Dots and dashes

The career of David Morse
By RYAN STEWART  |  June 22, 2006

060623_morse_main1
David Morse in 16 Blocks
Just about any list of the greatest character actors working today would include David Morse. And with good cause. He gets a ton of work and knocks every role out of the park. Plus, he can play auxiliary good guys and villains' sidekicks with equal skill. And he's got the other important pre-requisite to succeed as a character guy in today's Hollywood: the look. He doesn't look like a guy you see in films; he looks like a guy you see on the street in a working-class town. And that's why you've seen the Beverly-born Morse (not to be confused with the late David Graf, who played Tackleberry in Police Academy) in so many movies and shows –- sometimes without even remembering who he is. Here's a look back.

1. Major Tom Baxter
The Rock (1996)
In The Rock, Michael Bay's best film (until Transformers comes out), Morse plays second fiddle to Ed Harris's General Hummel. Enraged by the way the government has treated them as soldiers, they take over Alcatraz. Morse, as is the case with many of his roles, plays someone with a motive you can relate to, even if he is "the bad guy."

2. Brutus Howell
The Green Mile (1999)
This film's cast reads like a dream team of underappreciated character actors: Morse (playing the warm-hearted second-in-command to Tom Hanks), James Cromwell, Michael Jeter, Barry Pepper, Patricia Clarkson, Graham Greene, Harry Dean Stanton, and Sam Rockwell, who was recently anointed "too famous to be considered underappreciated"

3.Kevin Richter
Double Vision (2002)
Very few Americans have seen it, but this role earned Morse a Golden Horse award nomination for Best Supporting Actor (that's the Chinese-language Oscars, held in Taiwan). The first American actor to be so honored, at that.

4. Jack
The Good Son (1993)

He's Elijah Wood's father. He's the one who thinks it would be a good idea to let him live with his aunt and uncle. Oh, and their sociopathic son, too.

5. Adam Beck
The Negotiator (1998)
Morse gets some serious screentime with Samuel L. Jackson and Kevin Spacey as the cop who feels Jackson's negotiation style is too risky. This film also features character actor hero J.T. Walsh.

6. Bill Houston
Dancer in the Dark (2000)
He's the guy who rents Bjork's house to her. Lars von Trier must have been a fan, as he cast him in Dogville, too. But that one's a little too “film school” for me.

7. Frank Nugent
16 Blocks (2006)
He's the bad guy here: a crooked cop with an agenda. Specifically, get to Mos Def's character before he can testify against the other crooked cops.

8. Mike Olshansky
Hack (2002-04)
This really was it. This was the show that should have brought him to national prominence. Morse was the lead: an ex-cop turned lowly cab driver. He'd had some rough times, but so did the fares he picked up, and he did what he could to help. Even if it meant ruffling a few feathers. But the show was on Friday nights, and really never took off.

9. Luke
The Long Kiss Goodnight (1996)
Morse is the guy the amnesiac Geena Davis thought was her love interest because she remembered so much about him… But it turns out that he was actually once her target back when she was an assassin. He gets to torture her in this one.

10. Ted Arroway
Contact (1997)
You wait the whole film to discover that the alien was really Jodie Foster's father. And who played that father? David Morse.

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