In some corners of the web, people speak of That Guy actors. These are the thespians you never think about and perhaps don’t know by name, but every time they pop up, you recognize them and go “Hey, it’s that guy!” This doesn’t necessarily mean they’re actors you love or even like, but you definitely recognize their faces. Odds are they tend to stick to supporting parts rather than being allowed to take center stage.
(Do note that That Guy-ness is not gender-specific. Female actors can be That Guy too, which leads me to think a new nomenclature might be required at some point.)
This post is about these actors, but others too. The ones I may not know the name of, nor do I even recognize their faces when I see them on screen. And yet I have seen them plenty of times. The main tool I use to keep track of films I’ve seen is Swedish site Filmtipset. One of the features on there is the ability to get statistics on which actors I’ve seen in the most films. As I look through this list, I spot names I don’t recognize despite having seen them in ten different films or so. For some of them, even looking up a picture of them fails to ring a bell. They’re technically not That Guy, but the principle remains: actors I keep seeing but never think about.
So since I keep watching these people yet never give them any attention, I’d like to take this post to celebrate the workhorse actors who rarely get enough attention. What follows is a list of these kinds of actors who I have seen a minimum of 9 movies with (number arbitrarily chosen). These are all males, but not by design. It just so happens that I’m more aware of who the actresses I’ve seen a lot of movies with are.
Elias Koteas – This one is actually somewhat of a borderline case. Having seen and reviewed Crash (1996) not too long ago, I definitely know and regognize the name. Koteas earns his spot here due to the high number of films (12) I’ve seen him in without ever having bothered to find out his name and file it away in the old memory bank. This Canadian actor was a staple in Atom Egoyan‘s earlier movies and now splits his time between film and television. Odds are I’ll always think of him as that creepy car crash fetishist in Crash. Or as that guy who looks like a cross between Stanley Tucci and David Paymer – the latter himself surely a That Guy to many film fans.
Films you might have seen him in: Zodiac, Shutter Island, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Christopher McDonald – Or Shooter McGavin to most people. Happy Gilmore might be the film he’s most closely associated with, but he has been working since the early 80s, appearing in a wide variety of movies, often as an antagonist. Like Koteas, I’ve seen this guy in 12 films without ever paying him much attention. Also one of the unfortunate individuals to have appeared in multiple post-Wedding American Pie films.
Films you might have seen him in: Happy Gilmore, Requiem for a Dream, Thelma & Louise
Philip Baker Hall – Hall had a late break-through of sorts playing the lead in Paul Thomas Anderson‘s Hard Eight. Since then, he has appeared in other PTA films, as well as a multitude of television roles. On the big screen, he was recently seen playing an aging cancer patient in 50/50.
Films you might have seen him in: 50/50, Magnolia, Rush Hour
Xander Berkeley – One of the actors on this list where even upon seeing his image and filmography, I still go “Who?” But he has been in tons of stuff. Remember John Connor’s surrogate father Todd in Terminator 2: Judgment Day? That’s Berkeley. Did you catch Todd Haynes‘ 1995 allergy drama Safe? Berkeley played the husband. He was also a recurring character in the early seasons of 24, playing cop George Mason.
Films you might have seen him in: Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Heat, Air Force One
Udo Kier – A man well-regarded as a cult actor in certain circles – or so my research leads me to believe, at least. This steel-eyed German actor often appears in b-movies and exploitation flicks, and considering how rarely I traverse the muddy waters of those genres, it seems strange that I’ve managed to see 10 movies with Kier on the cast list. But then he has a lot of other films on his resume, from big Hollywood productions to frequent collaborations with his good friend Lars von Trier.
Films you might have seen him in: Suspiria, Armageddon, Breaking the Waves
John Carroll Lynch – I just Google Image searched this guy, and upon seeing his pictures I had to double-check to make sure I hadn’t accidentally typed in David Koechner. But yeah, I recognize this guy. He was Drew Carey‘s brother on The Drew Carey Show, and he played Frances McDormand‘s husband in Fargo. His filmography is shorter than most on this list, but he has been a part of a lot of big-time movies in recent years.
Films you might have seen him in: Fargo, Gran Torino, Crazy Stupid Love
Ethan Suplee – Considering his quite distinct appearance, I find it strange that I don’t recognize this guy more. Not many lead roles to his name, but a solid range of supporting turns in both dramas and comedies. His most recognizable character to me is ironically the one where he looks the least like himself: Ashton Kutcher‘s spiky-haired roommate Thumper in The Butterfly Effect.
Films you might have seen him in: American History X, The Butterfly Effect, Mallrats
Keith David – Perhaps less of a That Guy than a That Voice for some. David has provided voice acting to a number of video games and animated films and shows, as well as narration duty for plenty of documentaries. But even if I limit myself to his live acton work, I’ve still seen 9 films with this guy. He has taken part in plenty of action films, for instance. His most memorable character might well be that of Armitage in They Live. Remember that epic fight scene with Roddy Piper over the sunglasses? If you don’t, you haven’t seen the film.
Films you might have seen him in: They Live, The Thing, Requiem for a Dream
Stephen McHattie – Definitely a That Guy. With a face that lends itself well to playing bad guys and/or authority figures, Canadian McHattie has had lots of parts in television. His big screen work is a bit more scarce, but he had a rare lead role a few years ago as a gravelly-voiced radio announcer in quirky viral outbreak film Pontypool.
Films you might have seen him in: Watchmen, A History of Violence, The Fountain
Kevin Corrigan – Corrigan spent most of the 90s appearing in small indie films like Living in Oblivion, but recently he has started to pop up more frequently in major studio films. Not the most recognizable face on this list, but at “only” 42 years of age, he still has plenty of time to establish himself as a bonafide That Guy actor.
Films you might have seen him in: Superbad, True Romance, The Departed
Pruitt Taylor Vince – A go-to guy when you need a hefty bald man for a part. Able to adapt easily to both friendly supporting characters and nasty villains, Vince has had a couple of notable roles in his career. He even snagged a lead part in 1995 independent film Heavy, playing a chubby cook who tries to woo Liv Tyler. Side-note: If Marvel ever decide to make another film with their Kingpin character, this is they guy they’ll want for the job – no offense to Michael Clark Duncan.
Films you might have seen him in: Identity, Constantine, Nurse Betty
Michael Ironside – A fairly well-known name in sci-fi crowds, as that’s the genre he had the most enduring success in. I’m not that well-versed in science fiction personally, however, which is why he makes this list of mine. But even if you’re like me, you’re still likely to know Ironside as Jester in Top Gun.
Films you might have seen him in: Top Gun, Total Recall, Starship Troopers