July 10, 2002
6:49 PM   Subscribe

What do Erin Brockovich, Gotcha!, and The Big Lebowski all have in common? Not much other than humor and a terrific character actress named Irene Olga López. Every time I happen to see a movie in which she has a bit part, I think upon how much I enjoy seeing her, and how lucky she must be. She's been in a lot of filmed entertainment, has gotten to work with people like Julia Roberts and John Goodman, and probably doesn't get hassled by paparazzi when walking down the street in full daylight. Let's all take a moment to appreciate those unsung actors and actresses who make our moviegoing experiences more enjoyable through the small roles. They may never win any Oscars, but the movies sure wouldn't be the same without 'em. "Jonathan! You sound-a so close!"
posted by WolfDaddy (58 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Fametracker likes to call these actors/actresses HITGs (short for "Hey, It's That Guy!"). No profile on Ms. Lopez yet, but maybe it's just a matter of time.
posted by turaho at 7:01 PM on July 10, 2002

They're all works of fiction?
posted by ljromanoff at 7:08 PM on July 10, 2002

Emmett Walsh is my all time favorite supporting actor who never gets enough credit. I especially love him in Straight Time. This genius also happens to be in the film and plays great junkie ex-con. Come to think of it, this person plays his wife in Straight Time.
posted by anathema at 7:10 PM on July 10, 2002

After looking at her screen credits, I think Irene Olga López may be the highest paid maid in the world.
posted by stevis at 7:18 PM on July 10, 2002

I've got this silly thing I do when I watch a DVD, or when there's very few people in the theater. I watch the credits roll by and pick a random name floating by on the screen... it's usually either a crew member ("Best Boy", "Key Grip", etc.) or a person who is such a minor character that they are only known as "Woman #1" or somesuch thing like that. When I pick the name (or names if I'm really bored) and I'll go "Hey! It's <insert name here>! I didn't know he/she worked on this movie?!".

I figure that the hundreds or maybe thousands of people I've said that about can proudly say that someone said their name aloud as the credits rolled by. For about 10 years now that's been my own little contribution to the vast array of unknowns who are rarely appreciated for their work in the film industry.

It's stupid, but it's what I do. :)
posted by crankydoodle at 7:23 PM on July 10, 2002

wow. she's a real looker, too.
posted by quonsar at 8:14 PM on July 10, 2002

This movie has tons of those HITGs, but for a different reason. It was filmed at a high school in my home town, and just about everyone in the county who was between the ages of 13 and 21 at that time is in the movie somewhere, especially in the big fight scene at the end.

It's still fun to rent it and try to pick out all the people we used to hang out with.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 8:29 PM on July 10, 2002

I've got a big problem with credits, whether in films or television. I mean, WHY do they exist at all? For instance, after watching an episode of, say, "E.R." do we need to see the name of the 3rd assistant costume director? When the credits roll after "Jurassic Park III," do we care who the gaffer or best-boy was? There's no similar credits for books (unless the author credits them somehow), and there's no "credits" given for the burger that you ate for lunch today, or the automobile that you bought last year. Hm.

Pet peeve. You can have the thread back now.
posted by davidmsc at 8:40 PM on July 10, 2002

davidmsc, have you ever watched a movie or television show or stage play being produced? It takes a massive amount of work, and in the case of the former two examples, usually a rather gargantuan crew of people. The person who hung the "Pretty in Pink" poster on the wall of a bedroom set for "Not Another Teen Movie" may not mean anything to you, but you wouldn't laugh at the little homage to the old John Hughes movie had not someone taken the time to go find the poster and then put it up on the wall. :-)
posted by WolfDaddy at 8:46 PM on July 10, 2002

Understood, WolfDaddy, but by the same token, it takes an equally gargantuan effort to serve you that cheeseburger at Chili's restaurant, or get that new car to the showroom for you to purchase. I just don't understand why film & TV are any different from any other industry.
posted by davidmsc at 8:49 PM on July 10, 2002

