Rip Torn And The Curse Of The Character Actor

By Drew Magary
|  Monday, Feb 1, 2010  |  Updated 4:32 PM CDT
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Rip Torn And The Curse Of The Character Actor

Actor Rip Torn was arrested over the weekend for breaking into a bank with a loaded gun while drunk, which is something many drunks have often dreamed of doing but never had the guts to follow through with.

Torn is best known for his work on “The Larry Sanders Show,” when he played producer Artie, in what I would argue is one of the finest TV roles ever created. If you’re unfamiliar with that role, you probably know Torn best from movies like “Men In Black”. But there’s a good chance you’re only vaguely familiar with Torn. After all, he’s the kind of actor you see in lots of movies, whose face you recognize, but whose name you never bothered to learn.

That’s what makes Torn such a good actor. His work has always overshadowed his own persona and name, and that’s a good quality for an actor to have. Torn is a character actor: someone who immediately boosts the credibility of any role and show or movie he participates in. And what’s weird about character actors is that so many of them end up in jail cells.

We all know showbiz types like to behave badly. Regardless, there’s still something weird about the fact that many character actors, men who are often looked upon as the true professionals of show business, end up committing downright bizarre crimes. Think about it.

Remember Jeffrey Jones, who played Ed Rooney in “Ferris Bueller”? Arrested for possessing child pornography. Randy Quaid, the brilliant comedic actor who stole lines in every “Vacation” movie? Arrested with his wife for skipping out on a hotel without paying. And the rap sheet of great character actor Tom Sizemore rivals that of the average Cincinnati Bengal.

Why do so many of these character actors find themselves in trouble? Are they so good at inhabiting roles that they think they can get away with stumbling into banks while intoxicated without being detected? ARE THEY CURSED? A statistician needs to be assigned to this, to see if America’s character actor population really is the scourge it appears to be. I’d be wary of Richard Jenkins walking down the street if I were you.

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