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As Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter rounds out its first weekend in theatres, I thought I’d take a look at the filmography of one its stars (and a Times Like Those favourite up-and-coming actor), Dominic Cooper.
While Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter may have only pulled in a disappointing $16.5 million in its first weekend, Cooper is showing no signs of faltering with his career. He seems to be taking a slow-building approach, appearing in supporting roles in a lot of big movies. In fact, it’s almost guaranteed you’ve seen this guy, even if you don’t know him by name. And while movies like Mamma Mia!, Captain America and Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter may not be the best vehicles to show his acting skills, they’re getting his face out there. And that recognition seems to be paying off, since he’s got a whole slew of acting projects on the horizon.
Cooper has played a range of characters and proven to have charisma and acting talent. But I don’t think we’ve seen the best he has to offer, yet. He’s worked with some skilled filmmakers, certainly, but not any huge names, and I’d love to see someone like Scorsese or Tarantino snap him up and make something great.Here’s a look at my five performances by the young Brit.
5. The Duchess (2008)
The Duchess came at the peak of the costume drama portion of Keira Knightley’s career (Miss it? Don’t worry – Anna Karenina‘s coming this fall!) In the film, Cooper plays Charles Grey, a politically active young man who comes between The Duke and Duchess of Devonshire (played by Ralph Fiennes and Keira Knightley). This isn’t the meatiest of roles (considering what an important character he is, Grey comes off more like a Jane Austen love interest here), but Cooper makes the best of it. He and Knightley have good chemistry, and you really want their characters to make it work.
4. An Education (2009)
Dominic Cooper and Rosamund Pike could have easily been throwaway players in An Education. They both had small roles, playing the high-flying friends of Peter Sarsgaard’s David. Yet both actors made big impressions here. Cooper, especially, brings world-weariness, and a sense that his character is a guy with nothing to lose, even at such a young age. Initially just seeming shallow and gluttonous, his character becomes more morally questionable as the film goes on, and Cooper deftly explores those complexities.
3. Starter for 10 (2007)
This underrated charmer of a film gave us a few good before-they-were-famous performances: James McAvoy, Rebecca Hall, Alice Eve, Benedict Cumberbatch, and, of course, Cooper. I think Cooper’s at his best while playing a roguish charmer, and that’s exactly what he does here. He plays Spencer, McAvoy’s ruffian best friend from back home. Cooper once again makes a small role memorable, bringing charisma and genuine heart to his wily character. Great little film, all around.
2. The History Boys (2006)
Mamma Mia! may have been the first introduction most film audiences had to Cooper, but he actually had a successful theatre and British television career for years before that. He was involved with the theatrical production of The History Boys from its beginnings in 2004, and he reprised his role as Dakin for the 2006 film adaptation. (Did you know The History Boys play hit Broadway and won the 2006 Tony for Best Play? I certainly did not.) Cooper once again plays a rabble-rouser, but there’s also an emotional complexity to Dakin that is compelling to watch unfold. The generally light story takes some unexpected turns in the second half, and Cooper handles all of them brilliantly. It’s obviously a character he knows very well, and after seeing his performance, I couldn’t imagine anyone else playing it quite so well.
1. The Devil’s Double (2011)
Easily the high-water mark for Cooper’s career thus far. In the eyes of many critics, we went from charming supporting player to legitimate leading man. And not only did he finally get a leading role in the The Devil’s Double – he got two. He plays Uday Hussein (son of Sadam), and also Latif, the man who is forced into being Uday’s “double” (meaning he poses as him in dangerous situations). Cooper is terrifying as the demented Uday, and also relatable and vulnerable as Latif. He turns in two fantastic performances in this intense but ultimately undercooked thriller. More of this, please.
Yet to See: Tamara Drewe, Brief Interviews with Hideous Men, Sense and Sensibility, Freefall
Every year, the same movies snatch up a big portion of the Oscar nominations. Then, we hear about these movies for months as we lead up to Oscar night. And while this year has been a pretty exciting race (I’d say the winners for both lead acting categories are up in the air), and there were a few surprise nominees that snuck in at the last moment (what’s up, Demian Birchir?), it can get a little bit repetitive to hear about the same movies over and over again, even if you enjoyed them.
In hopes of offering a change of pace, I’ve compiled my own “Oscar” list of sorts. For my categories, I ignored all of the existing Oscar nominees and focussed on films and performances that didn’t receive as much awards attention this year. I also omitted people like Shailene Woodley, who did not receive an Oscar nomination but still got lots of attention from critics, bloggers, and awards groups leading up to the nominations.
Also, keep in mind that there are still lots of films from this year that I need to see. Shame, Take Shelter, Melancholia, and Martha Marcy May Marlene are just a few on that list.
Enjoy, and feel free to post your own “alternative Oscars” in the comments.
The Ides of March
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
It may be a small, unassuming film, but Meek’s Cutoff stuck with me in a big way this year. The film is unconventional in almost every way (the pacing, the mumbled dialogue, the refusal to punch up the story with high drama), and it’s a true achievement in cinema.
Tomas Alfredson, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
George Clooney, The Ides of March
Carey Fukanaga, Jane Eyre
Nicholas Winding Refn, Drive
Kelly Reichardt, Meek’s Cutoff
Again, I have to give this one to Meek’s Cutoff. While Nicholas Winding Refn offered a masterclass in cool and Tomas Alfredson built insane tension around old guys sitting around talking in a room, Kelly Reichardt created something truly unique. I didn’t care for her last project, Wendy and Lucy, but her deliberate pace and sparse, terse tone worked wonders in Meek’s.
Dominic Cooper, The Devil’s Double
Ryan Gosling, Drive
Tom Hardy, Warrior
Ewan McGregor, Beginners
Owen Wilson, Midnight in Paris
Cooper masters not one but two challenging roles in this messy film. He’s chilling and downright crazy as Sadam Hussein’s son, Uday, and also deeply sympathetic as Latif, the man hired as Uday’s double. It’s a towering pair of performances, and Cooper finally realizes the potential he showed in small roles in films such as Starter for 10 and An Education.
Felicity Jones, Like Crazy
Keira Knightley, Last Night
Mia Wasikowska, Jane Eyre
Kristen Wiig, Bridesmaids
Robin Wright, The Conspirator
Wiig gives a downright brilliant comedic performance in Bridesmaids, and sometimes that is enough for me. She throws herself into every gag headfirst, and she comes out in the end with a highly charming, perfectly executed performance. McCarthy is also great, but for me, Wiig is the reason to watch Bridesmaids.
Best Supporting Actor
Michael Fassbender, Jane Eyre
Colin Ford, We Bought a Zoo
Philip Seymour Hoffman, The Ides of March
Simon Pegg, Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol
Mark Strong, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
I thought Fassbender was a tad overrated in X-Men (sorry), but he reminded me why I loved him so much in Fish Tank with a similarly physical and subtly threatening performance in the gorgeous Jane Eyre. He oozes charisma here, and makes for a completely magnetic screen presence. Kudos to Mark Strong, too, for fantastic scene-stealing work in Tinker Tailor, and for converting me into a Mark Strong fan.
Best Supporting Actress
Jessica Chastain, The Tree of Life
Anna Kendrick, 50/50
Carey Mulligan, Drive
Amy Ryan, Win Win
Michelle Williams, Meek’s Cutoff
It was the year of Chastain, and my favourite performance of hers (though I haven’t seen them all) was as the ethereal wife in The Tree of Life. It’s a beautiful, moving performance, and she slips seamlessly into the languid tone of the film.