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Fun Friday–Underappreciated Characters

Friday, June 22, 2007


I’ve written on this blog several times about my life-long love affair with secondary characters. Between insightful casting of absolutely delightful actors and my desire for everyone to have a chance at recognition and a happy ending, I tend to fall hard for the Bellamy—the hero’s or heroine’s unlauded friend—or the guy who comes along behind the hero who cleans up his mess, or just a character in a secondary role who never garners the appreciation and attention I feel he or she deserves. So, here is my tribute to underappreciated secondary characters in movies:

10. Kate the Smithy in A Knight’s Tale. She didn’t get a romance storyline. She had to earn her keep. She had to put up with Geoffrey, Roland, and Wat. She had to fix Sir Ulrich/Will’s armor. And she is a whole lot prettier and more likeable than the actress/character in the heroine role. I don’t know that any actress other than Laura Fraser could have pulled it off. (Honorable Mention: Rufus Sewell as Count Adhemar)

9. Carl in Van Helsing. Following up his success as Faramir in Lord of the Rings, David Wenham played the monk Carl with a comic sense I never suspected he possessed. (Honorable Mention: Schuler Hensley as Frankenstein’s Monster.)

8. Suzy and Greg in Sleepless in Seattle. One of the funniest scenes in this movie is when Sam Baldwin’s friends, Suzy and Greg (played by Tom Hanks’s real-life wife, Rita Wilson, and Victor Garber) are over for dinner. Suzy cries as she explains the plot of An Affair to Remember, and Sam and Greg devolve the conversation into mocking her by comparing it to The Dirty Dozen.

7. Fran and Jet Owens from Practical Magic. Diane Wiest and Stockard Channing are not two actresses most would think of casting as sisters—but no one would think of Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman as looking like sisters, either. While the two younger women got the billing and the notice for this movie, I love the humor as well as the gravitas Wiest and Channing—two stunningly brilliant actresses—brought to this movie. (Honorable Mention: Goran Visnjic as Jimmy Angelov)

6. John Clark from The Sum of All Fears. Though Willem Defoe did a creditable job in the role in Clear and Present Danger, it wasn’t until I saw Liev Schreiber bring John Clark to life that I really believed the character as presented in the books—especially Without Remorse, which I just read is in preproduction (over at IMDb), which is John Clark’s story, and one of my favorite of Clancy’s novels. The scene where Clark is standing in the rain awaiting his orders—the camera starts off behind him, with his figure silhouetted by the headlights of the cars he’s facing, then pans around to show his impassivity, his imperturbability as he stands there in the deluge showing no sign that it bothers him—is one of the best visuals in the entire film. Oh, and I have a thing for silent-but-deadly assassins. (Honorable Mention: Colm Feore as South African arms-dealer Olson)

5. Lady Claire in Timeline. I must admit that Anna Friel, the actress in this role, is the template for Julia in Ransome’s Honor. This is the first place I saw her, and I still love her in this part. The character is quite different in the book, but I love the way the filmmakers changed the storyline so that the reason Andre Marek stays behind is his love of Lady Claire—not just because he doesn’t have time to get from the drawbridge to the field.

4. Jayne Cobb from the TV series Firefly and the theatrical film Serenity—well, really, any role Adam Baldwin has played, from Captain Wilkins in The Patriot to Jack Riles on the short-lived, syndicated TV show The Cape. Yes, in part, this is because I LOVE Adam Baldwin. But he is usually in one of these secondary roles . . . the roles he chooses are usually great characters—and he’s a superb actor, which makes for a fabulous combination. The character of Jayne Cobb could have been just a typical “heavy”—gun-toting, wise-cracking tough guy with a bad temper. But in collaboration with creator Joss Whedon and the show’s writers, Adam Baldwin brought both wonderful humor and discomforting darkness to the character of Jayne. He’s a big lug who would shoot you soon as look at you, who would turn in a fugitive his captain has sworn to protect simply for the reward money—and then change his mind when he realizes the people he’s handing her over to are evil and she needs his protection. (Honorable Mentions from Firefly: Mark Sheppard as Badger and Christina Hendricks as Saffron)

3. Wedge Antilles from the original Star Wars trilogy. Wedge is the only pilot to survive the missions to destroy both Death Stars (Ep. IV and VI)—but do you see him getting a medal from Princess Leia at the end of the first movie? No. Why? Because he’s an underappreciated secondary character. He is also the only secondary character who appears in all three movies and who has his own catch-phrase (“Good shot!”). He has received a little more notice since the prequel movies came out—Denis Lawson is Ewan “Obi Wan” MacGregor’s uncle. (Honorable Mention: Caroline Blakiston as Mon Mothma.)

