Ever since I started getting big into film, I’ve always found myself cheering the underdog, the sidekick or anti-hero, the guy or girl who’s never the hero but always seems to steal the film.
They’re like the actor equivalent of the Irish soccer team – plucky participants but never the winners, the character players who elevate a film by their mere presence and talent.
Even if we don’t notice them half the time…
Australian actor Ben Mendelsohn has been slowly working away for years, building a reputation in his native Down Under that hasn’t really translated to the rest of the world.
But, if you’ve never heard of him, do me a favour and stop what you’re doing, download (legally, of course) Starred Up, then sit back and watch as he and Jack O ’Connell mesmerise you in ways that are almost Shakespearean!
Best film: Starred Up
Not only is Sam one of the most exciting and interesting actors working in Hollywood today, but he’s also one of the most underrated.
It’s weird that he isn’t more successful given that he’s obviously been more amazing than most of Hollywood for what seems like years. His lack of success is in direct contradiction to Robert Downey Jr’s surfeit of plaudits (he basically plays his smarmy, dickhead self in everything now).
Sam should definitely be more famous and have his own line of cologne and superhero franchise.
Best film: Moon
When he’s not busy playing the weird and controlling manager of famous musicians in biopics (Straight Outta Compton, Love & Mercy), Paul Giamatti can be spotted occupying the background in some of the most well regarded films of the last twenty years.
He’s basically been letting the bigger name actors bag the Oscars while he variously plays loveable neurotics (Sideways), a despicable slaver (12 Years A Slave) or an unscrupulous Wall Street wanker (Billions) without the fanfare other actors can’t seem to get enough of.
Best film: Sideways
The king of character actors – and forest-based flash dancing – Kevin Bacon is one of the most relied upon, busy actors working but he rarely ever gets the plaudits he deserves.
Just look at his back catalogue and pick a film he’s not fucking amazing in – whether he’s playing a drifter (River Wild), a child molester (Sleepers, The Woodsman) or a lovable cowboy (Tremors), he’s always on his game.
Put it this way, he’s such a good actor that you don’t even notice his mildly comedic surname.
Best film: The Woodsman
You probably didn’t even know Chris Cooper’s name but you definitely remember his face.
He’s the guy that plays the prick in literally every film made since 2000.
Whether he’s being a prick to his kid (American Beauty), being a prick to Jason Bourne (The Bourne Identity) or being a prick to two Nicolas Cages (Adaptation). He’s a prick basically, but really, really good at being one.
Best film: American Beauty
I love William Fichtner – I actually only learned his proper name today having Googled “That sly lawyer wanker from Heat”.
But you don’t need to know someone’s name to love them – just ask anyone who’s ever had a drunken one night stand.
But I love William Fictner and, if I’m ever looking for an oozily sleazy lawyer-type in the film I’ll eventually make, I’ll totally cast him because he’s so good at playing that role, it’s the only one he”ll ever need (Heat, The Dark Knight, other films I can’t remember).
Best film: Heat
“But Clive Owen is totally respected and rated,” I hear you cry! “You must only be including him to make up the list and because you’re getting paid by the word.”
Well you’re wrong, I get paid in Nando’s vouchers and alcohol, and I’m actually including Clive because he is quite underrated.
Despite having a leading man intensity and being an amazing actor (Closer, Children of Men), he’s never really been propelled into that upper echelon of Hollywood leading man royalty.
Best film: Closer