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Why that character looks so familiar
You know the feeling. You're watching a movie and see a face that looks vaguely familiar. If you're also a local-theater nerd, chances are the actor you recognize is someone you've seen onstage.
In "Revolutionary Road" (in theaters today), Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet anchor the film as a husband and wife in 1950s suburbia. But it is Chicago actor Michael Shannon who has been generating buzz for his performance as the brilliant but mentally unstable mathematician who suspects that something's amiss in this marriage.
Shannon--who recently moved to New York, though he remains a company member at A Red Orchid Theatre in Old Town--might be the most high-profile local actor to snag film roles these days. (For more on Shannon, see Michael Phillips' 2008 Chicagoan of the Year in Movies at chicagotribune.com /movies.)
Chicago stage actors always show up in small roles if a film is shot locally, but there seems to be an unusually noteworthy cluster of them right now. For example, next week, you can catch former Second City cast member Brian Boland as the father of a possessed little boy in the supernatural thriller, "The Unborn."
Boland, who co-starred in four revues on the Second City mainstage from 2002-05, makes the bulk of his money in various ads.
"I do very well booking commercials and voice-overs," he said recently. "I'm one of the Raisin Bran Crunch guys. We've done about 12 spots for them now, and its kind of--among the junior high crowd--they just love those commercials, so there's a whole YouTube army of kids who are like, this is their favorite thing in the world. We just shot another one in L.A. As long as it brings in the money."
Here's a quick guide of some of the local talent to be found on stage and screen:
"Revolutionary Road" (opens today) Chicago actor: Michael Shannon (John Givings) Recent plays you might have seen him in: "The Pillowman" at Steppenwolf ('06), "Gagarin Way" at A Red Orchid ('05)
"The Unborn" (opens Jan. 9) Chicago actor: Brian Boland (Roger Newton) Recent comedy shows you might have seen him in: Second City mainstage revues from 2002-05, including "Thank Heaven It Wasn't 7/11" and "Red Scare." Also: Local actress and Seanachai Ensemble member Sarah Wellington plays a doctor in the film.
"Nothing Like the Holidays" (opened Dec. 12) Chicago actor: Manny Sosa (as the priest) Recent plays you might have seen him in: Chief Bromden in Open Eye's "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" ('07) Also: Former Second City mainstage cast member Claudia Michelle Wallace plays a grocery store employee.
"Were the World Mine" (opened Dec. 12) Chicago actors: David Darlow (high school principal), Christian Stolte (rugby coach), Wendy Robie (drama teacher), Recent plays you might have seen them in: Darlow in Remy Bumppo's "The Voysey Inheritance" ('08) and Stolte on "Orange Flower Water" at Steppenwolf ('03).Robie is an artistic associate with Next Theatre in Evanston.
"Public Enemies" (opens in July '09) aa.k.a. the Dillinger movie starring Johnny Depp Chicago actors: Guy Van Swearingen (Agent Brown); Alan Wilder (Robert Estill); Christian Stolte (Charles Makley); Jeff Still (James Probasco). Recent plays you might have seen them in: Van Swearingen in "Gagarin Way" at A Red Orchid ('05); Wilder currently in "The Seafarer" at Steppenwolf; Stolte (see "Were the World Mine); Still in "A Number" at Next Theatre ('06).