I remember watching the Doors at one point and seeing a woman as high as a kite say that in a vision she saw Jesus and Judas with the same face…and it all made sense to her. I think the woman’s name was Pam but that is neither here nor there. So thinking about that, I started wondering about the concept of polar opposites having the same face… literally. So for this weeks edition, I decided to go with actors who have played polar opposites….
MAX VAN SYDOW – If you are going to go, go big and there is none bigger than Max Van Sydow. Specifically here, Van Sydow lives long enough to in the words of Harvey Dent in The Dark Knight “become the villain.” And not in in that LeBron James going from Cleveland Cavaliers to the Miami Heat. Van Sydow would have NONE of that weak sauce. Van Sydow as some of you may remember was Jesus in the Greatest Story Ever Told in 1965. Of course, some may also remember his role as Leland Gaunt in 1993’s Needful Things (based on the novel by Stephen King.) This would be when the transition in Van Sydow’s career was complete from playing Jesus to playing Satan. Yes, SATAN and not in the cute cuddly way that Dana Carvey as the Church Lady says it either. This was SATAN as written by Stephen King. Now, at least with Van Sydow, you make to points where he started to move over to the dark side. He played Father Merrin who got roughed up by his future Satanic self in 1973’s The Exorcist and then moved on to play Ming ‘the Friggin’ Merciless (you know when a child’s last name is The Friggin’ Merciless that it is not going to turn out well) in 1980’s Flash Gordon (sound track provided by Queen and you know you love that soundtrack whether you will ever admit it or not.)
FAIRUZA BALK – Unbelievably, it seems to be a better idea career and general stability wise to let your ten year old play a vampire imprisoned in a child’s body than to take on the role of Dorothy Gale. We all pretty much know what happened to Judy Garland and now we bring up Fairuza Balk. Now she has a fine film career, but are we the only ones that think Miss Balk just looks a little well…off. As a 10 year old, Fairuza Balk was allowed to live many little girls dreams and take on the iconic role as Dorothy Gale in 1985’s Return to Oz (yes this was an actual factual theatrical release). Where’s the irony? Ten years later, Balk (AGAIN!) is playing a decidedly wicked witch in 1996’s The Craft. She does it all except order around winged monkeys. At the end, Balk is so convincing in the role of a witch that she is rocking back and forth in a straight jacket. Which c’mon if you have ever looked deep enough into the former star of American History X’s eyes, you are not really all that surprised by it.
BEN KINGSLEY – Ben Kingsley is one of those actors that immediately lends credibility to anything that he does. You could put Ben Kingsley in the role of a ‘crazy old wizard’ on desert planet and it would still have an air of gravitas. What? That’s already been done by some one else? Yeah, well dig him up and put his performance against Ben Kingsley in the same role. What we are trying to say is that if the marquee says Ben Kingsley, you are going to think that some body knows what they are doing…mostly Ben Kingsley. So, it is not surprising that Old Ben Won many roles. What is amazing is the totally polar opposite that some of those roles took. Just to show you that Ben can do it all, lets take the two most extreme examples. First of all, Ben played that paragon of pacifism Mahatma Ghandi in 1982’s Academy Award winning movie Ghandi. He was playing Indian leader struggling against British oppression in his home land. Admirable. Less than eight years later, Ben would occupy (and not like those dirty hippies on Wall Street) the role of another historical figure. This time it was in 1990’s Bugsy in which Kingsley now played Meyer Lansky. For those of you unfamiliar with Lanksy’s resume, he was a Jewish mobster so corrupt and reviled in his own life time that even Israel did not want to have anything to do with him even though he was Jewish and qualified to go there. To whit, Meyer Lanksy was not an Indian pacifist. There are many people that are close to Ghandi, but Meyer was not so much. Just goes to show the power and range of one Ben Kingsley. Now, about him playing a crazy old wizard, have it all mapped out….
CASPER VAN DIEN – Maybe the secret to having a varied list of roles throughout your career is having the word VAN in your name. We’ll give you a hint here. The same trick does not really work if your name features the word ‘Sutherland.’ Van Dien (outside of a few notable film roles such as Starship Troopers and Sleepy Hollow) mostly makes his money playing ‘hunk on TV Movie.’ Modern Vampires,’ Van Dien plays a vampire who seemingly redirects all of his drunken blood into one place and saves a girl he loves from other vampires that seeming see her chest as a store chamber for her heart rather than any other good use. That was in 1998. In 2004, you see Van Dein revisiting the undead genre in Dracula 3000 A.D. Why is this interesting? Well more interesting than Van Dien playing the character of Corporal Johnny Ringo in the movie Starship Troopers and General John Ringo in the Starship Troopers video game? It is simply for this reason. Casper Van Dien plays Captain Abraham Van Helsing. Now granted, Dracula 3000 takes place on a starship and stars people that were involved in playboy spreads as well as fought Hulk Hogan. But, literally you can search forever and not find another actor who has played both a Vampire and Van Helsing. Granted, he did it in knock offs of The Lost Boys and Jason X, but there is still something to be said for a man whose true destiny may have been body builder / rough trick on Bourbon Street.
ROBERT DUVALL – But there is a moment in any life that will give you that excited feeling that that dude with a wasted life in PCU had when he got off the couch screaming “Caine and Hackman in the same film!! This proves my thesis!!” And who better to do it than esteemed character actor Robert Duvall? In 1992, Duvall played former Soviet Leader (and we mean former only because he died, not because he ever gave up the title) Josef Stalin. In addition to good old Papa Joe, Robert Duvall also starred in 1996’s The Men Who Captured Eichmann as Adolf Eichmann. Now for those of you who may not know, there are Nazi’s and there are Nazis who even the Nazis say ‘now that is a really bad guy.’ Not that Stalin was a good guy, but Eichmann was the author and the man who primarily carried out what became known at the time as the Final Solution and was later on referred to simply as the Holocaust. Stalin was also responsible for an equal amount of carnage that was known as the Purges against his own people. But like Riddick in Pitch Black, if you send evil against evil, then you may just be talking about sending the Soviets to engage in one of their favorite and most efficient activities. This would be of course… killing Nazis like they were Brad Pitt. So if you were to take historical opposing forces, you would get Nazis and Soviets and two of the grand examples of both were Eichmann and Stalin. Both of them brought to seeringly to screen by none other than Robert Duvall.