Top 5 Most Underappreciated Hollywood Actors

April 21, 2010 in Best Of, Entertainment by pacejmiller

I’ve been clearing out some of my old drafts and came across one that for one reason or another never got posted.

As a huge movie buff, I’ve seen my fair share of actors over the years.  Of course, there are the A-list superstars, the Will Smiths, the Brad Pitts and the Tom Cruises (before he lost it on Oprah’s couch) — guys that get paid in the tens of millions no matter what they do.

But what about those guys that have been working hard for years, been in some terrific roles and some wonderful movies, but never got the attention and appreciation they deserved from the general public?  Here are my top 5 most underappreciated actors in Hollywood.

(click on ‘more’ to find out!)

5. David Morse

The tall, charismatic David Morse is one of those guys that you often see in blockbuster films, either in a supporting role, as a minor character, but usually as the villain or some red herring (to take your attention off the “real” bad guy).  He’s the type of actor that you immediately recognise because of his demeanor and screen presence, but for whatever reason never stands out very much.

Seriously, take a look at Morse’s resume.  The veteran actor first became noticed on TV in the medical drama St Elsewhere as Doctor Jack Morrison.  He was in a bunch of TV movies before moving onto the big screen, where he has developed a stellar career, starring in films such as The Good Son, The Getaway, The Crossing Guard, Twelve Monkeys, The Rock, Extreme Measures, The Long Kiss Goodnight, Contact, The Negotiator, The Green Mile, Dancer in the Dark, Proof of Life, Hearts in Atlantis, 16 Blocks, Disturbia, and the most recent Best Picture Oscar winner, The Hurt Locker.  You may not remember Morse in all of these films, but how many actors in Hollywood can boast a movie line-up like his?

For me personally, I liked him most in The Rock (as the tortured bad guy/good soldier), The Negotiator (as the obvious red herring) and The Green Mile (because he made Tom Hanks so much more watchable).  I hope Morse continues to stick his neck into future blockbusters, because he almost always guarantees a solid supporting character.

4. Justin Long

In some ways, Justin Long may be overappreciated in Hollywood.  I mean, how does a guy with his average, everyday man looks and, let’s face it, very good but not outstanding acting ability, get into so many films?  On the other hand, how does a guy get into so many films (and in pretty prominent roles, no less), and not be a bigger star?

For some strange reason, Long is a guy that sticks in your mind after you watch him.  At least for me, anyway.  He has this awkwardness about him which he has milked for a number of solid supporting/sidekick roles (such as in Galaxy Quest, Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story and Die Hard 4.0), but he has also shown an ability to play straight-faced characters, as he demonstrated in Drag Me to Hell and He’s Just Not That Into You.  Of course, he has shown his funny side many times.  After all, he was in Crossroads as Britney’s love interest and starred alongside Lindsay Lohan in Herbie: Fully Loaded.

Long got a lucky break in Hollywood because of his friendship with a casting agent, who put him in a Pepsi ad with Cling Eastwood.  Talk about a good start.  Since then, Long as been in films such as Jeepers Creepers (probably one of his best roles), Jeepers Creepers 2, The Break-Up, Alvin and the Chipmunks (and the Squeakquel), Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story, Zack and Miri Make a Porno, Pineapple Express, Funny People and Old Dogs. Yes, undoubtedly a lot of horrible films in there, but at least Long is being cast.  I’m not ashamed to say I enjoy watching his films (well, most of the time).

Funnily enough, for all his onscreen success, Long is still probably best known for his Mac commercials.

3. Sean Astin

When I first watched The Goonies as a kid, I told myself, “This Sean Astin is going to be a star some day.”  Okay, maybe I didn’t, but there was something about Astin that made him stand out.  I still don’t know what it is.

These days, Astin is best known for his role as Samwise Gamgee in The Lord of the Rings trilogy, but few actually remember that he’s had stacks of awesome roles in decent movies.

In the late 80s and early 90s, Astin was one of my favourite actors.  He followed up The Goonies with War of the Roses in 1989, Memphis Belle (classic war movie) and Toy Soldiers (super underrated schoolyard terrorist action flick) in 1990, Encino Man (which launched Brendan Fraser’s career) in 1992, and the college football biopic Rudy in 1993.

Things kind of tapered off for Astin after that, but he still managed roles in Courage Under Fire (1996), Bulworth (1998) and Dish Dogs (2000), until of course, The Lord of the Rings trilogy, Astin’s career masterpiece.

Strangely, in the years after that, the only films Astin starred in worth mentioning were 50 First Dates and Click, both minor roles in Adam Sandler flicks.  On television, Astin has been busy, starring in season 5 of 24 as Lynn McGill, My Name Is Earl and Law and Order.

LOTR fans certainly appreciate Astin for all that he has done, but to the general public, I get the feeling that he has not been as appreciated as he should have been.   I honestly think if Astin was a little taller and a little less tubbier, he could have and would have been a much bigger star.

2. Paul Rudd

Romantic deadpan funnyman Paul Rudd has carved out a nice little niche for himself in Hollywood.

Rudd made his big screen debut in Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers, but it was the 1995 classic Clueless as Alicia Silverstone’s love interest/ex-stepbrother that Rudd began to get noticed.  To be honest, when I first watched Clueless, I never got the feeling that Rudd would ever be more than a B-grade star and his ceiling would be straight-to-DVD movies.

