Wednesday, February 01, 2012

The 'More Famous' Acting Lists

Twice on this blog, I've provided lists of actors who I feel should be more famous than they were at the time of the post's writing. One list was from 2008, the other from 2010. Since every producer in Hollywood doubtlessly reads this blog for advice, let's look at these lists with a bit of hindsight and see how these actors have fared.

First, the 2008 list. This also gives us the opportunity to laugh at both my blog's primitive layout structure (no header! Ha!) from back in the day, and also at my other rankings in this 'Listamania' post. For instance, I cannot fathom how I didn't have Tretiak at least in my top five goalies of all time. That's obscene. But, onto the actors' list.

10. Laura Dern --- Since 2008, Dern's biggest role is her current starring gig on "Enlightened," which I haven't seen due to poor reviews though I like both Dern and creator Mike White. This sounds like one of those HBO shows which I'll get around to watching in two years' times, only to find out that it's been canceled and I'll spend my viewing time elsewhere. While Dern seems likely to notch at least a couple of Best Actress In A Comedy Emmy nominations, those don't really count as adding to stardom as much as they add to the "I've never heard of that show" file. BIGGER STAR? No.

9. Judy Greer --- I've got a ton of residual Judy Greer love from 'Arrested Development,' and it's only grown due to her voice work on Archer. She has also done guest spots on virtually every show on TV over the last four years, and now seems to have a semi-regular role on (ugh) Two And A Half Men. I think it's gotten to the point where folks might not know her name off the top of their head, but you showed them a picture of her, they'd instantly recognize her as "That Girl From _____." BIGGER STAR? Yes.

8. Sam Rockwell --- Man, I would've thought Rockwell would've at least had a supporting actor Oscar nomination in the last four years, but if anything, his number of quality roles seems to have diminished since 2008. Other than starring in the underrated "Moon," Rockwell has been sticking to junk like Iron Man 2, G-Force, and Cowboys & Aliens. Come on, Sam! You're better than this! BIGGER STAR? Status unchanged

7. John Carroll Lynch --- Despite appearing in roughly a zillion things in his long career, he's still probably best known as Drew Carey's cross-dressing brother. (On Carey's show, not in real life…as far as we know.) He's settled into a groove as a middle-aged, friendly-or-menacing big dude character actor, but I always thought he was one supporting role on a quality series away from breaking out. BIGGER STAR? No.

6. Harriet Sansom Harris --- HSH (as all the tabloids and gossip websites call her) mostly sticks to stage work, as evidenced by the fact that since I wrote the original list, she has just four film/TV credits on her IMDB page. I notice that she's somehow reappeared on Desperate Housewives, which is odd since her character was killed off years ago, but I'm in the dark about that one since I gave up on that show a long time ago. In case you're wondering who HSH is, she played Frasier Crane's soulless agent. I can now hear you saying, "Oh yeahhhhh, her," even over the internet. Like Lynch, Harris also seemed like someone who was one supporting role away from making it big. Doesn't Harris seem destined for a couple of Supporting Actress Emmys? BIGGER STAR? No, and if anything, she's less famous.

5. Thandie Newton --- Just a few months after I wrote this list, Newton was in "Rocknrolla," sharing a memorably goofy dance scene with Gerard Butler that I felt was another nice building block in her career. But, she still hasn't quite made the leap, and at age 40, she's about to get shunted into mom roles for the rest of her career. Hollywood sucks. BIGGER STAR? Technically yes, thanks to L'Oreal ads. Admittedly, I didn't factor "having great skin" into what constituted being a bigger star.

4. Chyler Leigh --- Joined the cast of Grey's Anatomy basically just as soon as that show disappeared into the "that's still on the air?" void. To put it into perspective, my mother doesn't even watch Grey's anymore, and at the peak of her interest in the show, she half-considered retroactively changing my name to Patrick. You'd think the statute of limitations on naming a child would be two or three days, not two or three decades, but I know about as little about birth certificates as Donald Trump does. BIGGER STAR? Yes, since a regular gig on a network show at least beats the absolute nothing she did between Grey's and "Not Another Teen Movie."

