5 Things You May Know James Badge Dale From Even If You Don’t Know Who He Is

The Pacific 5 Things You May Know James Badge Dale From Even If You Dont Know Who He Is

You may not know you know who James Badge Dale is, but you probably know who James Badge Dale is, in the same way you probably know who Stephen Tobolowsky, William Fichtner, Richard Jenkins, Gary Cole, and JK Simmons all are, even if the names don’t look familiar at all. Every now and then an actor will show up in a movie or TV show that you happen to be watching, and you’re think to yourself that he looks vaguely familiar. Then you see him in the next thing you watch and you’re like ok, who the hell is this guy!

Right now, that guy for me is James Badge Dale. I learned his name last year and forgot it until this past month, so I’m trying to repeat it as much as possible to myself in writing in order to remember it for good; he seems like he could continue to do some really great work. It’s possible you first saw him in the third season of 24, or as the guy who shoots Leo DiCaprio in The Departed. I’m sure many of us saw him in the 1990 adaptation of Lord of the Flies but no one ought to be expected to make that connection.

Today, he’s a supporting scene stealer. Here are 5 roles about which from now on, whenever you think of them, you should think to yourself: that was played by my man James Badge Dale.

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1) Rubicon/The Pacific

Rubicon 5 Things You May Know James Badge Dale From Even If You Dont Know Who He Is

2010 seems like it was the year the tide turned for James Badge Dale, and in a way came to define him as a screen actor. It saw him take the lead role in two rather successful television series. He was the featured performer in The Pacific, the Band of Brothers follow-up produced by Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks, and he was leading CIA analyst Will Travers in AMC’s one-season wonder, Rubicon. Rubicon in particular put a lot of its narrative weight on Dale’s shoulders, relying on his everyman likeability to draw viewers into the conspiracy story.

Viewers didn’t take to him very much at all in this role, as it happened. Rubicon was canceled after just one season and The Pacific did not reach the cultural heights of its predecessor. Despite having these two leading roles on critically acclaimed series, Dale was not propelled into stardom. He did, however, seem to generate interest within the business, given his subsequent meaty character roles that followed the conclusion of these two series. Perhaps he can follow a similar path to that taken by Damian Lewis, breakout star of Band of Brothers who has gone on to headline one of today’s hottest shows, Homeland.

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2) The Grey

The Grey 5 Things You May Know James Badge Dale From Even If You Dont Know Who He Is

It’s fitting that one of the most overlooked movies of 2012 featured easy-to-miss excellence by an actor whose face was still difficult to place. The Grey was an unexpected masterpiece of a sort. Many who have revisited the film have written at length about its sorry lack of recognition for its depiction of a compelling and gritty survival tale anchored by a lead who we seem to have forgotten is a phenomenal actor, Liam Neeson. Director Joe Carnahan has been praised for the intensity with which he portrayed the survival efforts of the oil drilling team in the face of terrifying wolves as their nemeses.

The casting in this movie seems to be one of its most surprising strengths, with Dallas Roberts, whom you may know from The Walking Dead and another Rubicon alumnus, supporting Neeson as part of his wolf pack. James Badge Dale doesn’t enjoy very much screen time at all in this, but it’s a good demonstration of the way he can demand an audience’s attention without expending a lot of effort or emotion. His brief moments with Neeson are felt for the duration of the movie, made possible by the mark Dale leaves on the audience.

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3) Flight

Flight e1369163412539 5 Things You May Know James Badge Dale From Even If You Dont Know Who He Is

While many were divided over the virtues of Robert Zemeckis’ Flight—some, including myself, found it as unfortunately overlooked as The Grey while others thought far less of it—all seemed to agree that the most captivating moments of the entire film occur in one standalone scene where the Denzel Washington character, Whip, is confronted with his new lady friend in a hospital stairwell by our old friend James Badge Dale, who plays an unnamed cancer patient.

In many ways this scene plays out like a complete non sequitur, having little to do with the plot as we know it and introducing a character that we see only briefly in the entire film. It’s one scene that demonstrates the way the movie seeks to defy our expectation of the hero narrative this movie seems like it could veer towards. And it hinges on this odd appearance by Dale, who seems simultaneously a little batty but perhaps possessing a wisdom confronting your own mortality can provide, threatening but provocative. The movie then shifts from a story about a man and his career to a man dealing with his destructive tendencies and dealing with death in a direct way. This encounter puts that idea in the audience’s heads with a subtle grace. Dale apparently dropped a bunch of weight for what amounted to one day of work and one film scene, but his dedication made quite the impact.

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4) Iron Man 3

Iron Man 3 5 Things You May Know James Badge Dale From Even If You Dont Know Who He Is

Dale received what was perhaps his biggest screen exposure this summer with the release of Iron Man 3, in which he plays the loyal henchman to Guy Pearce’s big bad, Killian. Much of the strength of the impression this character makes on us is in his face and his eyes, and James Badge Dale is a great fit for a role like this. He has the brashness that suggests he could have perhaps in an alternate universe played Tony Stark himself, but with one tilt of the head he becomes the monstrous figure tormenting Happy Hogan up until the explosive moment where the source of his strength is revealed.

This is the type of role he seems to be settling into: no longer the lead hero or villain (for now), but involved in a compelling way that leaves his mark long after his character is dispatched in one way or another. Casting Dale as a kind of understudy to Guy Pearce’s villain also seems appropriate. If Pearce is becoming one of the dependable actors who can fill any despicable role and make it new and different each time, inciting both our envy and hatred, then Dale is surely one of the rising heirs to this type. Surely it won’t be long before Pearce is old enough to become as amiable as Gary Oldman is now, and he’ll need someone to fill his present shoes.

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5) The Lone Ranger/World War Z

World War Z 5 Things You May Know James Badge Dale From Even If You Dont Know Who He Is

Rounding out a rather momentous 2013 for James Badge Dale will be two more blockbuster films that are getting a ton of coverage right now. First, in June, he’ll be in the Brad Pitt-led zombie apocalypse movie World War Z, as a soldier trying to warn those in power about the zombie threat. Then in July, he’ll be working alongside veteran supporting performers like William Fichtner, Tom Wilkinson, Barry Pepper and Helena Bonham Carter, as well as leads Armie Hammer and Johnny Depp, in The Lone Ranger.

He’s starting to appear in enough projects now and in memorable enough roles that it’s time for the public to put the name to that irritatingly handsome face. For me at least, 2013 will be the year that James Badge Dale graduated from “that guy from that thing” or “Will from Rubicon” to being James Badge Dale, one of those terrific character actors that we come to expect to be unrecognizable from one role to the next but to always maintain our interest. Now will someone please bring back Rubicon??

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