Character actors must be given the credit they deserve
David Strathairn is one of my favorite actors. You’ve probably never heard of him, but you have undoubtedly seen him in at least one of the numerous films in which he has appeared.
He played Meryl Streep’s husband in “The River Wild,” Jason Bourne’s pursuer in “The Bourne Ultimatum,” and even Edward R. Murrow in “Good Night and Good Luck,” a role for which he was nominated for an Oscar.
Most recently Strathairn portrayed Secretary of State William Seward in “Lincoln,” so unless you were one of the few people who didn’t see that blockbuster, you too have witnessed Strathairn at work.
Even if you managed to miss all of those movies, I’m sure you have still seen him in something else.
So how could someone seen by so many be known by so few? It’s a simple answer, Strathairn is a character actor, or “that guy from…”
Character actors are the underrated workhorses of film, those thespians who seamlessly shift from role to role, enhancing each movie they appear in with their versatile performances. They are known more for their talent than for their name.
While leading men like Mark Wahlberg can make a career out of playing everyman-type roles, Strathairn has been cast as everything from a pimp to a reverend, using his chameleon-like ability to make each part unique.
I raise the subject of character actors because with the Academy Awards in a few weeks, I am reminded of the fact that so few of them are officially recognized for their talent.
Strathairn has never won an Oscar, and neither have other great performers like Donald Sutherland, Thelma Ritter, and Ed Harris.
It is an absolute shame that such performers are often overlooked despite their talent in favor of A-list actors.
It seems as if character actors, who sometimes embody a role to the point of being unrecognizable, are forgotten when it comes time to award the best film actors of the year.
I guess it’s just easier to admire Tom Cruise playing a character than Willem Dafoe becoming one.
Just look at “Argo,” one of the favorites to win big at this year’s Academy Awards.
A major reason why that movie worked so well was that a large part of the cast, Bryan Cranston, Alan Arkin, and John Goodman, consisted of character actors who gave it their all to make the movie the best it could be.
So at this year’s Academy Awards, as you watch A-list stars claim the gold statuettes, think of all of the character actors who helped make the movies being honored a success.
It is the only recognition they’ll probably receive.
Sean Quinn is a junior journalism major from Cranford, N.J. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.