Tag Archives: five favourite performances

Five Favourite Performances: Dominic Cooper

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


Five Favourite Performances: Luke Wilson

To me, Luke Wilson is an underrated actor. Because even though he rarely gets showy roles, he’s good in everything that he does get. Be it comedy or drama, he can do it. And even though his brother Owen is the more charismatic and popular actor, Luke has an understated presence that I always enjoy. It’s a shame that he’s been relegated to TV commercials recently.

Here’s a look at my five favourite performances of Mr. Wilson’s. I plan to make this into a regular feature about different actors.

1. The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)

As Richie Tenenbaum, a failed tennis prodigy, Wilson is put through the ringer in what is arguably Wes Anderson’s most beloved film. And he nails every bizarre, twisted emotion perfectly. To me, Richie is the heart of this film. While sister Margot (Gwyneth Paltrow) is the most overtly morose and brother Chas (Ben Stiller) is the most overtly neurotic, Richie is a beaten-down, strangely sympathetic character. Wilson also provides the film’s emotional climax with a particular memorable scene taking place in the bathroom.

2. Henry Poole is Here (2008)

This is not an especially great film, but Wilson is quite good in it, I think. His character is very repressed (some would say mopey), and Wilson brings the perfect combination of depression and guarded hopefulness to this quietly desperate character. Some of the other characters descend into caricature, but Wilson keep his Henry Poole grounded. He’s the only thing I remember about the film, to be honest (well, him and the impossibly cute little girl).

3. Bottle Rocket (1996)

Though I liked Bottle Rocket, I didn’t love it quite as much I wanted to. But for me, the real reason to watch it, rather than story or direction (sorry, Wes Anderson) is to see the Wilson brothers in their very first feature film roles. Once again playing a repressed foil to Owen’s vivacious charmer, Luke plays a man recovering from a nervous breakdown. However, Bottle Rocket is less heavy-handed than the first two films on this list. Director Wes Anderson’s signature “quirky” style was already very present in this first film of his, and the Wilson brothers both play off it very well.

4. The Family Stone (2005)

Luke Wilson is often good at elevating the material of his films, which is lucky, considering a lot of the questionable movies he’s appeared in. One of these was The Family Stone. Mind you, I did not dislike this movie as much as a lot of people did, but it was a pretty rote rom-com, with one of those annoyingly high-profile casts. But while some seemed to be phoning it in (Dermot Mulroney, Diane Keaton), Wilson made the best of the trite material and turned in a highly charming performance as the goofy slacker Ben.

5. Legally Blonde (2001)

Wilson plays the straight man to Reece Witherspoon’s bubbly Elle Woods in Legally Blonde, and he does it very well. He is low-key enough to let Witherspoon shine (since it is her movie, after all), but he also brings enough charm to prevent his character from becoming completely flat. There’s nothing wrong with a suave, likeable leading man in a romantic comedy sometimes, and Wilson does the job beautifully.

Yet to See: Idocracy, The Wendell Baker Story, Old School, Middle Men, Vacancy