Though Ed Harris is a performer who most people would recognize at this point, he’s still not exactly what one thinks of when they think of a “movie star.” While he’s not exactly a “that guy” character actor who constantly shows up playing small roles, he’s not quite a leading man either. He’s more likely to show up in a movie as the guy behind the guy, just one step behind the hero, or even as the villain, someone who’s probably just as essential to a story as the hero but doesn’t get nearly as much of the credit when box office receipts and reviews start rolling in.
Harris is more often than not the highlight of every film he appears in, and he has the chiseled looks and piercing eyes of a leading man, but for some reason he’s never quite broken through to that next level of Hollywood where he’s gotten the opportunity to get the big, showy roles and anchor the big, expensive films. Whether that’s because casting agents think that he’s lacking some sort of intangible quality that makes one a star or just that Harris himself prefers to make a living and build a career doing smaller, often more interesting work isn’t clear. But what is clear is that he’s been one of the best actors working regularly over the last few decades, he’s always a welcome name to see pop up on any casting list, and we now have reason to celebrate, as there’s news that he’s soon going to be growing his sneakily impressive and expansive resume with two new roles.
The first bit of news comes from The Wrap, which reports that Harris is in negotiations to appear alongside Liam Neeson in director Jaume Collet-Serra’s upcoming crime thriller Run All Night. Neeson has the starring role of the film, which will see him playing an aging hitman who has to go up against the dangerous crime syndicate he used to work for after his son (to be played by Joel Kinnaman) witnesses a murder and becomes a target. Harris, in true Harris fashion, will be playing the film’s main antagonist, the leader of said syndicate.
The second bit of news comes from THR, which reports that Harris is also signed to appear opposite Ethan Hawke in Cymbeline, the latest Shakespeare adaptation from writer/director Michael Almereyda (2000’s Hamlet). The original Shakespeare story, about the marriage of a powerful King’s daughter to a righteous but lower-born man being complicated due to jealous outside parties meddling with lies and deceit, will apparently be re-imagined here so that it takes place in modern times and involves a war between dirty cops and a drug-dealing biker gang. Seeing as Hawke has the lead role, one would assume he’s playing the role of the young lover who gets duped. Harris will be playing the part of the powerful King, or whatever that modern equivalent ends up being.
Will either Run All Night or Cymbeline be sold to the public based on Harris’s involvement? Probably not. But chances are Neeson and Hawke are both going to be grateful to have him on board the films as reliable support, and audiences are going to be grateful to have him adding to their immersion in the stories by lending featured roles weight and authenticity. Being a utility player may not be the most glamorous job one can get in the acting world, but it’s certainly an important one. Let’s take a moment to tip our hats to one of the greats.