Good point, davidmsc, I guess those industries aren't quite as self-congratulatory as the ones you mentioned?
posted by WolfDaddy at 8:53 PM on July 10, 2002

Argh, teach me to do tech support and post on MeFi at the same time:

Shoulda said "those industries aren't quite as self-congratulatory as the entertainment industry". Sigh.
posted by WolfDaddy at 8:54 PM on July 10, 2002

I just don't understand why film & TV are any different from any other industry.

the reason is simple. film & tv people have huge egos and a great union. they love to see themselves listed in credits no matter how small the credit. what other industry has 80 different awards shows a year honoring itself?
posted by suprfli at 8:56 PM on July 10, 2002

Credits make sense since people want to be recognized for the work they do, that's pretty understandable, and they can write in their resume that they are credited in such and such movie/TV show/whatever.

The reason we don't se any credits on burgers and such is that nobody cares...
posted by tjomme at 9:29 PM on July 10, 2002

One of my life-goals is to write the screenplay that would make this man a household name. He's always fascinating to watch and I'm suprised no one has beaten me to it yet...
posted by black8 at 9:44 PM on July 10, 2002

You miss an important point, davidmsc. People who work on films are generally only employed on a certain project for a few months. In those few months they might spend an average of 12-16 hours a day 5-7 days a week working on the project, and this can be even longer on shoddy productions like Jurassic Park 3 (which I worked on) or on productions where you might be under the thumb of an extreme egotist/slave driver. Much time is lost to your real life. Loved ones go neglected, personal agendas go unfinished, so on and so forth. At the end of production you might have very little to say for yourself or what you did although you sacrificed a great amount personally to get it done. In this case the only thing I could really show to those whom I neglected was my name blurring by on the screen at the end of the show. It may be pathetic but my mother was happy.

There is however a more important point to the credit roll. People only get continued work based on two things; What you've worked on and who you've worked with. Credits can sometimes lend a helping hand here as they are most certainly proof that you did work on a project. Often times a production worker (whatever position they may work) will see a work and catch certain characteristics about it that they can, through experience, attribute to certain positions on the production. They may say to themselves, "My god. The set decoration is outstanding!" and thusly pick a credit roll dry after viewing. While this isn't common it isn't unheard of either.

The point would be that the credit roll is somewhat self congratulatory and most definitely has its drawbacks, but there are positive points to it that far outweigh the problems. If a film-maker ever felt that the credit roll was drawing from the overall piece though, I wouldn't hesitate to remove it, only the unions would :)
posted by velacroix at 9:55 PM on July 10, 2002

Weird, black8... I was talking about that guy about a week ago when they were showing some Columbus movie on tv.
He was born in Toronto? Man, that somehow doesn't seem right... seeing as he always plays the evil villain type-character. But I like him, and he's definitely a "Hey, it's that guy" type of guy.
posted by mkn at 9:58 PM on July 10, 2002

I actually appreciate end credits because they allow for a gentle transition back to the real world after a movie. I'm not one of those people who sits there till the very end, but I like to think that I could. Other people say grace before dinner; when the movie was good, I like to take a breath and watch some scrolling names. I get upset when I see a film on TV and immediately after the last frame, they push the credits off to the side, speed them up, and begin to bark announcements for the next attraction. Do they have no shame?
posted by muckster at 10:03 PM on July 10, 2002

actually, the burger you eat does have credits. it's made by mcdonald's or wherever you bought it. you like the burger, you can check out more of their work anytime you want. same goes for movie credits. if i want to see all the films billy wilder and charles brackett wrote or frans waxman scored or walter murch edited or dick sylbert designed, i can. without credits, i'm unable to do that.
posted by dobbs at 10:06 PM on July 10, 2002

i always wait for the credits just because lots of friends work in movie effects .. always makes me proud when i see their name on a good film. by then of course it's just me and the dude picking up popcorn in the theatre.