3. Nathan Fillion --- Captain Hammer! Fillion had the biggest jump in fame of anyone on this list, going from being a cult favourite actor from Firefly to starring in a network drama about an eccentric guy who solves crimes alongside a skeptical female partner. No, I can't be more specific. You know what I'm talking about! Fillion has also cleverly kept up his nerd cred by voicing Hal Jordan in DC Universe cartoons. BIGGER STAR? Yes.

2. Chiwetel Ejiofor --- Another one I can't figure out. This guy is a terrific actor, but rarely gets quality roles. Since 2008, he's basically just been in "2012" (Thandie Newton was in that one too), Angelina Jolie's Commissioner Gordon figure in Salt and in a British TV series called "The Shadow Line" that I've never heard of but sounds quite cool. What are you waiting for, Ejiofor?!….my god, that was the worst rhyming pun of all time. I apologize. BIGGER STAR? No.

1. Jeffrey Wright --- To give you an idea about how underrated this guy is, you can type 'Jeffrey Wright' into the IMDB menu and his name doesn't even come up as an autofill option. Good lord. Wright is another actor who primarily focuses on theatre work, playing just key but supporting roles in various films. What Wright has going for him is that I'm hardly the only one who's wondering why this guy isn't a well-known star. Google returns 217,000 results for "Jeffrey Wright + Underrated" and often gets mentioned by his fellow actors as one of the best in the game today. Wright is basically the acting version of the band Spoon. BIGGER STAR? No.

So, not a lot of big breaks from my 2008 list. Now, onto the 2010 list, which had the slightly-different title of Top 10 Actors Who Should Be More Famous. Splitting hairs, somewhat, but I should point out that this title (unlike the 2008 list) doesn't specify these actors as being good at their job, it just argues that they should be more famous. For the record, these are all very good actors, and this is arguably a better pound-for-pound list acting-wise than the previous edition. Also, since this list was written just about a year and a half ago, these actors have had much less time to "get famous." Argue away!

10. John Hawkes --- I'm pretty sure he's here since, in August 2010, I was plowing through Deadwood's three seasons and had also just seen his incredible performance in "Winter's Bone." That ended up being Hawkes' big break, as he notched an Oscar nomination and is now popping up in all kinds of roles. If I had my way, Hawkes would be nominated again for his awesome, creepy-as-shit role in "Martha Marcy May Marlene," but the Academy has somehow yet to fully entrust me with the Oscar results. I don't understand it, don't they realize every producer in Hollywood reads my blog? BIGGER STAR? Yes

9. Andrea Savage --- A Groundlings alumni and one of those "I'm pretty sure I've seen her in something else" faces that's popped up on a hundred TV shows and movies. To give you an idea of Savage's chops, when "Party Down" was originally conceived in the early 2000's with Paul Rudd as the lead, Savage was tabbed to play what ended up as Lizzy Caplan's role and frankly, I think she would've been even better than Caplan in the part. Her Groundlings connections will always get her roles, but she still lacks that signature part (to wit, the fact that I had to describe her via a part she "would've gotten" if a show had been on the air five years earlier). BIGGER STAR? No.

8. Emily Mortimer --- She seemed pegged for one of those careers so common to British actors, i.e. appearing in various ensemble casts and BBC productions and period dramas and whatnot well into her old age. Even her name seemed destined to fit the part; if you had to guess what "Emily Mortimer" did for a living, "British character actress" is the obvious choice, right? However, while this may be Mortimer's future, she seems to be gaining a bit of heat at the moment. She's becoming a Martin Scorsese favourite (roles in Shutter Island and Hugo) and she's also in Aaron Sorkin's new drama about a TV cable news show. Only downside here is that her character's name on the show is 'Mackenzie MacHale' and…well, that she's a woman on an Aaron Sorkin show. It's for reasons like this that the phrase hit-or-miss was invented. BIGGER STAR? Slightly, yes.

* = surely her friends call her Morty but man, that's just a horrible nickname for a woman, even if said affectionately.