To my pleasant surprise, Rudd has exceeded expectations and has really grown on me as a comedic leading man.  After a supporting role in the 1996 Romeo + Juliet, Rudd went on to star with Jennifer Aniston in The Object of My Affection (1998), featured in the ensemble cast of 200 Cigarettes (1999), and ended up with Tobey Maguire and Charlize Theron in The Cider House Rules.

However, Rudd wasn’t satisfied and aimed even higher.  For me, the next step in his career happened with supporting roles in comedy blockbusters — alongside Will Ferrell in Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, Steve Carell in The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Ben Stiller in Night at the Museum, Seth Rogen in Knocked Up, and Jason Segel in Forgetting Sarah Marshall.  This then progressed to leading roles in solid comedies such as Role Models with Sean William Scott and I Love You, Man, again with Segel.

Upcoming for Rudd: Dinner for Schmucks, which reunites him with Steve Carell (equal billing), and How Do You Know, with Reese Witherspoon, Owen Wilson, and Jack Nicholson.  Yes, Rudd is still climbing up the ranks.

When you look at Rudd’s career, especially in the last few years, you can’t deny that he has been in some pretty awesome movies, a number of which will go down as comedy classics.  Rudd may never be a superstar, but he is certainly deserving of more appreciation.  Who would have thought that 15 years after Clueless, Alicia Silverstone is almost nowhere to be found, while Paul Rudd is still going strong?

1. Steve Buscemi

My favourite actor, and naturally, in my opinion, the most underappreciated actor in Hollywood.

Born in 1957 and commencing his acting career in 1985, Buscemi has had an amazing career that you would not have expected from a “funny looking” guy.  But to his credit, the breadth of Buscemi’s range has allowed him to play some memorable roles throughout the years.

For someone whose first ever movie role was an AIDS sufferer (in the 1986 Parting Glances), Buscemi has gone on to great things, starring in films such as King of New York (with Christopher Walken, Laurence Fishburne and Wesley Snipes), Twenty Bucks (ensemble cast including Brendan Fraser, Elizabeth Shue and Christopher Lloyd), CrissCross (with Goldie Hawn), Rising Sun (with Sean Connery and Wesley Snipes), Things to Do in Denver When You’re Dead (with Andy Garcia and Christopher Walken), 28 Days (with Sandra Bullock), Domestic Disturbance (with John Travolta and Vince Vaughn), Paris, je t’aime (huge ensemble cast), and Big Fish (with Ewan McGregor and Albert Finney).  And these are probably his least known films.

Thanks to his distinctive look, voice, and ability to be anything from serious and brooding, crazy and outrageous, paranoid and neurotic, utterly pathetic to absolutely hilarious, Buscemi has done it all.  He’s been a regular in Coen Brothers’ movies — Miller’s Crossing, Barton Fink, The Hudsucker Proxy, Fargo and The Big Lebowski; featured in some of Quentin Tarantino’s best films — Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction; and been in the trenches of laughter with Adam Sandler — Airheads, Billy Madison, The Wedding Singer, Big Daddy, Mr Deeds and I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry.

Buscemi has done the big action blockbusters — Desperado, Escape from LA, Con Air, Armageddon and The Island; featured prominently in independent cinema — Mystery Train, Living in Oblivion, Ghost World, amongst many others; done farce comedy (non-Coen and non-Sandler) — such as The Search for One-eye Jimmy (with Sam Rockwell and Samuel L Jackson), The Impostors (with Oliver Platt and Stanley Tucci) and Delirious (with Michael Pitt and Alison Lohman); dabbled in animation and kids flicks — Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within, Monsters Inc, Spy Kids 2 and 3, Home on the Range, Monster House, Charlotte’s Web, Igor and G-Force; and even big-time TV shows — The Sopranos, The Simpsons, 30 Rock and ER.

How many actors can say they: starred in and directed a number of well-received films — Trees Lounge (with Chloe Sevigny), Animal Factory (with Willem Dafoe and Mickey Rourke), Lonesome Jim (Casey Affleck and Liv Tyler) and Interview (with Sienna Miller); done two films with “Cigarettes” in the title — Coffee & Cigarettes and Romance & Cigarettes; been in three war movies — The Grey Zone (about Auschwitz), John Rabe (about Nanking) and The Messenger (about Iraq); and narrated a documentary (Dust to Dust: The Health Effects of 9/11)?

And all of this from a guy who once worked through 12-hour shifts at Ground Zero after 9/11 digging through the rubble and was stabbed three times trying to break up a bar fight.

For me personally, Buscemi made Fargo and Reservoir Dogs two of my favourite films (and made Carl Showalter and Mr Pink two of the greatest characters of all-time),  made Adam Sandler’s films several notches funnier, and made Con Air and Armageddon much more enjoyable than I thought they would be.  Buscemi is extremely well respected and has been in an unmatchable catalogue of films, but he’ll never be getting the big bucks, and it’s unlikely he’ll ever be receiving any lifetime achievement awards.

While he rarely played the lead, Steve Buscemi was simply…there, and whether it’s a supporting role or a cameo, he always manages to make a film better.

Honourable mentions:

Gabriel Byrne, Nathan Fallon, John Leguizamo, Don Cheadle, Jeffrey Wright, Chris Cooper, Ron Livingston