by the way visual effects people have no union .. which is why many get left off the credit roll .. lord of the rings omitted many many skilled animators and compositors who worked on the movie.

posted by mrben at 10:07 PM on July 10, 2002

Malcom McDowell in "A Clockwork Orange" and Rutger Hauer in "Blade Runner" have always been proof to me that the best performances are seldom recognized by awarding institutions. To me that makes them all the better :)
posted by velacroix at 10:08 PM on July 10, 2002

My favorite HITG is Robert Z'Dar. Totally unmistakable, er, face.

crash_davis, Three o'Clock High was a GREAT movie. Totally underappreciated when it came out. A true sleeper, IMHO. Seriously, I remember being very impressed with this flick.
posted by Fofer at 10:11 PM on July 10, 2002

Rober Z'Dar has a bar down here in LA called the Joint. He's a cool guy to boot.
posted by velacroix at 10:36 PM on July 10, 2002

There are a lot of HITG's that I look for, the one's that come to mind are Julian Richings (real funny looking guy), Von Flores and Fabiana Udenio.

Another one of my favourites is James Hong, if there's any movie with Asian characters in it he's one of them, to the point he almost borderlines on well known actor.
posted by bobo123 at 10:49 PM on July 10, 2002

Velacroix got the real answer. It's not ego (well, maybe a little ego), so much as it is advertising. I do think it's amusing that in the 40s you might have as many as TWO cast cards listing only the major speaking roles, the director, and the producers, while today the credits roll onnnnnn and onnnnnn (I just sat through Minority Report's!) listing every last minor technical position and their assistant. I'm one of those stay-to-the-end guys, and so is the buddy I mostly see flicks with, partly because some of the more interesting credits are saved until then -- special thanks and certain locations, and songs and who wrote or sang them.

That credits are still important is shown by the Writer's Guild effort to eliminate the vanity credit that directors take: A Steven Spielberg Film, in addition to Directed By. But these issues always take a back seat to more substantive ones.

My bud and I also like noticing the second-tier actors -- such as Neal McDonough (Fletcher) in MR. Very often these faces turn up above the title a couple of years down the road. Some are HITGs, which can be good or bad depending. But they have a lot more flexibility than the stars do, who carry baggage and sometimes have to conform to preconceptions about their roles much more tightly. So you can see neat things if you shift your focus off-center slightly.
posted by dhartung at 10:52 PM on July 10, 2002

it takes an equally gargantuan effort to serve you that cheeseburger at Chili's restaurant, or get that new car to the showroom for you to purchase.

That's just plain not true. Both of your examples involve consistently generic, impersonal sameness as quality goals. In art, if that's what we are talking about, unique and authenticly developed individual personalities produce work based on intense observation and a consciously developed technique that takes whole lifetimes to develop, that adds some useful, enjoyable, revealing, and possibly enpowering qualities to our lives.
posted by semmi at 11:39 PM on July 10, 2002

Another great Character Actor page that I came across a couple of weeks ago. They don't have a profile on Irene Olga López yet either, but it was really easy killing a few hours scrolling through their pages while looking at pictures and trying to guess which movies I remembered the actors and actresses from.
posted by bragadocchio at 12:23 AM on July 11, 2002

Neal McDonough was awesome in Band of Brothers.
posted by gleemax at 4:16 AM on July 11, 2002

And James Hong was awesome in Revenge of the Nerds II: Nerds in Paradise, as "Snotty."
posted by Fofer at 4:44 AM on July 11, 2002

Three O'Clock High. Michael Wincott. Neal McDonough.

