The Most Well Known Extra in Hollywood - Tommy Flanagan
The man known as Tommy Flanagan is mainly a supporting actor, but more often than not, has barely uttered a word in the movies he appeared in. He has had an incredible career but many people just don’t know it. He has popped up in great movies since the early 90’s and has been in scenes with Mel Gibson, Val Kilmer, John Travolta, fellow Scots Robert Carlyle and Gerard Butler, Ice Cube, Colin Firth, Nicholas Cage, Russell Crowe, Michael Douglas and Clive Owen.
This may seem redundant seeing as he now has a major role in Sons of Anarchy as Chibs Telford, but Tommy has a history of popping up in great, big production movies.
Tommy was born and raised in Glasgow, Scotland. After a DJ gig one night and with a stroll home, Tommy was attacked and his face was cut at either side of his mouth then he was left alone to bleed. This was an uncalled for crime but Tommy never let it get the better of him.
He started his career in small bit parts, or even as one the most distinctive extras due to his noticeable scarring. He wasn’t taken seriously because of this and his skills were set aside in favour of playing the hired goon so to speak. Tommy landed the special role of Morrison in Mel Gibson’s Braveheart, starring alongside the man himself. Tommy had a couple of lines, but nothing much.
His next role in his journey as the iconic background villain, was Phillip Noyce’s The Saint with Val Kilmer. Here is a scene.
He went on to star as Nicholas Cage’s henchman in John Woo’s Face/ Off. By now Tommy has only made a face for himself and has become very recognisable. At this stage he seems to be everywhere and even stranger is that people are noticing him without actually realising it.
David Fincher was next to cast him in his thriller The Game with Michael Douglas. Flanagan played a crazed taxi driver trying to kill Douglas. Take a look.
Flanagan seems well versed at playing the bad guy and doesn’t seem to mind the typecasting. But I think he and his agent seem to realise that he simply can’t be the leading man with his scars and strong Scottish accent. He has the charisma, the screen confidence and the experience, but he has always known that work is wherever he could find it. But he certainly landed on his feet with his credentials so far.
He then stars in the British movie called Plunkett and Macleane alongside long time friend and fellow Scot Robert Carlyle, Johnny Lee Miller and Liv Tyler. This was only a stepping stone for Tommy though, as he would star alongside Russell Crowe in Ridley Scott’s Gladiator as Cicero. Tommy is certainly getting around.
It is unfortunate that he has hardly any lines or often none at all. But we can’t feel sorry for him with a list of work that he has already. But it still doesn’t end!
He starred alongside Gerard Butler in the TV miniseries Attila, and was the Irish Henchman in Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle.
Tommy has definitely been a happy bunny to be in so many big pictures. Whether you say something or not, it surprises me how much I wouldn’t mind just being the guy in the background of every movie. The thing about this and I find it to be quite strange, is that no movie producer or director appears to have recognised him in anything else and cast him as if he was cast for the first time. He is so distinctive that once he is noticed in a scene, the focus of the viewer is on him trying to figure out who he is.
Tommy goes off to feature in Alien vs Predator in 2004, then amazingly the star studded Sin City the following year. I don’t remember him in that movie, but you probably don’t remember that John Cusack was in Stand by me as well. If you go back and watch it the chances are that you will spot him.
He then takes a stab at When a Stranger Calls and becomes a sadistic hitman named Lazlo Soot in Joe Carnahan’s Smokin’ Aces. He did go on to star in the straight to DVD sequel, but the original crew were not involved. After guest appearances in tv shows like Lie to Me, 24 and Detroit 187, he landed the role of his career in FX primetime show Sons of Anarchy about a gang of bikers and the realities within. It’s basically Soprano’s with Bikes. He has a speaking role and amazingly he’s Scottish throughout.
I do not own this clip nor claim to own it.
Flanagan has made a career of being in the background. God knows how much money you make being in the background. You are essentially an extra with targeted on screen time. You have a higher purpose than an extra sitting down, reading the newspaper or pretending to talk to someone. You are in a scene, and are supposed to be there.
I don’t know how this worked out for him. I like him a lot just because of this, and I hope that many of you start seeing him in the movies I have mentioned. As this man has been around, and has worked with directors the likes of Mel Gibson, John Woo, Ridley Scott, David Fincher, Paul W.S Anderson, Robert Rodriguez and Joe Carnahan. He has an impressive history, and now approaching 50, will he star in his role of a lifetime? We can only wait and see. I hope you do Tommy!