Is there anything wrong with being a great character actor rather than a big movie star? Absolutely not! It’s always a joy to realize that guy is in the movie. He may not be the biggest name but he always makes everything he is in a little bit better. Some of the following actors may be aspiring for movie mega-stardom while others are happy with picking great supporting roles but they all have one thing in common. They shine the brightest when they aren’t the top dogs in the show. Here are 7 actors that we believe are better off as second fiddle:
Galifianakis proved that he can be a very effective comedian as part of an ensemble cast with his breakout turn in The Hangover. However like most over-the-top comedians, he is much better off in tidbit roles rather than as the main dish. His man-child brand of comedy can get irritating very quickly when he has to do it for the entire length of a movie as shown in the middling Due Date in which he co-starred next to Robert Downey Jr. Hollywood seems to be trying to turn him into the next Will Ferrell but I doubt this is going to work out. Used more sparsely however, Galifianakis can provide great comedic relief without becoming an obnoxious presence.
John C. Reilly
It’s been great to see this character actor rise to prominence the past few years as filmmakers only recently realized his comedic talent and ability to wear a Chewbaca mask. As seen in Step Brothers and Talladega Nights, John C. Reilly can be an extraordinarily funny complementary piece. While Reilly has played lead roles competently in movies such as Cirque Du Freak and Walk Hard, those two movies were massive box office flops that demonstrated that he simply doesn’t have the star power required to highlight a movie.
Anyone who has seen the movie Glengarry Glen Ross can attest of the fact that Alec Baldwin is a game-changer as a supporting actor who is given a small but flashy and well-written role. Indeed, if coffee is for closers then Baldwin can have plenty of it. While his early career was spent as a forgettable leading man, Baldwin’s transition to supporting roles has yielded much better results. He was very good among a star-studded cast in Martin Scorsese’s The Departed and let’s not forget his long-standing role on one of America’s most popular TV show 30 Rock which is also a great reminder that this man can do comedy.
Most will recognize J.K. Simmons as that funny guy because he has appeared in so many movies for sporadic comic relief. He is the type of character actor who makes all the movie he appears in invariably better. May it be as a newspaper editor-in-chief pinning for pictures of Spider-Man, the dad of a pregnant teenager named Juno, or a moody production manager in Extract, Simmons steals every single scene he is in with his dry sense of humor and always appropriate sense for delivering funny lines.
An actor who epitomize the fact that there is nothing wrong with playing second fiddle on the silver screen, Ed Harris is indeed one of the most accomplished actor of our time even though he has played almost exclusively supporting roles for most of his career. Although he received an Oscar nomination for playing the title character in Pollock (2000), his other 3 Oscar nominations are for supporting turns in Apollo 13, The Truman Show and The Hours. Harris has always had an affinity for portraying characters that are tough yet gentle, convincingly conveying self-doubt and personal flaws with subtlety and nuance as shown with his roles in The Rock, and Gone Baby Gone.
He’s the loving husband you ever dreamed of (Julie & Julia), the free spirited dad you’ve always wished you had (Easy A), the obnoxious federal agent who tries everything to make your life hell (The Terminal) or the only sympathetic and trustworthy friend you have at your new workplace (The Devil Wears Prada). Stanley Tucci has played a great variety of supporting characters throughout his career, earning himself an Oscar nomination for his creepy turn as a serial killer in the otherwise disappointing The Lovely Bones. Although he will never highlight a cast, Stanley Tucci has become one of the most highly respected character actor in the industry.
Another actor who is better suited in supporting roles or as part of an ensemble cast is Cillian Murphy. The notoriously shy and private Murphy isn’t the kind to seek the spotlights and it is doubtful that he has any aspiration for movie mega-stardom. Nonetheless, after breaking out with Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later, the talented and versatile Irishman found himself appearing in numerous Hollywood blockbusters such as Batman Begins, Red Eye, The Dark Knight and Inception. Look for this to continue as Murphy continues to make more independent movies while taking the occasional supporting role in Hollywood blockbusters.
Agree/Disagree with any of our picks? What other actors do you think are better off with third or fourth billing? Let it be known in the comments!