Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Actors You Recognize, But Don't Know Their Name: Carol Kane

Previously I thought that most folks would know this great actress’ name, but some recent conversations with younger folks told me I was wrong (damn millennials!). From Kane’s first film role in Mike Nichols’ CARNAL KNOWLEDGE to other parts in such crucial ‘70s movies as THE LAST DETAIL, HESTER STREET (for which she got an Oscar nomination), DOG DAY AFTERNOON, ANNIE HALL, and even THE MUPPET MOVIE, she was a very memorable presence.

Since then she’s been a reliably wacky persona in movies such as SCROOGED, THE PRINCESS BRIDE, and ISHTAR as well as countless other appearances (this isn’t true - you can indeed count them). 

Her hilarious role on The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt aside, there are way too many TV turns to mention here, but her role as Simka, the wife of foreign mechanic Latka (Andy Kaufman) on the classic sitcom Taxi has to be her crowning achievement as she won two Emmys for it - this is notable as it’s two more Emmys than Kaufman ever won.

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Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Actors You Recognize, But Don't Know Their Names: William Fichtner

Now, I know you recognize William Fichtner. He was in the films HEAT, ARMAGEDDON, CONTACT, GO, CRASH, BLADES OF GLORY, and, holy shit, THE DARK KNIGHT alongside a bunch of other movies that didn’t make as much money. 

TV-wise, he started out in a soap (unsurprisingly), As the World Turns, in the ‘80s, then showed up in a crazy range of shows from Baywatch to Grace Under Fire to The West Wing to Invasion to Prison Break to Crossing Lines to Mom to Veep and on and on. Get it? The man is mad ver-sat-ile.

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Actors You Recognize, But Don't Know Their Names: Giancarlo Esposito

Giancarlo Esposito may be best known for his role as Gus Fring on Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul, but he first came under my radar as Buggin’ Out in the 1989 Spike Lee classic DO THE RIGHT THING (he also was in three other Spike Lee joints). He also portrayed the similarly named John Alijah “Bugs” Raplin in BOB ROBERTS, and appeared in TRADING PLACES, KING OF NEW YORK, THE USUAL SUSPECTS, and dozens of other films. 

Esposito’s television work is much more extensive with turns on Sesame Street, Miami Vice, Homicide, Law & Order, CSI, Community, and The Mandalorian among, yep, dozens of other shows. He’s been nominated twice for Emmys (for Gus Fring) but lost so here’s hoping that them there Academies of Television Arts & Sciences will get their shit together next time.

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Friday, June 12, 2020

Actors You Recognize, But Don't Know Their Names: Judy Greer

In the summer of 2015, Greer was in the major motion pictures TOMORROWLAND, JURASSIC WORLD, ANT-MAN, and ENTOURAGE (for Christ’s sake!) yet somehow she wasn’t really noticed. Maybe we all got used to taking her for granted in a multitude of movies and TV shows like Arrested Development, ADAPTATION, ELIZABETHTOWN (shout-out to Nathan Rabin), THE DESCENDENTS, DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES, and the 2-season FX sitcom Married among many other appearances.

Greer’s a funny, solid actress who has got a good thing going with the rebooting of the HALLOWEEN series as Jamie Lee Curtis’ daughter so why don’t you just learn her name already?

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Friday, June 05, 2020

Actors You Recognize, But Don't Know Their Names: Michael McKean

This post is dedicated to one of my favorites: Michael McKean

Despite having portrayed two iconic comedy characters - Lenny on Laverne & Shirley and David St. Hubbins in Rob Reiner's immortal 1984 mockumetary (I don't care if Christopher Guest hates this term), THIS IS SPINAL TAP - McKean is sadly not a household name. 

Folks may also know him from USED CARS, YOUNG DOCTORS IN LOVE, CLUE, PLANES TRAINS & AUTOMOBILES, EARTH GIRLS ARE EASY, and the Christopher Guest films BEST IN SHOW, A MIGHTY WIND *, and FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION among tons of other movies. 

* McKean scored his only Oscar nomination for A MIGHTY WIND, but not for acting - it was for the delightful song, “A Kiss at the End of the Rainbow,” which he co-wrote with his wife, Annette O'Toole.

McKeans's TV credits are too extensive to list here, but my favorite McKean role is as Jimmy McGill’s brother Chuck McGill on AMC's excellent Breaking Bad spin-off Better Call Saul. He was seriously robbed of an Emmy for that work.

One last note about Mr. McKean: many folks aren't aware that Lenny & Squiggy, as Lenny & the Squigtones, put out an album in 1978:

The record consists of hilarious parodies of '50s style rock 'n roll, and is notable for featuring the first appearance of Spinal Tap lead guitarist Nigel Tufnel (Christopher Guest) four years before THIS IS SPINAL TAP. Here's a segment from American Bandstand in 1979 showcasing Lenny & the Squigtones in their prime:

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Wednesday, June 03, 2020


As Mike Flanagan’s 2019 thriller, DOCTOR SLEEP, was an adaptation of Stephen King’s 2013 novel and a direct sequel to both King’s 1977 novel and Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 adaptation of THE SHINING, it was unsurprising that it recreated many of the aesthetics of Kubrick’s classic. But what was surprising was that even the former film’s protagonist, Jack Torrance, made an appearance during an overlong sequence set at the Overlook Hotel.

But Torrance wasn’t portrayed by a digitally de-aged Jack Nicholson, as is the fashion these days, who originally played the part. It was Henry Thomas of E.T. fame who took on the legendary role.

That’s right, Thomas, seen below reprising his role as Elliot from Steven Spielberg’s 1982 sci-fi smash in a 2019 commercial for the Comcast Corporation Xfinity, was made up to look as much like Nicholson’s Torrance as possible for DOCTOR SLEEP, but few people took notice. Well, that’s probably because not many people went to see the film in theaters (it was one of 2019’s biggest flops), and are only now catching up with it on home video.

So there you go, your fun film fact for the day. 

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Tuesday, June 02, 2020

Actors You Recognize, But Don't Know Their Names: Stephen Root

I started this series on Facebook a month ago, but thought I should transport it here so it wouldn’t get lost down in the infinite scroll. The idea should be pretty self-explanatory, to highlight some notable folks that we’ve all seen in numerous movies and TV shows, but aren’t A-list leads. Many of these folks are favorites of mine – actors who I always enjoy seeing pop up in various roles in whatever films or programs I’m currently watching. I am going to begin with a guy whose work I’ve enjoyed for nearly a quarter of a century:

Stephen Root

I have loved this guy since he played Jimmy James on the great 90s sitcom Newsradio. Since then, he was Milton in OFFICE SPACE (he also appeared in Mike Judges IDIOCRACY), hes been in three Coen brothers films, and also had substantial roles in the films DODGEBALL: A TRUE UNDERDOG STORY, CEDAR RAPIDS, GET OUT, BOMBSHELL, and many others.

These are only a handful of his big screen highlights as hes been on seemingly every TV show of the last 30 years too - from Roseanne to Seinfeld to King of the Hill to The West Wing to The Big Bang Theory to Barry to the title character in The Man in the High Castle - you get the idea, his filmography is nuts. So lets salute Stephen Root.

Finally, Root may be the only actor in this series whose image in character is used in the packaging of a popular product:

Stay tuned for more in the Actors You Recognize But Don’t Know Their Names series.

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