“To become someone else,” “to inhabit another body,” are the common responses from actors when they’re asked, “Why did you go into this?” But when that “someone else” becomes the same—or similar—character, over and over again, actors understandably get antsy. With this in mind, we’ve found some of your favorite faces starring in their most against-type roles in Trunkworthy movies. All of these films provide the kind of cognitive dissonance we like. A lot.
Audrey Hepburn as Susy Hendrix in Wait Until Dark
Classic cinema’s favorite gamine made us forget the joie de vivre of Holly Golightly when she played the blind, terrified Susy Hendrix in 1967’s Wait Until Dark. Blinded in a car crash, sucked into a dangerous con game by ruthless heroin smugglers, Susy has to navigate, both literally and figuratively, through a deadly arrangement of killers, liars, and criminals. In addition to Hepburn’s riveting performance, the film features a ruthless Alan Arkin (who really missed his calling as a horror actor). And both are under the direction of Terrence Young (who might ring a bell from Bond films like Dr. No and From Russia With Love.)
Geoffrey Rush as Casanova Frankenstein in Mystery Men
During our current golden age of superhero movies, it’d be a crime not to shine a Trunkworthy spotlight on the often-overlooked Mystery Men and its evil mastermind, Casanova Frankenstein. Even for a chameleon of Rush’s caliber, Casanova is a standout: a Fu Manchu moustache-twirling villain played with Byronesque flair. Rush’s Frankenstein is pure pulp evil: Whether he’s on the attack with a razor-sharp pinkie nail or directing a network of equally weird criminals (including Eddie Izzard, Michael Bay, and CeeLo Green), he is 110% supervillain fun. The film also has an amazing cast (Ben Stiller, Tom Waits, William H. Macy, Paul Reubens, Janeane Garofalo, and Wes Studi to name just a few), SFX quality you’d expect from a movie with twice the budget, and a sentient, necromantic bowling ball. So come for the Casanova Frankenstein, but stay for the rest of Champion City’s charms.
Reese Witherspoon as Vanessa Lutz in Freeway
After seeing her as a dozen flavors of America’s sweetheart, some might find the notion of Reese Witherspoon playing the part of an underaged, white trash Little Red Riding Hood in an urban retelling of the story a curiosity worth investigating. Played with a sort of filthy innocence, Witherspoon’s Vanessa is the ultimate foil to the predatory wolf of the story, in this case Kiefer Sutherland’s Bob Wolverton, a deceptively supportive guidance counselor who moonlights as a serial killer. Along the way to Grandma’s house, a visit to women’s prison offers a taste of Girl, Interrupted style shenanigans, before putting us back on course for an extremely twisted version of the fairytale ending. Something of a spiritual predecessor to films like Hard Candy and Hick, Freeway delivers on all the delicious discomfort of watching bad things almost-but-not-quite happen to vulnerable people, with all the brutal reversal of fortune you could want from a film.
Steve Buscemi as Mr. Shhh in Things to Do in Denver When You’re Dead
Buscemi has mostly made his career on being weird, if not a little creepy, but a terrifying bad ass? Yes, it happened. In Things to Do in Denver When You’re Dead, Buscemi plays Mr. Shhh, an unassuming but inevitably deadly hit man, called to Denver by The Head (a quadriplegic crime boss, played with hilarious menace by Christopher Walken). While Things to Do in Denver When You’re Dead could just as easily have been a showcase for any of the bizarre characters in the movie (Christopher Lloyd as a safecracker losing his fingers to an exotic disease, a homicidal undertaker played by Treat Williams, etc.), Mr. Shhh ultimately steals the show. So, if you’re looking for Buscemi at his ass-kicking best, be it back-alley fisticuffs or nightclub shootouts, this is absolutely a must see.
James Woods as Walter O’Brien in Northfork
Typically known for his fast-talking, fast-shouting, borderline explosive roles, Northfork gives us an entirely different James Woods. Quiet, taciturn, even brooding at times, Woods plays Walter O’Brien, one in a team of “evacuators” sent out to clear the stragglers from a 1950s Montana town about to be submerged for a hydroelectric project. The twisty, split-narrative story takes O’Brien and company throughout the abandoned town, where we encounter everything from sick mystery children (who may be fallen angels) to arc-building polygamists to the sad, true reason O’Brien is really in the town. While the easier way into this story would’ve been to do a period, slice-of-disaster hardship film, Northfork goes the Twin Peaks route. And through it all, Woods manages a pinched, Twilight Zone intensity, making him seem more at home in The Adjustment Bureau or Men in Black than one about mid-20th Century water management. For fans of weird Americana (Carnivale, Supernatural, etc.) Northfork is an excellent way to pass time waiting for the floodwaters to come.