Obstructed reView: Career Day–That Guy’s in Everything
I know a pretty famous bassist who spends most of his year running his air-conditioning company in Florida. Heâ€™s aware that if he stops wanting to spread his legs, cock his hip, bang his head and play bass (or if people stop wanting to pay to watch him do that), he will always have work providing cool air in a sticky southern state. Thatâ€™s horse-sense, says I. And itâ€™s got to be a similar line of reasoning to the series of decisions that led this man to own a trucking company in Oregon. A Class-A Commercial Driverâ€™s License is a more-certain avenue to financial respectability than his history degree (from some school Back East).
Iâ€™m pretty sure those old Jimmy the Cab Driver ads were the first time I saw Donal Logue. Scratch that. I saw this movie on an airplane coming from Helsinki (I remember a very polite and clean town) to Philadelphia (not so much in common with Helsinki) in 1993. That might have been the first time I watched his work, but I had forgotten he was in that one until I was randomly half-paying-attention to it this past weekend. It was that â€śhe was in that, too?â€ť feeling which sent me once more down the career-day internet rabbit-hole. In doing my research, I have spent the last few days being systematically reminded that MTV used to be both creative and relevant. That early FOX TV programming was game-changing and that a ton of shows with runs of exactly 13 episodes were cancelled way too early.
One of the reasons I enjoy writing for this blog is that Iâ€™m mostly in charge of the content I provide. As such, Iâ€™m under no constraint to watch the Oscars tonight and can instead recommend the career of one of my favorite character actors. Donal Logue is a flat-out terrific, smart and versatile performer. Heâ€™s been pretty busy onscreen for two decades and has somehow found a way to marry that success with a fuller range of interests and activities in music, business and sports. Iâ€™m a big believer that well-rounded and curious people make the best and most interesting artists and as such I am completely unsurprised to find my prejudices validated in this completely anecdotal and unscientific specific instance.
I think you have to start with MTV when youâ€™re talking about the career of Donal Logue. As I mentioned, the early 90s were something of a resurgence for the music television station. Kurt Loder and Tabitha Soren, the beginning of Liquid Television and the continuing influence of Headbangers Ball, Yo! MTV Raps and 120 Minutes kept the station popular, relevant and even a producer of quality television (a product notably absent from its programming in the last 15 years). In the early part of the decade, Logue seemed to be everywhere on the network, while also guesting on shows like The X-Files and Northern Exposure. In 1996 with Public Morals, a reputedly awful sit-com from Steven Bochco (a spin-off of sorts from NYPD Blue), Donal Logue got his first taste of series regularity. Unfortunately, the show was cancelled after just one episode was aired and itâ€™s as yet never been made available for viewing by middling film/TV bloggers. I would like the chance to watch it, as the cast is talented and I donâ€™t trust CBS to make viewing decisions for me. Through the years, Logue has been a regular cast member of four other seriesâ€”most successfully with Grounded for Lifeâ€”and had recurring appearances on several more. Last year he had a great run on Sons of Anarchy (in one of the bigger no-brainer matches of actor-to-material in recent television history). Heâ€™s been cast in pilot after pilot and hereâ€™s hoping that his run on History Channelâ€™s upcoming Vikings is long and glorious. Throughout the 90s, though, he was developing a television presence while his film resume was growing under the radar.
Donal Logue had a number of terrific small roles in great movies early in his career. His work in Gettysburg, Disclosure, Jerry Maguire and the underrated 1994 version of Little Women showed how difficult it was for Hollywood to find a single niche for him. He played soldiers, criminals, vampires (NSFW: vampires), cops and more than one yuppie sleazebag. He demonstrated over and over that he could bring humor and charisma to brief scenes in any genre. Though Logue hasnâ€™t stopped working for long since that first appearance in Sneakers, his career picked up speed and visibility with 2000â€™s The Tao of Steve. Itâ€™s a terrific movie for him and catapulted Logue into another category: indie movie star. Thereâ€™s a reason that when I see Logueâ€™s face in a movie I have the tendency to exclaim â€śthat guyâ€™s in everything!â€ť Including The Tao of Steve, he made eight movies that year (ranging in style and accomplishment from blockbuster to flop). It would be an impressive total resume for thousands of other terrific actors. That it was just the first year of the prime of Logueâ€™s career is our good fortune.
2003 brought us Confidence and American Splendor. Both are funny and surprising and worth rewatching. Both were filmed during the 5-year run of Grounded for Life, as were 5 other movies and his 11 episodes of ER. My mind revolts at the idea of scheduling the many shoots, meetings, auditions, fittings and rehearsals needed for that many projects in such a short time. For the next two year stretch, he did 10 movies and 15 episodes of prime-time television. The man never slows down.
Iâ€™ll finish this piece off with a movie Iâ€™m excited to see later this year. CBGB is written and directed byÂ Randall Miller, whose early career includes gigs directing Parker Lewis Canâ€™t Lose, Class Act and Houseguest. In 2008 he successfully reinvented himself as a writer-director with the terrific Bottle Shock. This one, his first since then, deals with the famous Bowery rock club CBGB and its owner, Hilly Crystal (played by Bottle Shockâ€™s Alan Rickman). Logue plays the legendary security chief of the club, Merv Ferguson.
Donal Logue is the perfect example of a modern character actor in Hollywood. Heâ€™s memorable but not showy. Heâ€™s versatile without needing cosmetic enhancement or a slew of different accents. Every role he performs is interesting, filled with conflict and humor. He makes good movies great and any movie worth watching. Trust me, I skipped the Oscars for this guy.
Watch this movie. Okay? Itâ€™s very very good and mostly forgotten.
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