors who I wish they had shoehorned in are Geoffrey Rush Edit: Australian, Alan Rickman, and Jonathan Pryce.

Obviously, we're missing all the distinguished luminaries that people think of when they think of British actors (known to geeks everywhere as "the guys who took us seriously"): Patrick Stewart*, Ian McKellan, Christopher Lee, Ben Kingsley, Michael Gambon, Imelda Staunton, Judi Dench, Helen Mirren, Ralph Fiennes, Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine, Ray Winstone, etc. etc. However, in addition to being younger, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy's cast is composed mostly of people who have played supporting roles in other people's films: it is a film made of utility players, role players, blue-collar players, glue guys, scrappy guys who just love the game- in other words, the "small unathletic white guys"of the acting world, who suffer from a condescending discrimination similar to the racism of big-time sports (but that's a different column altogether).

So, given that I plan on running for office someday, I thought I would undergo a patriotic thought experiment (similar to the "What if Ghenghis Khan Was American" column I wrote in 1961), to try to find a similar hypothetical movie that would make me as excited about a crackerjack cast. It would be too easy to go directly for "classic" star power (as in Glengarry Glen Ross, which included Alec Baldwin, Al Pacino, Jack Lemmon, Ed Harris, Kevin Spacey, Alan Arkin, and Jonathan Pryce as the token Brit), so big names like Morgan Freeman, Samuel L Jackson, Tom Hanks, Bruce Willis, John Travolta, Harvey Keitel, Jeff Bridges, and everyone else who's been in a Tarantino film etc. are all out.

Here's the pool of talent I want to pick from:

-Sam Rockwell: My advice is to put on your astronaut suit (everyone has one of those at home, right?) and watch Galaxy Quest, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, and Moon back-to-back-to-back, then watch Matchstick Men and Iron Man 2 back-to-back, and just marvel at his ability to play a wide variety of total losers, and make them all loveable. Somehow.

-Stanley Tucci: The American answer to Alan Rickman. Repeat after me kids: "Stanley Tucci makes every movie better. Stanley Tucci makes every movie better. Stanely Tucci makes every movie better..." I think he may have won an Oscar for "Heavenly Creatures" "The Lovely Bones", but everything the man touches turns to gold. Watching him in "The Devil Wears Prada" was probably his finest moment, and "Lucky Number Slevin" was amusing as well, but my personal favorite is the scene in "Big Trouble" where he meets his employers in a garage. Watch what he does with his wig.

-Paul Giamatti: You would think that this guy did nothing but play poets and down-on-their-luck-but-scrappy-loveable-underdogs, but behind those soulful singer's eyes lie a sociopathic murderer. Never forget.

-Christian Bale, in a cameo role Edit: Apparently he's Welsh, and was the lead in some art film called "The Dark Knight". Bummer.

-Jeffrey Donovan: better known as "the Voiceover guy from Burn Notice", Donovan has a great ability to let us watch emotions roil around inside while his face and body show nothing. He also convinced the producers of Burn Notice to let him fake every accent in the book (emphasis on "fake"), and this is an ability that needs to be exploited (see from about 4:05 onward in this clip).

-Summer Glau: Poor Summer has been pigeonholed into the same role she played in "Firefly", but I'm convinced she has a wider range than she's showed in Sarah Connor Chronicles, etc. Alternately, she could channel her real-world experience of getting hit on by every single straight male geek in the Western Hemisphere (and half of the gay ones) and play Amy Shaftoe in an HBO miniseries-type adaptation of Cryptonomicon. Also she was on Dollhouse with Amy Acker, and so could help convince her to rescind the restraining order she has against me which was a severely underrated Joss Whedon show that didn't deserve its cancellation.

-Jason Bateman: Of course, we know him from Arrested Development, but it wasn't until much, much later that I realized he's the "idiot sportscaster" from Dodgeball. He is the Millenial's version of Michael Keaton: good comedic timing, everyman sort of quality, but with an ability to switch to dark at the drop of a hat. So long as they don't shove him into a Batsuit I think we'll be OK.