Best MeFi thread EVER.
posted by drinkcoffee at 4:49 AM on July 11, 2002

Black8: Good pick. An excellent villain he has been quite a few times. Good character actor.
posted by a3matrix at 5:09 AM on July 11, 2002

My personal fave for a a character actor (nobody knows who he is but anybody'd recognize him in spite of the horrible picture imdb has of him) is Jeffrey Tambor. He was especially good in this movie-for-television, which was wickedly funny but now is largely forgotten.
posted by alumshubby at 5:30 AM on July 11, 2002

In case you're still trying to figure out who Irene Olga Lopez is, you can see some pictures of her here.
posted by dogwelder at 7:28 AM on July 11, 2002

Word, black8. Michael Wincott's long been one of my favourite actors (in my world he's not a HITG). His work as Rene Ricard in Basquiat was brilliant. If I could get an audio book (or DVD commentary track) recorded by Wincott and Vin Diesel, I'd take it to the desert island with me.

I lamented the passing of J.T. Walsh, IMHO one of the great character actors.

Other favourites include Chris Cooper and Stellan Skarsgard (one of the few actors out there who understands subtlety). And I'm glad Owen Wilson's not a HITG anymore.
posted by biscotti at 8:02 AM on July 11, 2002

The ultimate HITG, and MTV Lifetime achievement award winner, Clint Howard
posted by themikeb at 8:09 AM on July 11, 2002

me and my friends cheer loudly when we see our favorite HITGs. people must think it's weird when we're in the theatre and hear them: "tobolowsky!", "xander berkley!", "fictner!", "joey pants!", "vincent!", etc.
posted by dobbs at 8:24 AM on July 11, 2002

I've always enjoyed the malevolent stylings of Miguel Ferrer.

He's going to play me in the movie: "UncleFes Saves Christmas"
posted by UncleFes at 8:24 AM on July 11, 2002

One of my favorite bad-ass HITG's has got to be Michael Ironside.
posted by O9scar at 8:37 AM on July 11, 2002

Jennifer Coolidge, genius-faced character actor. (Best in Show, Clueless, and... American pie). Comparable only to Rossy de Palma.
posted by RJ Reynolds at 8:53 AM on July 11, 2002

this thread would not be complete without mention of bud cort.
posted by pxe2000 at 8:58 AM on July 11, 2002

The other night I watched True Romance, which features two of my all-time favorite HITGs-made-good, James Gandolfini and Tom Sizemore. (Actually, the whole movie's chock-full of HITGs.)
posted by kirkaracha at 9:06 AM on July 11, 2002

There's something about Tom Irwin that just gives me a woody every time I see him in something...
posted by troybob at 9:06 AM on July 11, 2002

I can't believe nobody mentioned Jack Nance

I mean, Eraserhead?

The man was weirder than his mentor, David Lynch

Even his death was spooky
posted by matteo at 9:26 AM on July 11, 2002

A HITG in the making: From "Gummo" and "The Road to Wellville"--Jacob Reynolds. This kid should get every part that that dumbass "American Pie" kid, Chris Owen gets. He's fantastic.

That bathtub spaghetti scene in "Gummo" is one of my favorite scenes ever.
posted by ColdChef at 9:42 AM on July 11, 2002

Tony Shalhoub. He's so good, and never seems to find the One Big Project. In GalaxyQuest, he strolled in, casually picked up the entire movie, put it in his pocket, and walked away with it.
posted by Skot at 9:49 AM on July 11, 2002

Skot: You'll be glad to know (if you didn't already) that Tony Shalhoub is getting his own TV show on USA Network, beginning Friday, called "Monk." He plays a police detective who develops some serious phobias, has to leave the force, and then begins investigating on his own. Sounds interesting.

And Jeffrey Tambor: perfect. His roles on Three's Company (once as a doctor) and on "The Ropers" were soooo funny. Best line (said to his wife): "I am NOT a snob...just ask anybody...well, anybody who matters."
posted by davidmsc at 9:57 AM on July 11, 2002

I say this not just because it's true, but also because I know Skot will appreciate it so much -- I get a kick out of it every time a see Tom Waits in a bit part. For some reason it always takes me a minute, while I think, Why is that dude so familiar.... And then it hits me. Most recently when I finally saw The Fisher King -- and he isn't in the credits, so I had to go to IMDB to confirm it was him.

