Your Top Three is a series here at Movies.com where we choose a topic and you give us your top three picks.
Last Friday, we lost one of the great modern “that guy” actors, James Rebhorn (The Game; Meet the Parents). I’d call him a character actor, but I don’t consider him one. He wasn’t the most distinct performer, neither odd in his looks nor his manner, but he played enough secondary or tertiary parts in enough movies to make him recognizable and, to the perceptive, a favorite supporting performer. Even if you didn’t know his name.
“That guy” actors and actresses are great for trivia lovers and perhaps greater for documentarians. A couple years ago a movie came out called That Guy… Who Was in That Thing, which while not quite as Oscar caliber was kind of like the Hollywood counterpart to 20 Feet from Stardom. This month at SXSW, another doc called That Guy Dick Miller focused on, obviously, “that guy” Dick Milller.
Depending on how big a movie geek you are, your consideration of who is a “that guy” and who is a B-level movie star whose name you know are relative. Not everyone could identify even recent Oscar nominees Richard Jenkins or John Hawkes by name (or, given the name first, by face), for example.
But then some hard-core movie viewers with good memories can do so with all those unknowns in The Wolf of Wall Street, from Kevin Smith movie regular Ethan Suplee to the blonde you thought was Jenna Elfman — Stephanie Kurtzuba, who to be fair is a fairly new “that gal.” They also never make the mistake of calling Keith David David Keith or vice versa.
Here are my current top three living “that guy” actors:
1. Željko Ivanek - Part of my fascination with Ivanek is that he’s easily mistaken for so many other balding “that guy” actors, including fellow Damages costar Tom Noonan. But the biggest reason to love him, even more than the fact that he’s been a Lars von Trier staple, is that his ethnic moniker hardly helps us in remembering him by name. Don’t forget to spell it correctly, either, as it’s in his contract that credits not just go with the letter “Z.”
2. Lois Smith - She’s a pretty obscure one, but she’s been around a long time — see her opposite James Dean in her feature debut, East of Eden. I’ll always know her best — and her voice especially — as Michael Douglas’s mom in Falling Down and Helen Hunt’s aunt in Twister.
3. Bruce McGill - My favorite thing about McGill, who I primarily think of these days for his roles in My Cousin Vinny, The Insider and Matchstick Men, is that he’s also that guy in Animal House who is hardly recognizable there as being the same stout man we know him as today.
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