It's a fresh year, and the theatres are bursting with new and often (okay, sometimes) interesting films to see for this month and the next. It's been a long while since so many movies have at once captivated my curiosity, and apple.com has traded a lot of my work time break minutes in exchange for their trailer database.
With the multitude of interesting characters and plots being released onto the big screen, my thoughts have returned to the supporting actors that most often hold up an entire film. The supporting cast, or "secondaries," as I like to call them, are an often overlooked group of hard-working individuals, taken for granted by the masses who only show up for the "hot" mainliner or the popular title.
As in my first "Secondaries" column, which you can find here, I want to give credit to some very talented folks in the acting industry. There are many unsung elements that contribute to the completed story that you view on your television screens and theatres - from the stuntmen to the editors to the background actors. I am speaking specifically about the latter. You know who they are - they are the faces that you recognize, because you see them all the time. You know, he was in that movie, or that television show. That guy. But you don't know his name, you only know his face.
There are three names that I would like to recognize in this edition of "Secondaries," and hopefully after, you'll be able to remember their names too.
The first supporting actor that I would like to mention is the very fun Stanley Tucci. Born in the city of Peekskill, New York, Tucci made his first acting appearance as a soldier in the film PRIZZI'S HONOR. He has starred in more than eighty acting roles since then, and has even dipped his hands in some producing, directing, and writing.
Tucci has a very recognizable face, and has a portfolio that allows him to play anything from the good-hearted side-kick to the frightening antagonist. Genre also isn't a problem for this artist, as he swings easily from cheesy romantic comedies such as MAID IN MANHATTAN to the fast-paced action in films like LUCKY NUMBER SLEVIN. You might even remember him as Vernon in your (or your child's) favorite family movie, BEETOVEN, and most recently he has been seen in THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA and JULIE & JULIA. Tucci also has a
healthy list of voice-work, including ROBOTS and SPACE CHIMPS.
Mr. Lehne as YED
His most current role is as the chilling killer in the film THE LOVELY BONES, based on the best-selling novel by Alice Sebold. Although I have yet to see the movie, it looks to be a fantastic performance in which we get to see him dazzle at a polar extreme in his talents. We are far from seeing the last from Mr. Tucci, and I am hoping that THE LOVELY BONES will open doorways for the man in even more frequent and bolder roles.
Next up on my list of secondaries is actor Fred Lehne. Lehne should be considered a star of prime-time television. He has spent nearly as much time on the tube in the evening as many of the main actors in the shows he guest-stars on. His dynamic acting ability and recognizable face make him one of my favorite "that guys;" he's just so enjoyable to watch.
Buffalo, New York-born Lehne made his very first appearance on television in 1978, guest-starring in the extremely short-lived CBS comedy series, "In the Beginning." It appears that he hasn't looked back since, acting in nearly one hundred television series and films. Some of his most recognizable or notable roles include a 19-episode stint as Eddie Cronin on "Dallas," acting alongside Robert Loggia in the single season series "Mancuso, FBI" on NBC, and more currently as Marshal Edward Mars on "Lost."
Fredric Lehne (also known as Fredric Lane) has also appeared on "Ghost Whisperer," "Criminal Minds," "JAG," "The X-Files," "Firefly," and many, many other popular prime-time dramas.
One of the Lehne roles that I most admire is that of Azazel, the Yellow Eyed Demon, on my favorite show "Supernatural." Although Lehne only appeared as the character three times, he created an extremely long-lasting persona for the demon, and most fans would argue that he is, in fact, the Y.E.D. Actors who have followed Lehne in portraying Azazel, including "X-Files'" Mitch Pileggi, have also done a great job at playing the charismatic antagonist, but only by mimicking the traits introduced and created by Lehne himself.
There is not a lot out there about the soon-to-be 51-year-old actor, and despite the fact that his face frequently appears on evening television programming, most do not know his name. He is, however, an actor who deserves a loud call-out, and a thank-you for
his enigmatic performances.
The third secondary has been saved for last, not because of any special arrangement ability-wise, but because Chris Cooper may be a bit more recognizable than the other actors mentioned.
Cooper is definitely one of "those guys." He's been in everything from THE BOURNE IDENTITY, where he played black ops assassin and supposed ally Conklin, to the upcoming romantic drama REMEMBER ME as Emilie de Ravin's father. In fact, his face is becoming so recognizable that I'm surprised that he has only fifty-some roles to his name, less than either of the other secondaries on this list.
The first time I saw Cooper in film was in the novel-to-movie adaptation of John Grisham's A TIME TO KILL. His heart-breaking role of Deputy Looney, the friend and unintentional victim of Samuel L. Jackson's character seeking revenge for his daughter's rape, was something that stuck with me at a young age. The character Looney loses his leg in the shooting incident and yet does not blame the accused, Carl Lee, for the estranged father's actions one bit. Cooper's heart-felt portrayal of the deputy is a tribute to his acting skills - I haven't seen the movie in years and yet I can still here him shout "You turn him loose!", sending chills down my spine.
This column is definitely not the first medium to recognize the talents of Chris Cooper. He has won a multitude of awards for both supporting and ensemble categories, including an illustrious Oscar for role as the colourful John Laroche in ADAPTATION. in 2003. He is a man who can cover many ends of the spectrum, playing characters that we loathe, and characters that we love.
Chris Cooper should not leave the supporting actor scene anytime soon - unless it's to pursue a career as the main character in movies.
You can see both Stanley Tucci and Chris Cooper on the big screen this year, in at least one project each, and you can bet that you'll see Fredric Lehne appear on your television set yet again. If this brief introduction to the brilliant aptitudes and vast portfolios of these artists is not enough to help you remember their names next time, at least have appreciation for their roles, their presence. Look beyond the main characters and see all of the other magnificent elements in a show that help complete it fully. It will be worth it, trust me!
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