2. Lieutenant William Bush from the Hornblower series. Ummm . . . how many posts can I link you to here on my blog that will explain why I’m in love with this character and the actor who plays him (Paul McGann)? Actually, this is about more than just liking the actor in this role—and much of it stems from my reading Lieutenant Hornblower, the novel in which the character of William Bush is introduced . . . you see, it’s told from Bush’s point of view. In the film version (the four-hour/two-part “Mutiny” and “Retribution”), Bush has to walk a very fine line between staying on the maniacal Captain’s good side and his feeling that something must be done, such as the mutiny that eventually occurs. When the Spanish prisoners get free and start to overtake the ship, it is Bush who sounds the alarm and rouses the crew to fight back and hold the ship—and he sustains a grievous injury in the battle that ensues. (Honorable Mentions: Sean Gilder as Stiles, Paul Copley as Matthews, and Denis Lawson as Captain Foster.)

1. Éomer Éadig from The Two Towers and The Return of the King of the Lord of the Ring trilogy. This should come as no surprise to many people who know of my Karl Urban obsession. This is where the obsession started. To read more about why I’m obsessed with this character click here and read about the only fan fiction I’ve ever written. (Honorable Mentions from the LOTR trilogy: Sean Bean as Boromir, David Wenham as Faramir, Craig Parker as Haldir, and Marton Csokas as Celeborn.)

  1. Friday, June 22, 2007 8:56 am

    What a fun list. You’ve made me want to watch these movies for the background/supporting cast. And I totally agree about Eomer and Boromir…they’re why I watch the movies. 🙂

    How cool that Without Remorse is in preproduction. That along with Executive Orders are my favorite TC books…Oh, and Patriot Games…and Rainbow Six…and a bunch of others. 🙂


  2. Friday, June 22, 2007 9:45 am

    Um…WOW. I need to see Timeline because of that FABULOUS picture of Gerard Butler that you posted.


  3. Caleb Abel permalink
    Friday, June 22, 2007 12:20 pm

    Good list overall, though the inclusion of anything from Timeline disappoints me. Michael Crichton is my favorite author and he gave them SOOO much more to work with than they used. The movie could’ve been great, but instead it was just mediocre. I was really disappointed.

    I think my favorite inclusion is actually the two characters from Sleepless in Seattle. What a great scene. Kate the Smith, Jayne Cobb, Wedge, and Eomer are all spot on as well.


  4. Friday, June 22, 2007 3:07 pm

    I need to watch more movies. Have any recommendations for my weekend viewing pleasure? My hubby and I are always looking for something.

    BTW, I didn’t even NOTICE Wedge Antilles in Star Wars–talk about underappreciated.


  5. Friday, June 22, 2007 3:35 pm

    Ohhh I sooooo agree on Kate the Smithy from A Knights Tale!!! I love that movie, and she was a GREAT character. So beautiful, and talented, and sad….She needs her own sequel!! =)


  6. Friday, June 22, 2007 4:13 pm

    Sounds like that would be a great idea for a novel, Betsy . . . know any writers?


  7. Austin Field permalink
    Friday, June 22, 2007 4:16 pm

    6. John Clark…Liev Schreiber. This is so awesome! It was Liev Schreiber in that role that gave me the idea for my hero. I guess I did what you’re always talking about…I ‘cast’ Liev/Clark in the role of my hero. I didn’t think there was a woman alive who knew who John Clark was…or who read Without Remorse!


  8. Sunday, June 24, 2007 3:00 pm

    I was so upset and MAD about what
    Clancy let them to do the Sum Of All Fears plot and to Jack that I didn’t even register how well Liev played Clark. May have to watch it again, as painful as that’ll be.

    Rainbow Six is coming out next year, so I’m glad to hear Without Remorse is next. Hopefully people will be clamoring to find out why Clark is the way he is.

    So long as Willem Defoe NEVER steps into the shoes of John Clark again, I will be happy. I absolutely hated his “performance” as Clark, if one could call it that.

    Ruth- my fave Clancy is Cardinal of the Kremlin. It’s always nice to hear I’m not the only female who gobbles these things up!


  9. Sunday, June 24, 2007 3:54 pm

    I’m really hoping they’ll cast Liev in the role again. I think he’s the only actor who can do it justice. It’s been years since I’ve read the book. I may have to pull it out and read it again.

    Clancy is hit-0r-miss for me. LOVED Patriot Games, Without Remorse, and Clear and Present Danger . . . couldn’t get into The Hunt For Red October or some of the others that go into that level of technical detail.

    Have you watched Sum of All Fears with Clancy’s commentary? VERY interesting.


  10. Tuesday, June 26, 2007 5:58 pm

    No, I haven’t. I’ll have to do that. I might halfway enjoy it then, lol. I didn’t even know he did a commentary for it! I just can’t get over how he let them change Jack so much. Jack would never do some of those things!

    Rainbow Six just got moved to 2010!! Without Remorse has taken it’s place next year it seems.


  11. Monday, November 23, 2009 11:25 pm

    THANK you for the mention of Carl and Ltn Bush! Soo under appreciated and yet so deserving. Bush has quickly become very very close to me heart and he has always stayed there. And Carl is pure writing/actor genius


  12. Tuesday, November 2, 2010 8:09 am

    Your thoughts on kate were MINE EXACTLY!
    And Bush!? And Eomer!? AAH! Yes!!



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