Welcome to the first in a new ongoing series by The Snooty Ushers. We will be looking at cinemas journeymen, the guys who sit 4th or 5th in the credit list, the best friend, the cops partner, the husband or wife of the lead. They are often always in the background. Not any longer, as we, The Snooty Ushers celebrate The Dependables!
First up is an actor I have admired for a long time now, he always puts in a solid performance and while his leading roles are mostly on the small screen, he is a very dependable actor and has had his share of screen time on the big screen.
Ladies and gentleman I give you… Dylan McDermott
This whole idea came about as my wife and I started watching a TV Show called Stalker (CBS, 2015), starring Dylan McDermott and Maggie Q about a team of police officers in the LAPDs Threat Assessment Unit, dealing mainly with stalker cases. We both really enjoyed it, mainly down to Dylan McDermott. Here, he plays Jack Larsen, a tough NYPD Homicide cop with a secret. Throughout the shows 1st (and sadly only) season, I began to think of what I had watched him in over the years and realised that he is actually a very good, dependable actor. The Dependables series was born.
As I have mentioned Dylan McDermott is mostly known for his roles on the small screen. As well as the previously mentioned Stalker, he most notably known as crusading lawyer Bobby Donnell in the long running legal drama The Practice (ABC, 1997-2004). He has also had lead roles Dark Blue (TNT, 2009-10), Hostages (CBS 2013-14) and the first two seasons of anthology series American Horror Story (FX, 2011-present).
He has, however, appear in 39 feature films. While the material might not always be of the highest quality, whether it is a heartbreaking cameo at the beginning of Runaway Jury (Dir, Gary Fleder, 2003), a father trying on heal his family in dodgy horror The Messengers (Dir, The Pang Brothers, 2007) or even the third wheel in the utterly risible Matthew Perry comedy Three To Tango (Dir, Damon Santostefano, 1999) you can always be sure that Dylan McDermott will deliver the same brand to laid back cool and yes, dependability with every performance.
So, without further ado, I will have a look at 5 performance across his career as The Snooty Ushers celebrate Dylan McDermott.
Hamburger Hill (Dir, John Irvin, 1987)
Staff Sgt Adam Frantz
This is a heart-breaking war film, whose tag line “War at its worst, fought by men at their best” wonderfully sums up the piece.
Focusing on a battle, that alone underpins the utter futility of the entire conflict, the film focuses on the men who, despite grown scorn and contempt from the people back home, gave their all for their country.
The “hill” in question was simply known as hill 937, so named for no other reason that it was 937 metres high. The film focuses on the 10 days between May 10th and 20th 1969. While the US finally take the position, that loss of life on both sides was massive and the position itself held little or no significance.
After an opening shot of the Vietnam Memorial, we are right into the action as we join a platoon of soldiers fighting in 1969 Vietnam, Following the battle, we meet a group of new recruits, newbies or FNGs (fxxkin new guys).
McDermott, in his first role, plays war-weary Staff Sgt Frantz, who takes the FNGs under his wing and teaches them how to survive his this hostile and dangerous environment. He is not only tough and opinionated, but as the resentment of the folks back home begins to reach the men, he is relentless is his support for the troops, hating the draft dodgers. In a stand out scene, he confronts a news reporter, saying he has more respect for the enemy than those who wont fight, because they at least choose a side.
By the film’s conclusion, Frantz is bravely left standing (just) as the film fades out, the viewer is left with little doubt that taking the hill, and in turn the larger conflict, was utterly futile when stood beside the colossal loss of life.
Steel Magnolias (Dir, Herbert Ross, 1989)
This is a film about the close bond that forms between a group of woman of varying ages in Louisiana.
This is a prime example of the type of actor that McDermott is. The cast is predominantly female and they are the focal point and rightly so, but his role as Jackson, the loving husband of the tragic Shelby packs a real emotional punch.
If you are wondering why I have even seen this, it is actually one of my mum’s all time favourite films, so I have subjected to it several times through the course of growing up. If you have seen this, or watch it in the future and are not moved by it, then I am afraid you have no soul. A classic weepy.
In The Line of Fire (Wolfgang Peterson, 1993)
Agent Al D’Andrea
This a trade mark 90s action film. Clint Eastwood plays aging Secret Service Agent Frank Horrigan, who was on President Kennedy’s protection detail and is still haunted by his failure to save him.
When an assassin threatens the serving President, Frank is given the chance for redemption. It is big, its dumb, its fun. It is essentially a 90s action movie.
McDermott plays Agent Al D’Andrea, he has the unfortunate role of being Eastwood’s partner and as any actor who played Clint’s partner will tell you, it means that you seldom see the end credits.
McDermott gives Al a heart and makes you root for him and I remember being genuinely sorry when his inevitable end came. Telegraphed as it was in the previous scene as he tells Frank he is going to quit the job as he doesn’t think he is up to it, Frank gets him to change his mind…you can figure out the rest. The 90s action movie had a lot of things, subtlety, was not one of them.
Still, as I said, its great fun.
Miracle on 34th Street (Dir, Les Mayfield, 2004)
This a heartwarming update of the 1947 classic story of a department store Santa, who may or may not be the real thing.
I love this film, in fact it is one of my favourite christmas films and Richard Attenborough is wonderful as Santa. It is also my favourite performance by Mr McDermott.
He plays Brain Bedford, the neighbour of the little girl at the centre of the story. He is in love with the girl’s mother and is also the lawyer who defends Santa in the films heart warming conclusion.
McDermott brings warmth and charm to the honourable Brian. He is, well, just a good guy.
Wonderland (Dir, James Cox, 2003)
This is a wonderful film. It tells the true story of the Wonderland Murders which occurred in Los Angeles in 1981. The film stars Val Kilmer as porn star John Holmes and McDermott appears as David Lind.
Lind was one of the trigger men who robbed notorious gangster Eddie Nash, but was not present for the retaliatory murders on Wonderland Avenue.
Lind’s story is told mostly in flashback as he hears about the killings and is picked up by the police as he arrives at the screen. He is an unreliable narrator and McDermott brings a real edge to this unstable character, a real departure to the nice guy roles I have previously chosen.
If you havent seen this, then do your self a favour and check it out, it is a gritty gem and features a career best turn from Val Kilmer.
Some other notable roles:
Hardware (Dir. Richard Stanley, 1990)
Moses ‘Hard Mo’ Baxter – Utterly silly and stupidly entertaining futuristic gore fest based on a 2000AD comic strip
Olympus Has Fallen (Antoine Fuqa, 2013)
Dave Forbes – Kind of an anti Al for In The Line of Fire, plays a SS Agent who betrays the President.
Well, that concludes our celebration of the career of Dylan McDermott, do you agree with my choices? Have I missed out your favourite? Do you still have no clue who the man is?
I hope that by reading this, it will inspire you either discover or revisit some of these great films, or even check out Stalker.
As always, your thoughts are welcome and thank you for reading x