A favourite film character doesn’t necessarily have to be one notable of awards – although a couple of mine are – and they don’t necessarily have to have been a major role. For me, a favourite film character is one that you find yourself instantly intrigued by, whether because you identify with them or because by some random cosmic force you find yourself pulled to them, like some giant cinematic magnet is drawing you to the screen. That for me is the magic of film – really any kind of artistic work – when you are unconditionally drawn to an aspect of it. The beauty of film is that you can watch your favourite character as many times as your heart desires. So here goes:
Paul Bettany – Geoffrey Chaucer in A Knight‘s Tale
So unashamedly theatrical, so well delivered and so hilarious. I have watched A Knight’s Tale an embarassing number of times. I woke up on New Year’s Day a few years back to find I’d unrelentingly spent 8 quid buying this film on iTunes the night before. Clearly I’m a drunk with cinematic priorities. And still this character still makes me laugh if not smile broadly at more or less everything he says. Paul Bettany fits this role so well and brings an exaggerated comedy that the film would have sorely lacked had it been left out. This pick just about beat Bettany’s turn as Doctor Maturin in ‘Master and Commander’, simply because it was one of the first films I watched where I immediately identified a theatrical actor significantly standing out in a Hollywood film, and doing a fabulous job.
Mila Kunis – Rachel Jansen in Forgetting Sarah Marshall
For a long time Forgetting Sarah Marshall was one of my favourite films, for the wonderful humour combined with the chilled-out Hawaiian vibe and saturated colour so everyone’s tan looks ace. It perhaps has personal meaning for me in pulling me out of a personal slump much like the heartbroken Peter’s with its heartwarming and upbeat story. And also the puppets. Puppets are chill. The character of Rachel isn’t a huge one, but it got Mila Kunis noticed since That 70’s Show ended and it led on to films like Friends With Benefits and Black Swan. I loved Mila Kunis in this film and she remains one of my favourite actresses since I first watched it. Rachel is chilled out, free-spirited, funny and pulls Jason Segel’s heartbroken Peter out of his slump and into the Hawaiian sunshine with her own sunny philosophies on life. Mahalo, dude.
Natalie Portman – Nina Sayers in Black Swan
This film is still hands down in my top 5 favourites. And I wouldn’t call her a favourite because I particularly warm to Portman’s character. Hell, she’s damn annoying for most of the film. But she’s also so brilliantly layered: timid, neurotic, cripplingly insecure and in need of validation from others, yet also cold, manipulative and scheming. And when that savagely animal and sensual Black Swan finally bursts from her in a mess of blood and black and white feathers you can see how Portman swept the awards board in 2010.
Tom Berenger – Sgt. Barnes in Platoon
This character is not nice. Not nice at all. Back during my obsession with Best Picture Oscar films I watched this and instantly was drawn to the brutal character of Barnes. Scarred yet still ruggedly handsome beneath it, this man may well have been some kind of weird sexual awakening in my early teens all the way from the ’80s. Berenger was nominated for Best Supporting Actor for this role and with no surprise. He brilliantly captures the figure of authority in a time where the young hippies of the West were saying ‘fuck authority’, striding unflinchingly through gunfire, grenades and napalm to rant at his lieutenant. Arguably his best scene is when he boozily confronts the weed-smoking, ‘peace and love’ section of the platoon, swigging bitterly from his whiskey as he spits at them ‘Death? What do you know about death?’ For this doomed youth, Barnes IS death.
Christoph Waltz – Colonel Hans Landa in Inglourious Basterds
The best saved till last. Christoph Waltz had never had such a highly-billed role in mainstream Hollywood cinema, and perhaps no such Hollywood unknown has ever made such a huge impact on the English-speaking audience. This Austrian actor will be among the ‘Best Villains’ and ‘Most Memorable Film Characters’ lists for years to come thanks to his role as ‘the Jew Hunter’ in Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds. The opening scene between he and French actor Denis Ménochet (fantastic in this film) is a perfect example of how Landa can be the jovial polite Nazi in his clipped, formal French and swiftly transform into a ruthless, calculating and insanely intelligent hunter as he informs Ménochet’s Monsieur LaPadite in English that he knows there is a Jewish family hidden beneath the floorboards. But the transition is so perfectly subtle that the audience themselves realise only too late, and the tension of the scene bursts into tragedy. Simply unforgettable.
So there is my weird ‘n’ wonky little list of favourite film characters, for all their eccentricities and madness. Till next time folks! “In case i don’t see you; good afternoon, good evening and good night.”