"Oh Yeah, That Guy"

"Character actor" is perhaps overly generous.

The pervy DA from Date Night

Somewhere in the last twenty minutes of Date Night, the plot ties into the District Attorney in ways that I still don’t quite get. He’s been in so many small character roles that he has almost shed That Guy status.

What’s his name?

William Fichtner

Where have I seen him?

The FBI guy from Prison Break.

Josh Hartnett’s dad in Pearl Harbor.

Josh Hartnett’s squadmate in Black Hawk Down.

In Armageddon he was the astronaut who fights with Bruce Willis for control of the mission.

In Contact he was the blind radio astronomer who analyzes space signals by ear.

In The Dark Knight he was the bank manager with a shotgun in the opening scene.

In Equilibrium he was the leader of the resistance who talks to Christian Bale about feelings and guns.

One of the guys trapped in The Perfect Storm.

In Heat he was the owner of the company that Robert De Niro robs, and later De Niro finds him at home and shoots him.

Four-star general in briefing room guy

Chris Ellis is a That Guy who proves that a receding hairline and a Texas accent can do more to define a character than 5 full minutes of screentime can. It’s helped by the fact that his role in every movie is something like “Local Sheriff who doubts the main character’s story” or ” stuffy Army colonel who says that our conventional weapons are useless” or otherwise some kind of authority figure who can’t help being born unheroic.

He has been, in no particular order…

"Mr. President, we have a situation."Some guy in the FBI or something who realizes too late that something is going on.

The principal in October Sky who tries to get Jake Gyllenhaal expelled from high school for following his dreams.

The Army general in Godzilla who fires Matthew Broderick from the Godzilla-hunting mission.

The mission control guy in Armageddon who names a bunch of launch systems and everyone says “Go.” He has really intense conversations with his microphone, like “You fire those engines now!”

Pretty much the same guy in Apollo 13. In fact, his character in Armageddon may or may not have been portrayed by his own archive footage.

Someone in Days of Thunder which I haven’t seen but I assume is Top Gun with cars.

A cop in Con Air working in the Bureau of Prisons.

The record agent that signs the band in That Thing You Do.

The bartender in The Island who serves drinks to Ewan McGregor when he doesn’t know what alcohol is.

The Pentagon guy in Transformers who doesn’t realize the irony of saying “Nothing on Earth could have hacked into our computer that fast!”

So remember, when America is faced with a catastrophe that no one saw coming, there’s at least a 34% chance that Chris Ellis is radioing you from HQ to say, with furrowed brow aimed straight into Camera 1, “We’ve lost all radio contact.”

That girl who plays everyone’s best friend in every movie about best friends

"Hey, I’m casting this new movie about a 30-something fashion executive who learns to give up on her careerism for some dreamy chef or single dad or whatever through a series of ridiculous events. We already signed Kate Hudson for the lead, but I need to find her best friend."

"What’s the best friend like? Is she also an unconventionally attractive, professionally successful woman whose life would be complete if only she could just meet the right handsome caterer who also loves dogs and old movies?"

"No, it’s important that she doesn’t upstage the main character. Get me someone with weird hair, I guess. She has a real job in the script, but she should still have time to go shopping in the middle of the day. Also, she needs to be funny, because her main function is making sassy comments about the main character’s exploits. Maybe at the end we’ll hook her up with the restaurant owner’s wacky best friend. Yeah, I like that. Which reminds me, get me Sean William Scott while you’re at it."

