Sometimes movies can veer a bit further into the silly lane than they originally intended and need to correct course by injecting some seriousness into the mix. One of the best ways to give films some of that instant gravitas is by hiring respected (arguably overqualified) actors to serve as authority figures and communicate plot points with credibility, dignity, and - if at all possible - an upper-class British accent.
Here is a roundup of times filmmakers cast prestigious thespians solely to give their projects an aura of prestige. Vote up your favorite - and most trusted - onscreen authority figures.
- Photo: Avatar / 20th Century Fox
When Sigourney Weaver shows up in your action movie, horror flick, or sensitive gorilla drama, you can expect plenty of convincing acting and some occasional butt-kickery. And the fact that she’s hard not to take seriously is a boon to movies about blue alien treehuggers and teen sacrifice in the name of Ancient One appeasement.
In Avatar, Weaver is a scientist who imparts wisdom onto the main character while advocating for peace with those aforementioned indigo folk. In The Cabin in the Woods, she’s the director behind all the ritualistic goings-on that involve zombie redneck torture families and a man-eating merman. Both movies take a near-overwhelming suspension of disbelief to get through, and having a heavy-hitter like Weaver onscreen to help us navigate through the implausibility is important for those hoping to sit through the entirety of either movie without doing a spit take on the unfortunate theatergoers seated in front.182Trustworthy source?
Before Laurence Fishburne was brought aboard the franchise to go “toe-to-toe” with his character in the sequel, Michael Douglas was the only elder statesman (and a digitally de-aged one in some scenes) present in the cast of 2015’s Ant-Man. Playing the genius scientist Hank Pym (the guy who came up with shrinking down to the size of a bug in the first place), Douglas serves as mentor to the new ant on the block, played by Paul Rudd.
After a long career featuring in such weighty endeavors as Basic Instinct, Falling Down, Fatal Attraction, and Wall Street, the mighty son of Kirk Douglas might seem out of place in a second-tier comic book movie. But he said his decision to take part was based on the same reasoning that compelled him to play the famously flamboyant pianist Liberace in Behind the Candelabra: "You've got to shake them up a little bit and have some fun.” Which is certainly a great motto to guide one through life, as long as you remember to pull the reins a bit before you start heading into Nicolas Cage territory.114Trustworthy source?
Willem Dafoe In 'Aquaman'Photo: Warner Bros.
In a valiant attempt to make the least-respected superhero in all of comics cool, DC hired Jason Momoa to play Arthur "Aquaman" Curry and surrounded him with well-established actors like Nicole Kidman, and... holy crap is that Dolph Lundgren? Willem Dafoe, who never met a movie (even Speed 2!) he didn’t somehow manage to improve, was also in the cast as a high-ranking Atlantan political advisor named Nuidis Vulko, who mentors our hero and teaches him how to fight. While CGI was required to help out a mid-60s Dafoe look like a mid-30s Dafoe, he needed no outside assistance to make the character an intense onscreen presence (despite being saddled with an atrociously unfortunate haircut).
Thanks to Dafoe’s contribution in transforming Aquaman from whining weenie to the DCU’s biggest draw, the film was positively received with reviews that praised the “energetic action with an emphasis on good old-fashioned fun.” Making an enjoyable superhero movie, especially one that involves a guy who talks to fish and features actors pretending to swim in front of a green screen, ain’t easy. It’s a fine line to walk, but as Matt Zoller Seitz of RogerEbert.com pointed out, “It takes skill to be as ridiculous as this movie... [Aquaman]... feels simultaneously like a spoof and an operatic melodrama. Any film that can combine those modes is a force to be reckoned with.”102Trustworthy source?
- Photo: Lucy / EuropaCorp Distribution
Few performers in the world are able to bring the kind of believable dignity to the role of narrator, supporting character, or all-powerful deity that Morgan Freeman can. So it’s no wonder that there are numerous examples of him being hired to balance things out when a script straddles the line between intellectual and... the polar opposite of that. His turn as a paternal government scientist probably saved Transcendence from being even worse of a sci-fi bomb - much as he lent some much-needed credibility to Now You See Me, a movie about bank-robbing magicians.
In Lucy, an action film about a young woman who gains psychokinetic powers via pharmaceuticals, Freeman’s wise professor role kept the proverbial train from careening off the rails with all the pseudoscientific “we only use 10% of our brains” codswallop flying around. So much so that the producer noted how "it was pretty obvious that he was the perfect actor" for the task.81Trustworthy source?