Scots Wha Hae

The career of Brian Cox
By RYAN STEWART  |  August 3, 2006

OPEN WIDE: Brian Cox as Hannibal Lecter
Scottish actor Brian Cox is an ace at playing villains. He played Hannibal Lecter before Anthony Hopkins. He played Trotsky. He played Agamemnon and Hermann Goering and William Stryker. He even played a villain in Rushmore. The guy could teach a course – and did, in Adaptation. Yet he’s still pretty far from a household name.

According to his Wikipedia entry, he’s one of those actors who refuses to watch his own work. That means there's a slew of stuff he's never laid eyes on. But we’re more than happy to watch it all for him, and inform him that he was at his best in these ten films:

1. Hannibal Lecter
Manhunter (1986)
In the Michael Mann-directed adaptation of Thomas Harris’s Red Dragon, Cox was the first actor to play Lecter, the role later made famous by Anthony Hopkins. The whole “who was better” debate is, however, for another time.

2. William Stryker
X2: X-Men United (2002)
This was a good gig for him: probably earned him some bank, and he got to play the guy who gave Wolverine his adamantium skeleton.

3. Hermann Goering
Nuremburg (2001)
He won an Emmy for his role in this made-for-TV mini-series. Which makes him our second Emmy-winner in the Summer of Schlub (Patricia Clarkson was the first).

4. Captain John O’Hagen
Super Troopers (2001)
He’s the babysitter of the bumbling rule-bending Vermont State Trooper Precinct, a role he attacks gamely as the token “actor who knows what he’s doing in the no-budget dumbass comedy.” Speaking of which . . .

5. Dr. William Guggenheim
Rushmore (1998)
Of course, this movie had Bill Murray in it, so it’s not like Cox was the only one who knew what he was doing here. Anyway, he’s the headmaster of the Rushmore Academy who spars with Max Fischer over a variety of issues.

6. Leon Trotsky
Nicholas and Alexandra (1971)
It’s his film debut, in which he plays the future Communist leader. I had to watch this movie in AP European History class back in high school. True story.

7. Argyle Wallace
Braveheart (1995)
Cox appeared in both of 1995’s Scotland movies: Braveheart and Rob Roy. He plays William Wallace’s uncle who takes him in. William Wallace did not refer to him as “Sugar Tits.”

8. Robert McKee
Adaptation (2002)
For those who don’t know, Robert McKee is a real guy, who wrote a real screenwriting instructional book (The Story) and who really does hold seminars like the one Charlie Kaufman (Nic Cage) attends in this movie. And reportedly, McKee requested that if he was going to be written into the film that he be played by Brian Cox.

9. Ward Abbott
The Bourne Identity (2002) and The Bourne Supremacy (2004)
He’s a CIA honcho with genuinely evil designs (like ordering the killing of his underlings.)

10. Alec Hewett
Match Point (2005)
He’s Jonathan Rhys Meyers’s father-in-law who takes him in, gives him a job, fixes him up with his daughter, helps them land that beautiful apartment, and, unwittingly, supplies him with the shotgun he uses to murder his secret lover (Scarlet Johansson.) Guess that should have been a spoiler warning . . .

Related: Flashbacks: February 10, 2006, Hannibal Rising, Maneaters: A history, More more >
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