This conversation is how I imagine that Judy Greer has gotten every movie role she’s ever been in. She is the go-to actress if a movie needs to prove it’s possible that anyone would ever be friends with the heroine in real life. In 27 Dresses, she was “Casey”, Katherine Heigl’s sympathetic best friend. Her biggest moment is when the main character’s sister invites her to be part of her wedding because Casey “won’t throw off the aesthetics”, and her job is working at an eco-friendly outdoor sports magazine. This is a job that could never exist, particularly now that the Internet has killed paper, ink and putting one on top of the other for purposes of financial gain. In The Wedding Planner she makes the jump from being in a wedding to walking briskly behind Jennifer Lopez as she plans someone else’s wedding. The movie needs her because when Matthew McConaghy’s dashing doctor sweeps into the office to whisk JLo away to her new glorious life as the wife of a doctor, those floral catalogues and fabric samples are not going to manage themselves. In Elizabethtown she branches out as the sister of the hero, who offers sassy guidance on the best way to woo (some would say stalk) Kirsten Dunst. I even saw this movie and I don’t remember anything about her. Most recently, she was in Love Happens, playing an “employee and friend” of Jennifer Aniston’s flower shop owner.  Luckily for Judy, no one saw Love Happens, so she gets a pass on this one under the Tree-Falls-in-Forest-But-Nobody-Hears rule.

However, the apex of Judy Greer’s best-friend act is unquestionably 13 Going on 30. In that movie, she gets to play Jennifer Garner’s best friend who helps her adjust to her new adult life after some sort of magic something turns her from the titular 13 to the titular 30. Judy is in full-throttle sassy best friend mode in this movie. She has a giant head of frizzy blonde hair, drinks seven lattes an hour, and is a horrible backstabbing bitch who undermines Jenny G at every opportunity. She gossips about her to their coworkers, says mean things about her hair and clothes, and in the emotional climax of the film, steals Jen’s photoshoot work and gives it to a rival magazine so they’ll hire her as their editor-in-chief. Sure, Jen marries the photographer and lives in what is literally a giant dollhouse of perfection with him, but she almost didn’t make it because she made the same mistake as so many romcom heroines: she chose Judy Greer as her best friend.

The weird footnote to Judy Greer is that she is insanely funny in both the beloved “Arrested Development” (But “there’s always money in the banana stand!” Shut up, nerds. It’s gone and it’s not coming back.) and the brand new but hilarious FX cartoon “Archer”. In “Arrested”, she played George Bluth Sr.’s assistant and lover Kitty Sanchez. I don’t know who she plays in “Archer” but that show is also really funny, so she gets big ups for it anyway.

Although now that I think about it, I’m pretty sure she plays the best friend.

That guy who brainwashed the Professor in X-Men 2

This That Guy’s name is Michael Reid Mackay. The first movie I ever saw him in was also one of the most traumatizing moments in a very traumatizing movie. In Se7en, his character was credited as “Sloth,” which is a gentle way of saying “the guy who was tied to a bed for a year and is so gross they assume he’s dead until he starts convulsing and it turns out he’s a rotted-out zombie who’s barely alive.”

I remember him best as the catatonic mutant son in X-Men 2 (a.k.a. X-Men: Lost in New York). In this one, his anti-mutant bad guy father turned him into a mind-control weapon. Somehow it involved his brain juice being dripped out of his head so it could be used on other characters. Again, Mackay spends the movie strapped down and never speaks, although this time he glares menacingly when he’s thought-controlling people.

In the finest tradition of That Guys, Mackay found a thing he could do well and managed to steadily be cast as that character. For him, his incredible gauntness ended up being perfect for any movie in which someone had to look skinny and weird. Look no further than Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls (1995, as “Skinny Husband”), Buddy (1997, as “Skinny Man”), or The Battle of Shaker Heights (2003, “Skinny Guy”). Presumably, when he played an alien on “The Outer Limits,” his proportions could have been described as “skinny.”

The height of Mackay’s career may have come in 1997, when he played a skinny guy in Batman and Robin. This time, he achieved what all his past skinny guys wanted to do but never could accomplish: pump yourself full of steroids, don a luchador costume, and very nearly kill Batman. That’s right, Hollywood’s go-to guy for playing “weirdos so skinny they’re barely recognizable as human” is in a movie with Arnold Schwarzenegger, and his character is the one known as “the really big guy with muscles.”

