Growing up, my father would always point to someone in a movie and tell me "he's a great character actor." I didn't understand that as a kid, either you were famous or you were just there to give the famous person someone to shoot. It wasn't until I got a little older that I saw these actors again and again, filling role after role without much fanfare, and realized just what he meant.Danny Trejo has never been a marquee name, but he's everywhere in film and you know him when you see him. Same thing with Brion James. Keith David. W. Earl Brown. Anthony James. All actors who make (or made) a living working, not taking down $20 mil a picture. This started to make sense to me after a few years. What still threw me, though, were the actors who assumed assorted roles in a single series of film or television. Gian Maria Volonte played, essentially, the same character in Per Un Pugno Di Dollari and Per Qualche Dollaro In Piu. (That's A Fistful of Dollars and For a Few Dollars More, in case you were wondering.) In both films, Clint Eastwood played, essentially, the same character as well. However, The Man With No Name was timeless, and could easily have taken part in both settings. Even his wardrobe followed him through the films. Add Il Buono, Il Brutto, Il Cattivo to the list, and you have Lee Van Cleef playing, again, a similar enough character between For a Few Dollars More and this film, despite having different names (and dying in G,B,U). Can you see how this could be confusing to an eight-year-old?
Similarly, watching the entire catalog of James Bond films, secondary characters have been played by repeat actors for years. M, Q and Moneypenny, until those actors retired, were played by the same actors for decades, in many cases appearing in more films than the actors playing Bond himself. What gives me more pause, though, are the actors who switched identities and allegiances between films.
Walter Gotell started his Bond career in From Russia With Love, as the S.P.E.C.T.R.E. training camp leader, Morzeny. Then, beginning in the Moore years and carrying through several subsquent Bonds, Gotell was featured as Soviet General Gogol. This portrayal began in The Spy Who Loved Me, and continued in A View to a Kill and The Living Daylights, to name a few.
Charles Gray similarly took a break between Bonds, first showing up as Connery's quick-to-die informant in You Only Live Twice, before taking on the role of villain-to-end-all-villains Ernst Stavro Blofeld in Diamonds Are Forever. (And then going on to do the Time Warp. Again.)
Joe Don Baker showed up as the unscrupulous arms dealer Brad Whitaker in The Living Daylights, then after an eight-year absence, suddenly turned up as CIA agent Jack Wade in Goldeneye, reprising the role in Tomorrow Never Dies (the only film, near as I can tell in all my film-watching history, where the sinister, world-dominating character gets to be named Elliott, instead of the simpering, nerdy loser.)
Finally, Maud Adams. Oh, sweet Maud Adams. Succumbing to Roger Moore's charms (SERIOUS ACTING ABILITY!) in The Man With The Golden Gun, she's killed by her lover for turning to Bond. She then turns up in one of the rare 'empowered woman' roles in Bond films as Octopussy and coming to Bond's rescue not once, but three times in the film.
Hopefully this has shed some light on things you didn't know you wanted to know, this knowledge might come in handy for past or future quizzes, too. If nothing else, at least it builds character.
Oh, and I finally figured out how do do