-Gary Oldman: After starring in classics such as Fifth Element and Batman Begins edit: Apparently he's British.

-Bruce Campbell: If I were President, there would be a law that Bruce Campbell has to cameo in every single film.

-Amy Acker: The most gorgeous actress to come through Hollywood Amy Acker is another Joss Whedon alum who has a restraining order against me been given an unfair shake by the media establishment; I am convinced if she had the kind of Hollywood body that idiots think is "beautiful" was five years younger and a little curvier she not only would she have played the main role in Dollhouse, the show wouldn't have been canceled and her goddess-like face would grace the cover of every magazine and billboard from here to the Attic career would be taking off too fast to include on a list like this one. I would post the clip from "Vows" here to show off her talents but unfortunately YouTube is filled with like-minded individuals people who want to make corny music videos.

-The Guy Who Played Hans Gruber in Die Hard: OK, this is just annoying now.

-Enver Gjokaj: This is really the last Whedon alumni on the list, I swear. I haven't seen him in anything other than Dollhouse, but his dead-on impressions of Reed Diamond (Mr. Dominic) and Fran Kranz (Topher) are Hall-of-Fame-worthy, and he did a pretty decent job with Victor, too.

-Tina Fey: This is a cheat; Tina Fey is an incredibly successful TV actress but hasn't spent much time in the cinema world, so I'm counting her as a "supporting" player. Deal with it.

-Kevin Bacon (in a cameo): His turn in X-Men: First Class, where he played a swingin' 60s Sebastian Shaw and chewed the scenery like he had already won an Oscar for Scent of a Woman, goes into Hall-of-Fame status. Like Willem Dafoe in "Boondock Saints" (see later down this list), Bacon already knew he was a better actor than any of the schmoes he was with (this is called the "I Already Rock" factor, or the Willem Dafoe Role) and so didn't bother with the whole "I'll prove how great an actor I can be...look how SUBTLE I am!!!" thing; instead, we got him starting the Cuban Missile Crisis with his accents. Although his inclusion in numerous films and the game that's named after him would otherwise disqualify him from this list, I think it's acceptable to ask for a cameo.

-Tilda Swinton I should have guessed that one.

-Jay Harrington: Jay is partially responsible for the incredible terribleness of the U.S. version of "Coupling" (don't even YouTube it; it will make you depressed), but he is also partially responsible for the awesomeness of Better Off Ted, which makes everything forgiven. Unfortunately, I think he'd be competing for the same role as Jason Bateman, and I'm not sure how that one will end up.

-Harry Lenix: OK, really, this is the last Whedon alum. Poor Harry got jerked around by terrible, terrible screen writing in The Matrix Revolutions AND Dollhouse; he deserves at least one good role.

-Willem Dafoe:  Dafoe is the reigning king of the "I Already Rock" roles for his turn as a gay FBI agent in Boondock Saints (seriously, the entire movie is worth watching just for the two-minute sequence where he reconstructs a murder in a strip club). However, he also brings to the plate nuanced, thoughtful portrayals of such characters as the Green Goblin and the creepy gas station attendant from eXistenz.

-Dule Hill: While this may seem like an odd choice, recall that Psych would fall apart without Gus, both from a logical and from a humorous standpoint. It is incredibly difficult to pull off a straight-man role, and Hill fills the bill. (and now my girlfriend will come after me with an axe).

-Cate Blanchett You gotta be kidding me. I need to find a good State Department agent and get her repatriated here...

Coming in Part 2: What kind of a movie project do we put together for the Dream Team?

1 comment:

AJ Arand said...


Coffee is for closers.

I need to see that film again, wonderful post! I cannot wait to hear what kind of film you're going to put these people in....

for irony's sake - a remake of "the invisible man?"