Movies of 1997 Bracket Game: Austin Powers vs The Fifth Element
Well, here we are in our second-to-last bout of this bracket game and we’ve got a pretty surprising pairing fighting it out for a spot in the final. As I did previously, I’ll be covering a couple of actors from the flicks in question.
Before we do that, let’s see what movie the winner here will be facing. Hold on a second, I have to go check. Give me a moment…It’s Boogie Nights. That’s pretty impressive considering it came out of the sixteen seed.
Sometimes the specific time in which you grow up really plays a number on your perceptions. The first of two actors I’m going to cover for this contest is a guy who I always thought of as being a bit of an…overrated goof of a leading man who was never actually good enough to actually make it big in movies. While some of that appraisal might stray uncomfortably close to truth, it’s also entirely unfair. It’s kind of hard to blame me considering that my introduction to Robert Wagner was in his role in the early 80s husband-wife glamorous detective drama “Hart to Hart.” I was nine years old when the show debuted and Wagner was playing the dashing leading man at the age of forty-nine. At my current age that doesn’t seem so old, but at the time the idea that he and Stefanie Powers were some sort of ideal was a little hard to swallow. The show stayed on the air until 1984, so they only got older and I only became the most judgmental creature on the face of the earth: a teenager. He didn’t stand a chance.
So when Wagner reappeared more than a decade later as Dr. Evil’s right hand man “Number Two,” in the Austin Powers movies, it appeared to be nothing more than stunt casting and you had to hand it to the guy for being in on the joke. Take a look at this speech Mike Myers made for an AFI event, though. He paints a picture of a pretty impressive guy.
In case you are tempted to think Myers is indulging in a little bit of overstatement, consider the fact that as a young actor, Robert Wagner was represented by Albert R Broccoli. Yeah, that guy. He was even asked to audition for the famous producer’s most notorious and successful character, and turned it down. The well-known films he actually did appear in included With a Song in my Heart, 1953’s Titanic (during which the 22 year old Wagner began a relationship with the 45 year old Barbara Stanwyck), Prince Valiant, The Longest Day, The Pink Panther, and The Towering Inferno. Maybe more impressive is his list of Hollywood paramours, which have included Stanwyck, Yvonne De Carlo, Joan Crawford, Elizabeth Taylor, and Joan Collins. Also he was married to Natalie Wood…twice (no, I’m not going to go into those allegations).
Now we move on from a man who it is perhaps possible to underestimate to an actor it is pretty hard to over-estimate. In contrast to my introduction to Robert Wagner, the first time I became aware of Gary Oldman was in an inarguably cool role, when he played the tragic and violent addict and imaginary rock musician Sid Vicious in the stunning Sid and Nancy. A few years later he starred alongside Tim Roth and Richard Dreyfuss in a film adaptation of one of my favorite stage plays, Tom Stoppard’s modern masterpiece Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead. Quickly afterward, he put himself in danger of wandering into John Malkovich territory by overplaying his hand as a villain, but somehow he managed to produce a wide variety of unique characters and never wore out his welcome in these parts. Consider this rogue’s gallery of baddies – Oldman played Lee Harvey Oswald in Oliver Stone’s JFK, the title role in Francis Ford Coppola’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula, pimp Drexl Spivey in True Romance, and a corrupt DEA agent in Leon: The Professional. That film’s director Luc Besson, invited Oldman to then play the central villain in his longtime pet project, The Fifth Element. Watch him explain Keynesian economic theory.
So what do you do as an actor when you keep getting cast in similar roles? You create one of the more unexpected and eccentric characterizations on what is already a pretty eccentric resume. Oldman’s space gangster Zorg is worth the price of admission for the whole film. That same year he played a terrorist in the Harrison Ford action film Air Force One, but as we know that movie was later dealt a serious blow to its reputation when it was knocked out of this bracket game in the first round.
Hey, what if all of these villainous roles were simply a ploy to set up his turn as Sirius Black in the Harry Potter movies? That would reflect quite a bit of foresight, wouldn’t it?
Yes, he also played Commissioner Gordon in the Christopher Nolan Batman films. Which movie deserves to move on? Vote here and then argue about why one of the films should be in the final and about three others shouldn’t.