Posted by mike in Found Roles at 10:19 am on August 15, 2009

This is the second entry in an ongoing series.

Timothy Olyphant is an actor who’s been around for a while, but it doesn’t seem like he’s as well-known as he should be. Timothy Olyphant as Thomas Gabriel in the 4th Die Hard film He’s an excellent actor who’s had a wide variety of roles, and for that very reason I find him to be a great fit for a Found Role. Though he’s not as known as I personally think he should be, most people will probably be able to recognize him as Thomas Gabriel, the bad guy from Live Free or Die Hard.

As the cyber-terrorist who torments John McClane by hacking into and shutting down vital public works, Olyphant is creepy and menacing—and just the right amount of campy, too. It’s the fact that he plays such a bad-ass in Die Hard 4 that makes this particular earlier role so amusing to me.

I didn’t really intend for the entries in this series to segue into each other, but this one just so happens to follow nicely from the previous entry. That one featured Jon Favreau, who wrote and starred in Swingers, which was directed by Doug Liman. Here, we turn to Liman’s subsequent film, an oft-overlooked gem from the late 1990s called Go.

A drug-addled, raver-centric, Rashômon-style tale of a single night in the intersecting lives of several young people, Go‘s story begins with a deal gone wrong. Indie darling Sarah Polley goes over the head of her absentee dealer, making a buy directly from her local small-time kingpin named Todd Gaines, played by Olyphant. The film takes place during the holidays, and in the clip below you can see that Gaines is clearly in the holiday spirit as he interrogates Claire (a young Katie Holmes), who’s been left with him as collateral while Polley’s character Ronna goes to get the rest of the money she owes him.

While I obviously realize that it shouldn’t be particularly noteworthy that a good actor is able to play both a crazy-eyed drug dealer and a cold-blooded cyber-terrorist, and play both convincingly (that’s what good actors do!), recognizing this doesn’t make the contrast any less amusing. A large part of what I’ve intended to be the fun of this series comes from having the benefit of hindsight to compare a now-accomplished actor’s roles with where he or she started out.

I also didn’t mean for these to be particularly timely, but the Breakfast Club reference happens to fit with the recent news of the death of John Hughes, the writer and director of that film. Timothy Olyphant is currently featured as one of the headliners in the thriller A Perfect Getaway, which was just released. I’ve not seen it, but that film appears to cast him as another demented criminal, albeit one who operates on a smaller scale than did his Thomas Gabriel. It seems he’ll continue to have a fruitful career ahead of him, but I hope he doesn’t end up being repeatedly typecast as the consummate psycho evildoer; obviously he’s capable of much more—such as a Santa Claus hat-wearing drug dealer with a hidden heart of gold.

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