Britain’s Most Underrated Actor???

Dominic West about to lay the smackdown on some Picts in Centurion (2010)

Within the realms of ye olde England there lives a master craftsman. Versatility grants him access to all forms of performance, from silver screen, to hard-hitting TV Dramas, from Jez Butterworth to Shakespeare.  Even the theatrics of world-renowned musicals do not stop this artist from performing. Have you guessed him yet? Perhaps if I mention he has won a BAFTA for best leading actor, and starred in what TIME magazine would call one of the best TV drama’s of the 2000’s…yes his name is Dominic West.

West is a seasoned actor, having first appeared in the 1995 film adaptation of Richard III, starring alongside Sir Ian McKellen, Robert Downey Jr and a host of other A-list glitterati. He would go on to do more Shakespeare in Michael Hoffman’s A Midsummer Nights Dream (1999).  He even won a bit part in Star Wars Episode I (look out for him in the Phantom Menace). Despite this he’s best known for his role as Theron in Zack Snyder’s 300 and of course Jimmy McNulty in David Simon’s The Wire. This diverse list of characters is testament to the actors’ versatility. There are other perhaps lesser-known roles that are noteworthy, his character of Hector Madden in the TV drama The Hour. He played opposite Michael Fassbender as roman General Titus Flavius Virilus in Centurion. In particular it was his unnerving portrayal of Moors murderer Fred West in Appropriate Adult that won him a BAFTA.  Also at home treading the boards, Wests’ stage performances have won much well deserved praise. Most recently playing in Jez Butterworth’s new play The River, and currently starring as Henry Higgins in My Fair Lady.

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Wests iconic role as Jimmy McNulty in The Wire

Besides possessing a chameleon like adaptability to seemingly all forms of performance (does he dance too I wonder?!?) what makes this actor so special are the detailed characterisations he gives to each role. Whether it’s the boyish bravado of McNulty’s smirk as he sets off to solve a case his own way, or the devilish charisma twinkling in the eye of Iago as he lures the unknowing Moor to his doom, West makes his characters both real and believable. By some black magic we grow to love them even more so because of their flaws! This seems to set him apart from a mere entertainer or showman to an artist capable of endowing characters with a truth that resonates with us the audience.

So how is it then an actor of these attributes has been so overlooked or more accurately so underused by the industry. Could be down to bad luck, or being pigeon holed as an actor. The later being especially prominent in Britain where he’s perceived as being “posh” largely due to his schooling. Certainly before his role in Appropriate Adult he would have found it very difficult to gain the edgy gritty sort of role he got to play in The Wire at home in the UK. Indeed West is a difficult actor to place, he doesn’t fall within the fresh-faced British ‘IT’ boys crowd, the Tom Hardys’, the Henry Cavills’, or the Tom Hiddlestons’. He’s still a way off from the legendary old boys club that includes the likes of Michael Caine, Ian McKellen, amongst others.  James Purefoy (Resident Evil, Ironclad), or Irish charmer Pierce Brosnan seems a more fitting grouping, and when you begin to consider this you start to wonder what an actor like that would make with the iconic double-0 agent!

Interestingly Wests’ Wire co star Idris Elba has gone from strength to strength in recent years. We can’t seem to get enough of him, playing in everything from Thor, to Ridley Scott’s Prometheus, he’s also set to star as Nelson Mandela in the biopic Long Walk To Freedom as well as making a return to hit Brit TV drama Luther, which he’s also co producing. This is not to say that Dominic West hasn’t had a great career thus far, on the contrary in fact it’s been remarkable. I only wish to see more perhaps because I can see the great potential of the roles he could take on. Maybe he could take a leaf out of old co star Elba’s book, starting to produce his own work.

It definitely seems the current vogue in Hollywood for actors to act as producer or even executive producer on scripts that really grab them. Mark Wahlberg did just this with The Fighter, Brad Pitt seems to do this with nearly all his new projects in recent years, World War Z will see him star in a film he produced. He will also play a lead in Steve McQueens upcoming film Twelve Years A Slave, and here it’s worth noting that the finance for such a film was significantly affected by Pitt’s involvement. Even Leonardo DiCaprio has made a recent move to start producing projects he believes in, he stars and produces Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street.

This approach could certainly be an option for West, and I’m sure once he starts appearing in more of these interesting projects he will emerge to the forefront of the industries minds. I mean I can see no reason why he shouldn’t have involvement in Guy Ritchie’s next Sherlock instalment, or even Ridley Scott’s follow up to Prometheus. Though the cast is already set for Rise of The Guardians well what about that?!? Even Jude Laws’ made it into that line up. Maybe he could try out an action franchise like Liam Neeson. But what I’d really like to see would be more roles opening up for him in his home country. It would be interesting to see him tackle a part like Harvey Keitel’s in Bad Lieutenant but for the British audience with all the quirks and dark humour that come with English sensibilities. All things said, Mr West the future is yours; we salute you and look forward to what you have in store for us!

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