It’s not been a great summer at the movies thus far, (AFTER EARTH, anyone?) but there are some exceptional supporting actors and actresses who’ve added considerably to the luster of the cinema season. Here then are those who knocked my socks off. And surprise, surprise, these five always do, no matter what they’re in.
It’s often taken for granted, but actors from England and Australia tend to do good American accents, but Aussie Rose Byrne's American accent is so impressive that I didn’t even realize she wasn't American until well into the second season of DAMAGES on the FX Network. She lent wonderful support in that TV series for five seasons, and now is doing the same in all kinds of movies, showing audiences a wide range of roles and accents. She excelled as the icy American villainess in BRIDESMAIDS, the level-headed FBI agent in X-MEN: FIRST CLASS, the terrified mom in INSIDIOUS, the druggie British rock star in GET HIM TO THE GREEK and the ingénue techie in THE INTERNSHIP that opened last week. There she got to finally speak in her native tongue. And what a lovely accent she has. She also happens to be one of the most beautiful women to grace the large or small screen. She's the whole package.
His female fans are called “Cumberbitches”. As for his male fans, hmmm, well I’m not sure, but count me amongst his biggest backers. His complex performance as Sherlock Holmes in the BBC series SHERLOCK has almost made me forget Jeremy Brett. And he’s done exceptional work in even the smallish roles he’s taken on the big screen (ATONEMENT, WAR HORSE, TINKER TAILOR SOLDIER SPY). This summer, he finally is starring in a big part as Khan in STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS. In that role, he brings a searing intelligence and confidence to the bad guy that makes one just imagine what he could do with a Bond villain. Cumberbatch is easily one of the best actors working today and he’s only going to become a bigger star. His next leading role is that of Wikileaks scoundrel Julian Assange in THE FIFTH ESTATE due on the big screen some time this year. I can’t wait to see that. And I can’t wait to see him in everything else.
Another British thespian making quite an impression these days is the wide-eyed ingénue Riseborough. She first caught most filmgoers’ attention with her terrific take as Wallis Simpson in Madonna’s otherwise problematic W.E. two years ago. And she took a stock villain character this year in the movie OBLIVION and turned it into a complicated and even sympathetic figure. It was a good movie, but it turned great whenever she was on screen. Riseborough's work is incredibly nuanced in that film, with her fabulous face holding the screen, as expressive as a silent film star's. I think it's a face that will be gracing our screens for some time.
Sir Ben is one of those amazing talents who is both leading man and a supporting one. His inclusion in any film always ensures a better picture. And he can play parts big, small, and all the sizes in between. This summer he pulled off a rather stunning feat by stealing scenes from the rascally charmer Robert Downey Jr. in IRON MAN 3. From the trailers, it looked like Kingsley was conjuring an evil villain in the terrifying vein of his thug Don Logan in SEXY BEAST. And indeed, he was that for the first part of the movie. But then, on a dime, Kingsley’s character became a comical, Cockney buffoon. How many but Kingsley could be so horrible one minute and so hilarious the next? Very few.
Of all the people who came out of the CHEERS television show, Woody Harrelson's become the big movie star, and he's only getting better as he gets older. For every comedy he’s rocked over the years, (KINGPIN, ZOMBIELAND) he’s excelled equally in drama (Oscar nominations for THE PEOPLE VS. LARRY FLYNT, THE MESSENGER). He can play a wily assassin in something like NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN, or the straight man in HBO’s GAME CHANGE. This summer, he’s adding lots of wit, as well as some gravitas, to the caper thin NOW YOU SEE ME. Harrelson adds weight and history to even the tritest and lightest of roles. In that summer movie about illusionists, he's the real magic.
Well, those are the supporting performances that impressed me so far this summer. I hope there are more to come, and some exceptional leading performances too. It’s only June, so my hopes remain high. How about yours?