- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 20, 2005

Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s work in “Capote” (review, D8) should catapult him beyond the “respected-character-actor” ghetto. It’s that good. Here are five other actors who rose above bit casting and unconventional looks to achieve unlikely leading man status.

Humphrey Bogart — It took a series of small roles in forgettable features before the actor of modest height and pronounced lisp metamorphosed into the iconic “Bogey” persona. His turn in “The Petrified Forest” began a remarkable ascent that included starring roles in film classics “Casablanca” and “The African Queen.”

Robert Duvall — Remember Boo Radley? Mr. Duvall portrayed Harper Lee’s loner in “To Kill a Mockingbird,” his film debut. A series of small parts, including one in Francis Ford Coppola’s “The Rain People,” followed, as did a rare lead turn in George Lucas’ “THX 1138.” It took “The Godfather” saga to establish Mr. Duvall as an actor of enormous range and depth. Even then, it was years before such films as “The Apostle,” “Tender Mercies” and “The Great Santini” made him a star.

Kevin Spacey — The two-time Oscar winner started out with inconsequential roles in such films as “Heartburn” and “Working Girl.” It took powerful appearances in “Glengarry Glen Ross” and, later, “The Usual Suspects” to propel him into the limelight.

Gene Hackman — Memorable supporting roles in “Bonnie & Clyde” and “I Never Sang for My Father” earned him best supporting actor nominations, but the academy confirmed Mr. Hackman as a major star when it gave him the best actor Oscar for “The French Connection.”

Paul Giamatti — Mr. Giamatti, he of the pop eyes and doughy frame, was made for supporting roles in glossy features like “Donnie Brasco” and “Private Parts.” He still plays them on occasion, witness this year’s “Cinderella Man.” But with his heralded turn in last year’s “Sideways,” he emerged as an unconventional romantic leading man.

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