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Who is that actor: Xander Berkeley

May 25, 2010

Berkeley as Dr. Lamar in Gattaca - Photo Credit - Sony Pictures

Xander Berkeley the quintessential Oh snap, it’s that dude from that movie character actor. His IMDB profile boasts some 179 credits, including a memorable role on 24.

    “Xander Berkeley, basically, is shorthand for “evil.” His evil, mind you, is not always turned up to maximum power, as in Air Force One, in which Berkeley plays a dead-eyed Secret Service agent who’s secretly working as a mole on behalf of Gary Oldman’s bad, airplane-hijacking Russians. Sometimes his evil is only at, like, a 3, quietly humming below the surface as he plays Julianne Moore’s cold, distant husband in Safe.”

(source)

I remember him vividly from the consumption – pun intended – horror/thriller Safe and being Joan Crawford’s grown son in Mommy Dearest. Despite being cast as a sinister character so frequently it’s often a spoiler to list his name in the credits, my Xander role is that of the kindly urine screener in 1997’s hipster sci-fi classic Gattaca. Originally I thought Xander Berkeley was the virtually unrecognizable Blair Underwood in Gattaca. I was like, “Who’s this bald Blair Underpants looking upstart? Hmmm Xander Berkeley? That sounds right. I’ve got my eye on you, Mr. Berkeley.”

In the last several days I have spied Mr. Berkeley’s work in the following places:

  • Air Force One
  • The X-files S1x07 “Ice” (shaddup)
  • 24
  • Gattaca
  • T2: Judgment Day
  • CSI
  • LO:CI

and I’m about to crack open Apollo 13, which I’ve never seen. NO SPOILERS. I don’t want this to turn into another La Bamba situation1. Oh yeah, XB’s in that too.

He’s one of my favorite character actors, who I suspect has far more range than what his acting roles might suggest. I’d love to see him a play a few less bad guys. Maybe an embezzling politician or the owner of a fledging strip club. Anything other than an evil swivel servant. I think he’s established he can get that job done.

___________________________
1 That was a joke.

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10 Comments leave one →
  1. raymondj permalink
    May 25, 2010 11:40 pm

    omg, it’s That Guy!! now his name will finally stick in my brain. i know him best from popping up on CSI, but glancing at the imdb list, I remember him too as Sissy Spacek’s husband in If These Walls Could Talk. dudes who play evil all the time make me wonder what it would be like to date them. or maybe it’s just that many of those dudes are my type of guy. i totally want to make out with Xander.

  2. May 26, 2010 12:30 am

    I totally exclaimed “Oh, it’s that dude from Terminator 2” when I saw his picture. But he’s been in like, EVERYTHING.

  3. May 26, 2010 12:51 am

    I remember him too as Sissy Spacek’s husband in If These Walls Could Talk.

    Ha. I remember that too.

    And definitely remember him from T2!

  4. evmaroon permalink
    May 26, 2010 1:27 am

    Now I need to go back and find him in these shows because I know I’ve watched them, I just don’t remember him. Great article!

  5. May 26, 2010 7:20 am

    I wonder about the difference between character villains like XB who quietly simmer without taking over, and those like Alan Rickman who consider stealing scenes to be part of their perfidy. I mean, do some directors/producers/stars prefer one kind over the other?

  6. irishup permalink
    May 26, 2010 9:36 am

    “… I suspect has far more range than what his acting roles might suggest. I’d love to see him a play a few less bad guys. Maybe an embezzling politician …”

    Hmm, am I parsing this right, or is intentionally mutli-dementional (fewer bad guys vs bad guys who are not quite soooo bad)? Isn’t the dogma that bad guy roles offer a chance to do meatier work? Or is the critique that Xander gets to play multi versions of the SAME bad guy? I am hampered by the fact that, while I saw the picture and went “Yeah! That Guy!” I can’t remember the specifics of his work or roles at this point. However, thanks to this post, I will be developing a Berkeley Observation Bias (similar to blue-car bias), as his credits are extensive.

    @redlami – isn’t part of it what KIND of bad guy the bad guy is? I mean, the bad guy universe is sort of divided in those who want the power front and center like Richard III, and the Iago types who intend to wreak havoc from the background. So if the story already has a full-fledged badguy (as opposed to the arc of HOW someone got to be the badguy), you might be thinking a lot about which kind of actor fits your villian – or, if your the actor, which kind of villian you’re playing.

    Snarky, I hope you write about Apollo 13!

  7. May 26, 2010 10:18 am

    @Irishup, your Shakespearean analysis makes things a lot clearer, thanks!

  8. May 26, 2010 10:25 am

    Hmm, am I parsing this right, or is intentionally mutli-dementional (fewer bad guys vs bad guys who are not quite soooo bad)? Isn’t the dogma that bad guy roles offer a chance to do meatier work? Or is the critique that Xander gets to play multi versions of the SAME bad guy?

    He tends to play the same kind of bad guy: swivel servant, greed and disillusionment getting the better of him, not portrayed especially cunning – it’s usually quite clear he’s bad – and not usually opaque about his motivations. He usually has simplistic reasons for his bad behavior and hasn’t – at least to my knowledge – played a criminal mastermind. Mostly he’s just the guy you pay fifty bucks to beat up another guy, so to speak.

  9. msfeasance permalink
    May 26, 2010 9:51 pm

    Ice! That episode of X-Files is full of “that dude” actors, not just Xander: there’s Felicity Huffman, Steve Hytner (the school principal from Hung, among other things), Jeff Kober (who is basically the guy central casting calls whenever they need a creepy free-love cult leader and/or Steve Tyler lookalike), and I’m pretty sure the dog gets a lot of work, too.

  10. May 26, 2010 10:30 pm

    msfeasance – YES! Steve Hytner is totally a “that guy”. I recognize his name. I can visualize his squinty face too.

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