That Guyography: That pet alien that looks like every other pet alien

Today features a special two-parter, featuring a crossover That Guy whom I discovered while researching surprisingly prodigious That Girl Lacey Chabert. And, as a bonus, it’s this blog’s second-ever official That Guyography!

In Lost in Space, space teen Penny (Chabert) adopts a weird little alien monkey-chameleon. I swear I’m done talking about Lost in Space. The only photo I could find of it revealed that it is named Blarp. That is not a joke.

Oh Yeah That Guy has built its reputation around solid journalism of a professionalism unequaled in the slightly-obscure-film-actor-biography-blog domain. Therefore, it was only a matter of time until I discovered that Blarp actually has had quite the distinguished career. But he never forgot his roots.

Blarp started off blazing a new path for alien monkeys when he played Gleek, the Wonder Twins’ pet alien from The Superfriends. This was back in a time when Hollywood didn’t think much of alien monkey actors.

Blarp won over the hearts of thousands of 80’s youths for his tender yet incredibly obnoxious portrayal of Snarf from Thundercats. See, Snarf was a member of the noble alien race called the Snarfs. Snarfs such as Snarf served as proud protectors for the superhero cat people about whom the show was actually about. Snarf was one of the Snarfs who dwelt in such famous locales as the Valley of Snarfs and the Planet of Snarfs. Besides Snarfs, other famous Snarfs you may have heard of include Snarfer, Snarf Oswald, and Snarf Eggbert. Snarf’s claim to fame was undoubtedly his pathological compulsion to end every sentence with the word “Snarf!”

After playing Snarf, Blarp decided to stretch his creative horizons a bit, and experimented with some new media. Who could forget the Norns, the cute aliens that you had to protect from the mean Grendel aliens in that computer game “Creatures”? That was during Blarp’s brief foray into PC gaming titles. Soon, though he returned to film and television, where his career quickly spun out of control.

Despite heated disagreements which sometimes spilled over into the public view, Blarp’s agent cast him for Gremlins, which led to Blarp’s now-famous on-set rant. Allegedly, Blarp had never agreed to perform the role and, despite Blarp’s desire to be taken more seriously as an actor, he began the shoot, according to many solely out of contractual obligation. In the incident which interrupted Blarp’s career for years, the monkey-alien actor appeared on set, slurring his words and slinging racial epithets at the cast and crew, many of which were punctuated by the word “Snarf!” Though he apologized three days later at a press conference, he lost the role to Gizmo and did not make another appearance in a major motion picture until he played the role of Salacious Crumb in Return of the Jedi. Though critics praised his squeaky cackle-laugh, many fans were alarmed at the effects that years of heroin abuse and self-neglect had wrought on his body.

The one from Mean Girls who was always jealous of Rachel McAdams

Most people who see Lacey Chabert probably think of her as Gretchen Weiners, her role from Mean Girls, in which she played the second-in-command Mean Girl who resents not being quite as popular as Rachel McAdams, despite her dad inventing the toaster strudel. Being me, however, I still think of her as Penny Robinson, the teenage daughter from the 90’s Lost in Space movie. She was the one with the wrist-top computer straight out of the Inspector Gadget cartoon, and she always used it to make diary entries on what was going on. She had a big crush on Matt LeBlanc in that movie but, the poor lass, she would never be noticed by him because he had the hots for her sister Heather Graham, whose unbelievably impractical space suit was much more eye-catching.

I know it may seem like this entry is getting off-topic by talking about the non-Lacey Chabert aspects of Lost in Space, but I think it’s a great complement to her acting that I so distinctly remember her amid a movie that actually features Gary Oldman mutating into a space-spider who utters the line: "Within my egg sac lies the fruit of an entire master race!" Talent, Lacey.

Chabert originally caught her big break in Party of Five, and then caught a role in Not Another Teen Drama. To those who think that Lacey Chabert can only play angsty teens in space and high school, I direct you to Chabert’s voice acting resume. She was Meg Griffin for the first season of Family Guy and was Kirsten Dunst’s singing double from Anastasia, in which they played the titular role for the first ten minutes of the movie. Remember that Nickelodeon show The Wild Thornberrys, about a girl who talks to animals? That was Lacey Chabert. Supposedly she was in Daddy Day Care and Ghosts of Girlfriends Past, but as no one ever saw either of those movies, the truth may be lost forever.

