Wes Bentley as Ricky Fitts in American Beauty
The cast of Yellowstone, as mentioned, is eclectic to say the least, but no one within the cast brings more eclecticism than the almost 30-year-acting veteran, Bentley. In his cobbled filmography, he has prestige pictures such as The Four Feathers, opposite the late great Heath Ledger, or a short role in Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar. He has shaved his facial hair into a work of art as the twisted games-master Seneca Crane in the original Hunger Games film, and also has a couple stints in two of the worst comic book adaptations made to date in Jonah Hex and Ghostrider. His movie work is truly hard to pin down.
Much like his role as “Blackheart” in Ghostrider, Bentley’s trademark steely eyes have been often used to portray a villainous streak, and he’s done so before playing the love him or hate him Jamie Dutton. Creator Ryan Murphy and the showrunners of American Horror Story brought Bentley back several times for the anthology series, and that trademark look seemed to fit perfectly in that world.
However, it’s another project that dares define America that is arguably Bentley’s best work. Those steely eyes that often seem as if they are hiding fury or violence conveyed real pain and emptiness in American Beauty. As the poetic yet tortured soul, Ricky Fitts, a very young Bentley, in only his fourth major role almost stole the show from Kevin Spacey (and remember, this was late ’90s Spacey). Bentley, at such a young age gave the film its soul, and when a clip package of American Beauty is shown, the iconic plastic bag scene is almost always included. While Jamie Dutton is a return to form in terms of a tortured soul, Bentley has yet to be able to top that crucial early role as Fitts.
Cole Hauser as William H. Johns in Pitch Black
There is no doubt that veteran character actor Cole Hauser will forever be intertwined with Rip Wheeler. Rip skyrocketed as a fan favorite for all genders and age groups, quite literally embodying the old adage that “men want to be him, and women [and some men, surely] want to be with him”. Hauser could build his own ranch purely based on how often he has played a military man, or some other derivation of the “tough guy” with significant roles in Olympus Has Fallen, A Good Day to Die Hard, and 2 Fast 2 Furious.
Many fans of Yellowstone will remember Hauser in one of his earliest roles as Benny O’Donnell in the perennial coming-of-age film Dazed and Confused, or in his too fast, too furious tiny role in Good Will Hunting. Yet, neither one of those roles is what sticks out in the mind of this writer. Hauser’s best role doesn’t involve numerical nomenclature or any kind of wicked-hard accent work, it is from the independent Australian sci-fi thriller Pitch Black. Yes, Hauser once again plays a tough guy in his role as William H. Johns, but it was the small differences he brought to Johns that separates it from the pack.
The strength of Pitch Black, and why it became a cult classic is because, at its root, it is an extremely well written character piece. Writer/Director David Twohy had a rudimentary budget, and so had to create a taut and witty script. It’s a script that attracted the likes of Keith David, sci-fi mainstay Claudia Black, and Vin Diesel, who was immediately transformed into an action icon. Standing toe-to-toe with that future star, commanding the screen every time he was on it was Hauser. Every cast member understood what an amazing project they had, and gave a fanciful concept gravitas that was as grounded as Vin Diesel’s voice. Hauser’s Johns, and the film itself is definitely worth a rewatch.