– in the league of his own –
The most nontype Hollywood actor celebrates his birthday on November, 27. This year he turns 60, but he can look any age he wants. He lives in Hollywood, but you`d rather meet him fishing in the countryside than at a celebrity party. He appeared in more than 70 films and series but never played a leading part. He graduated from law faculty but became one of top Hollywood cast. Car racer, hockey fan, Prague pub goer, collector of greeter signs with wrong spelling of his last name – that`s about William Fichtner.
There is no possibility that you have never seen him even in an episode. This courtly elegant gentleman may appear in almost any kind of movies regardless of your genre preferences. True talent and highest professional skills allow him to have no exact default type, be multidimensional and at the same time be pretty much picky in choosing a scenario. He plays only what he really got interested in. Managers and fans only can shrug their shoulders while he denies big roles, saying: “I`ve always gravitated towards that [different roles] because I never wanted to just play myself. I love trying to find the rhythm of someone else”.
– exception to the Hollywood rules –
I`ve read a bunch of junk magazine stories telling Fichtner is “underestimated”, “underpromoted”, “almost famous”, “underappreciated” and that thing. Throw away these under-adjectives, he is a talent, but he never chased fame, and that`s it. Teasing such commenters he once said with his usual wit: “I`m not Brad Pitt, the name isn`t going to fly up”. Fibbed a little. Sure, he is famous and worldwide popular though he pays no attention to it. Sometimes people can`t handle with their publicity and it affect them badly. Fichtner just changed nothing in his life, except moving from New York to California, and finally remained a nice guy from Buffalo.
He is not loyal to improvisation and dislikes getting into significance of a role, playing only those parts that really touch him. These supporting roles, cameos and even offscreen voices sometimes shape the atmosphere of the whole movie. It`s very lifelike – happiness or evil hides in details, and the mood of the film is built of details too. Fichtner makes this mood.
There are many “so-so” movies that are pulled through only by his presence. Only five minutes of screen time, and you will immediately add something like: “Well, that dude is awesome!”. It`s true, even a couple of episodes with him can save a movie. Sometimes it`s sad that he has to literally save movies instead of starring in them, but we should respect the professional choice – he knows what he is doing.
– good bad guy –
The hope is that Fichtner is a kind of a “perfect bad guy” due to having a rich palette of antagonists at his hand. However all these characters are not so flat and predictable, they have their own tones, senses, identity conflicts, ambitions and doubts. Self-confident but having no self-control Law in Albino Alligator (1996), wounded up with life Sullivan in The Perfect Storm (2000), a weird policeman in Go (1999), infernally smashing Accountant in Drive Angry (2010), desperately maniac Cavendish in The Lone Ranger (2013), a fanatic scientist in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014) and, for sure, agent Mahone in Prison Break (2005 – 2009) who sometimes is off-handedly categorized as an antagonist – all these characters are not less vivid and alive as his heroic roles in Black Hawk Down (2001), Armageddon (1998), Equilibrium (2002) or Independence Day: Resurgence (2016).
Fichtner`s signature role – a FBI agent Alex Mahone, sparkling with outstanding deductive skills or glassy eyes with a blink of drug withdrawal, powered by revenge and sleeping with obsession, a sober strategist and woozy antihero. I can hardly choose other words to describe the blinding depth of abyss that his irrationally charming character is walking along. Without him three seasons of Prison Break in a row could have become just a rush of faint moths in a dusty wardrobe of a detective story. And the point is not that the story was in need of its villain. Mahone as many other characters of Prison Break is not a protagonist, but not actually an antagonist. Fichtner made him disciplined but unpredictable, wrecked but strong. Blurred and cut glassy Mahone, he is in a half-step to identity disorder, and playing this pipe organ of extreme emotions is subject to only a highest level performer.
Anyhow, no matter how many outlaws, hard men, bad guys and rundowns are yet to be played by William, he will always be given away by his eyes – deep, blue and charismatically warm.
– far-outs –
The level of actor`s skills makes any kind of movie possible for Fichtner, the only thing he need is thrill of the race, interest and professional originality. That is why his filmography is seasoned with eye-catching short films and weird movies. Their genre spectrum is fairly wide, from screwball detective Drowning Mona (1999) to the LA traded story of Go (1999).
While the Hollywood pool of critics gossips about galaxy-scale blockbusters and revolutionary sequels, independent journalists find secret treasures in author`s films, like Wrong (2012) – the virtuosic made weird tragicomedy with alogic plot in which neither a viewer or the main character understand what is real and what is imaginary. If you like off the wall stories, you will enjoy this cinematic novel about the loss of a fuzzy-wuzzy dog with an out to lunch white guy named Master Chang standing behind that. Fichtner is magnificent, trust me.
If covering another side of Fichtner`s talent, I can`t do without short movies. Recent trend of short animation sometimes pushes feature films behind the scene, but there are pretty many brilliant ones among them. Fichtner often takes part in such movies, again because finds them interesting, regardless of their length. Please find another ten minutes and watch She, Who Excels In Solitude (2012) about a woman who dreamt of being first in space, or hilarious Hell on Earth (2010) about daily grind of a handsome devil, you will enjoy the ride!
– values –
As a professional actor William Fichtner represents not exactly the “old school” but a certain tradition of quality and highest requirements for himself as a performer. He can`t stand ad libbing, treats scenarios with respect since he chooses them so precisely. He treats with humour the fact that having a degree in criminal justice he has played numerous “police” roles. And he strictly divides his work from his private life for not letting the latter go public and become a prey for wolfish social networks.
Being a genius in supporting, Fichtner is passionately upgrading his skills in playing unusual roles that attract him with their individuality. While the main heroes can afford being a bit open-minded and definitely black or white, Fichtner`s supporting characters are always pigs in a poke to some extent. The unexpectedly reckless bank manager in The Dark Knight (2008), the cartoonish billionaire in Blades of Glory (2007), the romantic lover in Passion of Mind (1999), the cynical detective in The Big Bang (2010), the Soviet submariner in Phantom (2012) – they all are so different, with own unique undertones, image and nature.
There is a slight breath of mystery in his own classical knightly image with a sudden touches of stylish disarray. A paradox mixture of his fame with simplicity in communication, of seemingly serious look with disarming charm. These humble manners, the voice of velvet and steel, the smile that outshines Hollywood with sincerity, good old cowboy boots and highest rank of talent. He is an exact illustration for the creed of his character Alex Mahone – a true professional is that one who never slips in details.
– P.S. –
Now William Fichtner is busy with starring in five movies and two TV-series simultaneously. Later in 2016 new episodes of sitcom Mom will be released, and serious fans anticipate his guest role in criminal series Shooter.
The new 2017 year will give the gift of long awaited Fichtner`s lead roles: in detective story If…, thriller Stranded, and wide release of 2016 festival movie Last Days Of Summer that won the Grand Jury Prize as the best film at Rhode Island International Film Fest in August. And don`t forget about Finding Steve McQueen – a dynamic heist film about the biggest bank robbery in the U.S. history, social drama Hot Summer Nights and comedy Krystal.
And, tell you what, Fichtner`s filmography somehow lacked horror movies. Danny DeVito decided to fill this gap and invited him to take part in his horror project St. Sebastian few years ago. The post-apocalyptic weird horror was shot in an abandoned hospital in California. Now it is in post-production, the release date has been postponed several times and is still not announced. Can`t wait to see!