In preparation for Jason Reitman's Up in the Air, I have taken the opportunity to brush up on the director's previous two films. I recently reviewed the spot-on satire Thank You for Smoking and I have seen Juno enough times to know just how good it is. One performance from Thank You for Smoking which stuck out for me -- besides Aaron Eckhart in the lead role -- was J.K. Simmons as Eckhart's boss. It got me to realizing just how many films this guy has been in and just how good he is all the time.

This is an actor who hasn't had any notable lead roles, but when it comes to a solid supporting performance, there are few people better. In one of his first performances, way back in 1994, he played a corrupt military official in the very funny film The Ref. This is a black comedy that I typically watch every holiday season, and Simmons' performance -- along with the rest of those in the film -- never seem to get old.

The supporting role that really seemed to catapult this actor's career is Jonah Jameson from the Spider-Man franchise. I haven't met one person that doesn't get a smile on their face when Tobey Maguire goes into Jameson's office. He has been a highlight of the franchise since the first film in 2002 and hasn't lost any steam.

A couple of years later, he began his collaborations with the superb Jason Reitman. Starting he 2005 with the previously-mentioned Thank You for Smoking, Simmons went on to co-star with Ellen Page in Reitman's Juno in 2007. This was a new type of role for the actor, one that demanded a steady mix of comedy and drama. He perfectly delivers an even amount of one-liners and heart-to-hearts, and he is a big reason why the film succeeded on an emotional level.

2008 was somewhat of a quiet year for Simmons, but I haven't forgotten one bit of his hysterical performance in the Coen brothers' Burn After Reading. Obviously a lot of his laughs were due to the fantastic writing, but his delivery was priceless. The final scene of that film, in which he appeared with David Rasche, was one of the funniest scenes of 2008, and one of the funniest scenes of this actor's decorated career.

2009 has already been a big year for Simmons, and there is still more on the horizon. He has a small, but nonetheless funny role in the bro-medy I Love You, Man, as well as supporting performances in Extract and Jennifer's Body. I am really looking forward to see what he brings to the table in the highly-anticipated Up in the Air. I have been assured by several people that his role in the film is small, but it still looks as if he could be part of an intense emotional scene in that film.

There are so many supporting performers in the film industry that are so under-appreciated, and I plan to write more of these articles in the future to recognize the ones I feel the strongest about. According to IMDb, Simmons has appeared in 91 films or television shows, and based on his current trend, that number will continue to skyrocket. He's a perfect example of an actor whose face is recognizable to the average moviegoer, but his name is not. Well, his name is J.K. Simmons, and he's one of the most dependable guys out there.


Univarn said...

I've always been very partial to Pete Postlethwaite but he seldom gets into quality films that get much buzz anymore. Of course Simmons is a great persona actor, really ties in those quirky father style roles.

Danny King said...

@ Univarn: I haven't seen Postlethwaite in that many films, but I will say that he was terrific in The Usual Suspects.

Univarn said...

If you haven't check it out you should see him in In The Name of the Father, where he got his oscar nomination alongside lead Daniel Day Lewis.

Danny King said...

@ Univarn: I am planning to catch up on a lot of Day-Lewis films before I see Nine, so I'm sure I will be seeing that one soon.

Andrew: Encore Entertainment said...

I'm with Univarn on being partial to should check him out in In the Name of the Father, J.K. Simmons though is a good and steady supporting player. He also does a good job on The Closer opposite Kyra Sydgwick.

Danny King said...

@ Andrew: With two recommendations now, I'll definitely check out In the Name of the Father as soon as possible.

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