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Discovering the many talents of William H. Macy

Updated on July 14, 2011

Best known for his roles in “Fargo”, “Pleasantville”, “Boogie Nights” and the short lived TV series “Sports Night”, William H. Macy has certainly earned his status as one of the best American character actors working today.

He’s been working in film and television almost constantly since the late 1970’s. And his characters have ranged from the put-upon (“Boogie Nights”) to clueless (“Pleasantville”). His versatility keeps him in high demand in Hollywood and it helps that he can showcase his role without overwhelming the lead (“Air Force One” comes to mind).

Here are three more recent efforts which showcase the range of Macy’s talents. They are films that did not exactly burn up the box office, so they may be a pleasant surprise for those interested in finding out more of this wonderful actor.

The Cooler

Bernie Lootz (Macy) is an unlucky man. He is so unlucky that his job is working for a Las Vegas casino as a “Cooler”. Whenever someone is on a hot streak, Bernie walks by and suddenly the streak is over. His life parallels his job, a lonely man troubled only by his ungrateful son. Enter Natalie (Maria Bello), a waitress at the casino who takes a shine to Bernie and suddenly his luck begins to change.

The film suffers somewhat by taking what seems to be a comedy idea and making it into a serious drama. And the ending may be appropriate, but for me it was somewhat distracting in that it implied Lootz’s character may be more that what he seems. But the fine acting overall and the quick pacing of the film make for fine entertainment. In particular, Alec Baldwin as the casino manager, Shelly Kaplow (he scored an Oscar nomination for his performance). But it is Macy who holds your attention as his character emerges from lonely and disconnected to more open and vibrant as the film progresses.

This film is R rated for good reasons. There are several nude and sexual intercourse scenes (Bello looks great, by the way) and a very intense, violent confrontation between Lootz’s son, Mikey (Shawn Hatosy) and Kaplow.

“The Cooler” is a movie that grows on you and is well worth checking out.

Bart Got A Room

Danny is a high school senior looking for a date to the prom. And like many young men, he has delusions of grandeur in choosing who to ask. Instead of taking his best friend (Alia Shakwat), he winds up chasing after several others who naturally turn him down and he’s left with his best friend, who unfortunately already has a date for the prom.

If the plot seems familiar, it’s been done countless times before. What separates it somewhat from the pack is the setting, the very Jewish community of Hollywood, Florida and their very aged residents. The interaction of Danny (a very good Steven Kaplen) and the community in which he lives is quite charming and invokes the thought of, “What if Woody Allen had moved from New York to Florida when he was a teen?”

Macy plays Danny’s father, Ernie, who is separated from Danny’s mother and spends his spare time chasing every available woman between the ages of “too young” and “too old”. But he’s hardly the lothario type, more of a single-minded loser who doesn’t seem to be aware of just how embarrassing he is to Danny and practically everyone else.

Everything about Macy’s performance begins with his hair, a frightening throwback to the 1970’s tight-curl days. And credit must be given to the unfortunate “dates” that wind up with Ernie and look like they want to be anywhere but with him. Macy is pitch-perfect all through the film and his scene with Danny in his home to check out if the walls are soundproof is pure delight. And when he does find “Miss Right” or should I say “Miss Right Now” (Jennifer Tilly) at an outdoor restaurant, only to get a desperate call from his son, Macy’s timing is nothing short of hilarious.

Yes, this is a cliché’ riddled comedy with one of the shortest running times for a feature release I’ve ever seen, clocking in at less than 75 minutes. And it has one of the most distracting “bloopers” I can remember (in the final scene, you can briefly see the Boom Mike Operator). But it does have one the best (and probably cheapest) DVD trailers that have been produced in a long time.

Who is Bart, you may ask? Well, let’s just say that once you see him, you’ll better understand Danny’s dilemma.

The Maiden Heist

Three aging security guards each have a thing for a particular work of art. Unfortunately for them, the museum is shipping out their “obsessions” overseas, so they get together to plan the perfect crime.

The three guards are Macy, Christopher Walken, & Morgan Freeman. Although billed as an ensemble, the film really centers on Walken, his obsession over the painting “The Lonely Maiden”, and his “battleship” of a wife played superbly by Marcia Gay Hardin. Freeman plays against type as a lonely man whose sexual identity is somewhat questionable, but his character is quite funny. It is Macy however who practically steals every scene as the insane George McLendon, a part-time guard who spends most of his work-time nude, posing as the statue he so loves. McLendon’s ever-changing stories about his past and his fearlessness in throwing himself into dire circumstances charges up what is otherwise a lackluster picture.

Never heard of this film? I’m not surprised since the distribution deal fell apart before it could be released to the theaters. It doesn’t help that the script seems unfinished, despite the fact it had floated around for several years before the picture was made. And it does come to a rather unsatisfying climax which you can see coming a mile away.

Still, I find it worth seeing mostly for Macy’s performance. An energetic, insane performance that’s markedly different from what he showed in “Bart Got a Room” or “The Cooler”. But that’s what makes him such a special actor.


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    • Cogerson profile image


      7 years ago from Virginia

      Excellent hub on an excellent actor.....I was so glad when he got nominated for his role in Fargo. I have seen the trailer for Maiden Heist and it is on my list of movies to I like Freeman, Walken and Macy....glad to hear that is a decent movie. Another great role for him is in State and Main...he plays a director of a movie....and nothing phases him. Voted up and useful.


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