7. Anthony Stewart Head --- Giles! The Headster played a supporting role on that Hank Azaria/Kathryn Hahn sitcom that lasted for about five minutes on NBC last fall, but other than that, he's stuck to British TV and film roles. I attribute this to the fact that he's British. Huh. Man, do I ever wish Joss Whedon's proposed idea for a Giles-centric show, set in England on the BBC and titled "Ripper" wasn't just a pipe dream. I would download the crap out of that….uh, I mean, order BBC Canada on my cable box just to watch that show! Yes, that's the ticket. BIGGER STAR? No.

6. Michael "Fassbinder" --- Yeah, I misspelled his name. Yikes. You know this guy needed a boost of fame if I couldn't even get his name right, but never fear, Michael F. Assbender overcame my inability to proofread by appearing in roughly 45 movies in the last year. The most notable of these was 'Shame,' where he was both acclaimed for his performance (not a euphemism) and judged by most to be snubbed for an Oscar nomination. If it's a choice between an Oscar nomination and having your giant schlong become a running joke at the Golden Globes…well, that's not a bad consolation prize. Too bad Assbender may actually be a shitheel in real life, given his past domestic assault charges. Poor form, Assbender. Just for that, I'm going to keep up this running joke about your silly name. BIGGER STAR? Absolutely, yes.

5. Patrick Wilson --- He's been associated with some high-quality (Young Adult, Little Children…huh, didn't realize how those titles meshed) and big-ticket projects (Watchmen, A-Team) but it hasn't quite happened for Wilson yet. He is currently starring on a Friday night drama for CBS, so he'll probably have work for the next eight years though everyone under the age of 45 will forget he existed. BIGGER STAR? By the slimmest of margins, yes.

4. Rose Byrne --- For a while, Byrne was right up there with Eric Bana on the list of actors who I like despite appearing almost solely in awful movies. Byrne has righted the ship somewhat thanks to Get Him To The Greek (well, it wasn't AWFUL), the latest X-Men film and, of course, Bridesmaids. Here's the odd thing, however, Byrne was seemingly the only person involved with Bridesmaids that didn't get a boost from that movie's success. Kristen Wiig? The new face of women's comedy! Melissa McCarthy? Oscar nominee and the female Chris Farley! Wendi McLendon-Covey? A lot more famous than being known as the star of Reno 911! Chris O'Dowd? Now a known quantity in America! Rose Byrne? *crickets chirping* BIGGER STAR? Technically yes, but realistically, no.

3. Sally Hawkins --- To this day, I still cannot fathom how she wasn't Oscar-nominated for "Happy-Go-Lucky." Blargh. That may end up being the turning point that shuffles Hawkins down the British character acting path, and now she has a head start on Emily Mortimer. BIGGER STAR? No.

2. Samantha Morton --- The Academy Awards are admittedly a weakness of mine, which is why I may be off-base by so often using Oscar nominations as a factor in gauging the candidates on these lists. For instance, Samantha Morton has two Oscar nominations to her credit, but you probably haven't heard of her; Morton's best-known part is still probably as the chief pre-cog in 'Minority Report.' If I had to guess from her choice of roles, however, Morton isn't gunning for fame and fortune, just interesting parts. She looks to be well on her way to a Gary Oldman-esque career of disappearing into character parts and appearing on "why aren't these actors more famous?" lists well into her old age. BIGGER STAR? No.

1. Tom Hardy --- If the Hollywood Stock Exchange dealt in actual money, two things would be apparent. One, I would be a zillionaire. Two, while the best time to invest would've been around April 2010, now is still a great time to buy stock in Tom Hardy. He's being groomed as the British tough-guy star who can actually act --- sorry, Statham --- and is starring in both the Mad Max reboot and (more immediately) as Bane in the upcoming Batman sequel. Hardy is a good enough actor that he's completely convincing as a bad-ass even though he can't be taller than 5'6". Yeah, his bio allegedly says he's 5'10", but come off it now. BIGGER STAR? Yes.

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