Do people recognize Scoot McNairy as an actor or is he just a 21st Century That Guy?
This was the thought running through my head while the Liam Neeson action-thriller Non-Stop was making one of its legally mandated twelve daily showings on an HBO channel. Scoot McNairy has been in a lot of movies, including a pair of Best Picture winners. He even is one of the leads on a television series. However, this got me thinking; there are literally more shows than ever. The amount of actors and actresses with their own program on USA, Netflix, Amazon, AMC and the like are ridiculous. Where once the definition of a That Guy was basically that he or she plays a lawyer in every movie or television show, I’m not sure that’s the case anymore.
Additionally, so many of the people we think of as quintessential That Guys have won Oscars (Paul Giamatti, J.K. Simmons) or have just been around long enough that their names are now known (William Fichtner, Brendan Gleeson). Who are the 21st Century That Guys and Gals? Who are the actors and actresses whom have made their bones as an actor since the turn of the century and yet still tend to have their names escape the tongues of most mouths.
So, I’m going to spotlight one person at a time that fits this mold. I’ll take a peek at their filmography, point out the best known roles and highlight a personal favorite. I figure there’s no better person to start this off with then the man that inspired it; Scoot McNairy.
Actor : Scoot McNairy (November 11, 1977)
First Film Role : As Russell in the 2001 Wrong Numbers
You Might Have Seen Him In : Argo, Non-Stop, 12 Years a Slave, Monsters, Frank, Gone Girl
Who Is He ? : McNairy has built a career of playing characters that were either on edge, loners or just a bit strange. He has played cops, criminals, musicians and the like. He is probably best known for his work in Argo, where McNairy portrayed Joe Stafford, one of the employees of the American embassy in Iran who is in hiding. McNairy’s Stafford was the most verbally outspoken member of the group, highly concerned about the plan Ben Affleck’s character presents to get them out of the country. Last year he was in a number of major pictures, but perhaps most notably stood out as Tommy in Gone Girl, whom had, shall we say, a complicated relationship with Rosamund Pike’s Amy back in college.
Favorite Performance : As Frankie in 2012’s Killing Them Softly. McNairy portrayed a weasely, anxious character that is one of two men hired to rob a poker game held by big-rollers with their own unsavory ties. McNairy’s Frankie is captivating, the kind of fool that knows he’s in for something messy but does it anyways. Directed by the great, underrated Andrew Dominick, Killing Them Softly isn’t McNairy’s show, though he makes the most of his scenes, many of which feature his partner in crime Russell (Ben Mendelsohn). In these scenes, McNairy presents Frankie as a just competent enough criminal to be seen as legit, yet with such potent nervousness that his actions crawl into one’s own nerves. During the big robbery sequence his voice cracks as he keeps telling a victim, “Stop looking at me!” His confidence shrinks with the repetition, even as the sound gets louder. Normally watching a man having a gun pointed at them makes us scared for the one facing the barrel. Thanks to McNairy, the empathy goes the other direction.