One of contemporary cinema’s most underrated but reliable character actors, Chris Cooper has a knack for choosing strong scripts and intriguing projects. Often depicting men in the government or military, he has an intense face and wide dramatic range than gives these characters both the respect and the nuance they deserve. He broke through to the mainstream as two domineering fathers in 1999 releases October Sky and American Beauty, although he would later show his softer side in a moving turn as horse trainer Tom Smith in the Oscar-nominated Seabiscuit.
For indie movie lovers, though, Cooper is likely best remembered for a variety of films for noted American writer/director John Sayles, including Matewan and Lone Star. (He starred in the former, his debut film, when he was 36.) Some of his most memorable performances are light or comedic, though. His turn as John Laroche in Adaptation, which earned him a plethora of awards including an Oscar, hit just the right balance between crazed and compelling. He showed his brighter, more kid-friendly side in The Muppets, as the maniacal villain Tex Richman, and Where the Wild Things Are, as the voice of the sweet-natured, dependable Douglas.
Certified Fresh Films: Lone Star, American Beauty, October Sky, The Bourne Identity, Adaptation, Seabiscuit, Syriana, Capote, Breach, The Town, The Muppets, Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God
A Spot of Bother: Silver City, Remember Me, The Tempest, The Amazing Spider-Man 2
Up Next: Demolition, a romantic comedy for director Jean-Marc Vallée; Coming Through the Rye, where he will portray author J.D. Salinger; Chickadee, a true-story drama about a landmark trial involving a family of Italian-American immigrants.