Also, I could swear he does the voice of Rowlf in The Muppet Movie; and, no, I don't care if the credits say it was Jim Henson....
posted by mattpfeff at 10:36 AM on July 11, 2002

Uncle Fes - You have to wonder if Miguel isn't the teeniest bit jealous of his uber famous cousin George Clooney. I mean, he's not even as famous as his now dead mother Rosemary Clooney.

Must suck to be known as the guy who was shot in the knees in Robocop.

Cold Chef - Gummo!! I'm so happy someone else knows that movie besides me. Awesome acting.
posted by monique at 11:32 AM on July 11, 2002

Shalhoub is great, of course. For his best work see GQ, Big Night, and the Coen Bros. pictures he's done, especially Barton Fink. I actually just saw on TV a scene where some characters were sitting around saying "Tony Shalhoub -- he's great in everything he does." I've forgotten where that was -- I wanted to look up connections.
posted by dhartung at 11:44 AM on July 11, 2002

My favorite character actor is definitely Joan Cusack, sister of John.
posted by jennak at 12:00 PM on July 11, 2002

jennak, thanks for reminding me of Joan!

*rushes off to watch Addams Family Values, In and Out, and Arlington Road*
posted by WolfDaddy at 1:09 PM on July 11, 2002

I wish Miguel Ferrer would do some books on tape. Mmmph. I could listen to *that* voice for hours. Yow.

Back on topic, I've always been partial to Edward Everett Horton and the divine Thelma Ritter.
posted by mimi at 1:12 PM on July 11, 2002

I love Tony Shalhoub, but his show's gonna flop. Character actors are better actors than leads/movie stars, but they don't have the presence to carry a show by themselves (q.v., Nathan Lane).
posted by kirkaracha at 3:46 PM on July 11, 2002

Yay Celia Weston.
posted by Shadowkeeper at 4:12 PM on July 11, 2002

Miguel Ferrer is getting some mileage, finally, from his role as Jill Hennesey's boss on Crossing Jordan, and it's a long time coming, too. Absolutely about time.

As for Cusacks, Joan is great but I must give props to bug sister Ann. She's a much better actress than her resume would indicate -- her short-lived and poorly viewed Lifetime Network series, "Maggie" was really adorable and showed that she's got a great comic range. She needs to stop doing bit parts in her sublings movies and start letting her star shine on her own.

Character actors are better actors than leads/movie stars, but they don't have the presence to carry a show by themselves (q.v., Nathan Lane).

Nathan Lane can carry a lot of weight on his shoulders (if you saw him on stage in "The Producers" you have no doubt about that) but his show flopped out of sheer unbelievability. There was nothing in the entire premise that an audience could buy -- the vineyard, the family, him as an opera singer and especially him as a ladies' man. It was ridiculous. "Monk" on the other hand, has legs because Shalhoub could be very believable as a nebbish with OCD. If USA gives it a chance to grow an audience instead of pulling the plug after three or four episodes, I think we might be pleasantly surprised. I have to remember to set my TiVo.
posted by Dreama at 4:17 PM on July 11, 2002

Jeffrey Tambor was a standout onThe Larry Sanders Show as sidekick Hank Kingsley. He's very well-known... I'd hardly stoop to call him an HITG at this point.

And Clint Howard? Does it count if he's only cast in his brother Ron's films?
posted by Fofer at 5:12 PM on July 11, 2002

You know him, you love him: Jackie Earle Haley.
posted by ljromanoff at 6:34 PM on July 11, 2002


That is a sweet neologism!

Jeffrey Tambor was a standout onThe Larry Sanders Show

Don't forget Max Headroom.
posted by rushmc at 7:55 PM on July 11, 2002

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