Archive for August, 2011


James Spader is my Christopher Walken

James Spader then...

For some people, Christopher Walken is their favorite eccentric actor. With his creepy persona, the dazed look in his eye, the halted-ness in his voice, and his penchant for breaking out in song and dance, it’s understandable. But when it comes to eccentric actors, James Spader holds a special place in my heart.

I shouldn’t like James Spader; he’s a bit of a prep with a real-life Boston-Brahmin prep-school pedigree. For me, his saving grace is that he dropped out of New York City’s Phillips Academy in the eleventh grade to pursue an acting career. He’s got something going on beneath that golden-boy beauty; he’s The Way We Were’s Hubbell Gardner gone bad.

Maybe it’s his usually villainous, reptilian presence in beloved 80s movies of my childhood, such as Pretty in Pink, Less Than Zero, and Mannequin. (Is it my imagination, or was The United States of Tara‘s Toni Collette channeling Spader’s Pretty in Pink character, Steff, in her last alter, the prep school tie-wearing Brice – such a Brat Pack character name: Video NSFW)

Spader then broke out with a role in the grandfather of all indie films, 1989’s sex, lies, and videotape, winning Best Actor at Cannes. Other offbeat roles would include Crash and Secretary, although he had a mainstream hit with Stargate. An occasional romantic lead would also come his way, such as White Palace in which he plays a young Jewish type-A widower who finds love with an older, Southern, working-class Susan Sarandon. Aside from being an honest and subtle performance, Spader’s trademark intensity still shines in moments, such as when he finds himself missing his messy life with Sarandon’s character while at a spotless female friend’s party (“There’s no dust in her dustbuster!”).

Spader is probably best known as defense attorney Alan Shore on the TV series The Practice and Boston Legal. The role won him three Emmys, making him the only actor to win Best Lead Actor Emmys for the same character on two different series.

James Spader now.

I just learned a few weeks ago that Spader will be replacing Steve Carell’s character on The Office, a show that I was about to give up on. However, I, for one, will keep tuning in to watch the slightly older but still enigmatic James Spader.