Fun Friday–Underappreciated Characters
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.)