This is my Harry Dean Stanton memorial list. He would most certainly be my number one pick, except that he’s too big for this list. God bless you, Mr. Stanton.
5. M. Emmet Walsh. M. is probably the most prolific actor on the list, with 215 credits on IMdB. I haven’t seen most of those roles, but of the ones I have seen, two really stick out–Blood Simple and Blade Runner. He is able to embody these characters with just the right amount of creep with his slightly slurred, nasally delivery of lines. His turn as the Tim Taylor’s curmudgeonly father-in-law on the 90’s sitcom “Home Improvement” is one of the only good memories I have of that show. He is able to tone down these aspects, as he did in 2014’s Calvary, and still be effective.
4. James Cromwell. Even though I’m not listing these in reverse order of number of acting credits, Mr. Cromwell falls in third with 171. I’ve probably seen more of his roles–The Green Mile, Snow Falling on Cedars, Babe: Pig in the City, L.A. Confidential, Season 2 of “American Horror Story”. It’ those last two that led me to put him on this list. I loved him in the Babe movies, mainly because he looks exactly like a farmer (I mean that as a compliment). But then you see him as a vindictive, ruthless police captian, or as a…whatever the hell he is in “American Horror Story” season 2, and you realize this guy can do it all. His style is reliable and simple, never going beyond what the story asks of him.
3. Sam Rockwell. Rockwell is one of those guys were you see him in a movie and say, “That’s the performance he was born to play.” Whether it’s the conman’s partner in Matchstick Men, or the psychopathic screen writer in Seven Psychopaths, or the brother of an infamous train robber in The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. He nails each performance with verve and intensity. One of the things I like about him is that he is content doing the supporting rolls in huge movies like Cowboys & Aliens and Iron Man 2 (two films I have not seen), but he is also willing to step out into the lead (and only) role in a movie like Moon, a performance he totally nailed. He doesn’t seem to have an ego, just talent.
2. John Goodman. I could have easily chosen a number of actors from the Coen brothers players here–John Turturro, Steven Buscemi, Michael Lerner, John Polito–but Goodman is my personal favorite. I remember when “Roseanne” first came out, and how funny I thought he was as the patriarch. I think my mind would have been blown to shreds if I had seen Raising Arizona when it first came out. As it is, that’s still one of my favorite Goodman performances, right along side The Big Lebowski. Still, nothing could prepare me for how brilliant he was in Barton Fink. The devil is supposed to be alluring, but not as likable as Goodman makes him. There are good non-Coen performances, I guess, but he’s never as good as when he’s working with them.
1. John Hawkes. I think the first time I noticed Mr. Hawkes was in Winter’s Bone, which is easily his best performance. After that it was Martha Marcy May Marlene, which is quite different yet equally as effective. His turn as Sol Star in “Deadwood” showed he could be just as reliable as an everyday guy (whatever that means). I even liked him as the rather quirky lead in the rather quirky Me and You and Everyone We Know. It’s rare that a character actor by himself will draw you to a film, but Mr. Hawkes is just such a person. Shoot, I’d even be willing to watch Miracle at St. Anna just to see him. The day when soon arrive (if it hasn’t already) when Harry Dean Stanton will no longer be able to act in movies. My only consolation then will be that Mr. Hawkes is there to take his place.