The mean doctor from Scrubs

John C McGinley will forever be known as the grumpy doctor from Scrubs who says mean things and who whistles a lot and who was named after an English teacher from my high school. He also played one of the Bobs in Office Space.

If you’ve watched a couple Scrubs episodes, you’ve probably wondered why that doctor is so muscular for seemingly no reason. Strangely enough for a That Guy who is almost synonymous with his sarcastic doctor, he has gone through a long line of roles requiring protein shakes and bench pressing. He was the leader of the SWAT team in Se7en, perpetually arriving at the crime scene just in time to miss everything important, and he was one of the rogue Marines in The Rock. He was in Platoon and was an FBI guy in Point Break. I hear Steven Seagal calls McGinley every year to make sure he never forgets the time he threw him into an airplane rotor in On Deadly Ground.

The Russian guy from Armageddon

It’s a poorly-kept Hollywood secret that Peter Stormare suffers from an ancient gypsy curse to always appear either in need of a shower or in need of a shave, and usually both. If a murder occurred, Peter Stormare would be the creepy groundskeeper who shows you around the mansion right at the beginning and then the audience knows he was the murderer all along but the main characters don’t figure it out until the last half-hour and then they’re about to reveal him as the culprit when they find his gruesome corpse in a closet and it turns out he was a red herring and was trying to warn them but the real killer got him first and it turns out it was the stern village matron all along.

Peter Stormare was in Constantine as Satan and was in the awesome scene from The Lost World where he gets eaten by a swarm of tiny dinosaurs which he had earlier tormented with a cattle prod. Justisaurus poeticus. He even got to dig out Tom Cruise’s eyes as a slimy-looking doctor. And one time he vas a nihilist who beliefs in nosthink in The Big Lebowski.

However, experts now agree that Stormare was put on this Earth for one reason and one reason alone: to demonstrate to us how they fix things on Russian space station in Armageddon.

Considering that he looks like a sex offender and usually plays gross-looking guys of Slavic origin, it’s a bit of a surprise that Peter Stormare is a classically-trained Swede, but there you go. As a bonus sighting, he played the dirty electrician Slippery Pete in that "Frogger" episode of Seinfeld. You can count on Slippery Pete.

That guy from Boogie Nights

Luis Guzmán has a thankless job, even among That Guys. He’s generally treated as a poor man’s Benicio del Toro and cast as an underling of some kind. Also, I’m pretty sure he gets mistaken for a werewolf a lot. Luis is consistently cast as a seedy criminal, a cop, or as a colorful buddy who is wiser than people take him for. You may recognize him from Boogie Nights, The Count of Monte Cristo, Yes Man, Nothing Like the Holidays, Oz, or Crocodile Dundee 2. His characters are always named something like “Ray” or “Eddie.”

I’d love to find a photo of it, but Luis Guzman was honored on NBC’s new sitcom Community by having a statue of himself unveiled at his fictional alma mater community college.

That guy from the finale of Seinfeld

James Rebhorn has carved out some great territory for himself playing WASPy stereotypes. He was the prosecutor in the series finale of Seinfeld who puts the cast in jail and one of the in-laws in Meet the Parents. He was the judge who gave out the DNA results in Baby Mama. He was a mean rich guy who tried to spoil the mischief-loving kid’s fun in Blank Check. You can see him now as some NASA guy in The Box. And who didn’t feel a little bit of jealousy when he got roughed up by Bill Pullman in Independence Day, when he played the sniveling Secretary of Defense who keeps talking the President into making bad calls? James is a master of being the one to blame for a shitty situation who refuses to admit responsibility. He plays a lot of doctors, lawyers, and bureacrats in his movies, but he’s probably a bad guy in all of them.