Thursday, March 22, 2012

Coolest casting news of the year: Michael Wincott to join Fox Searchlight's Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho as Ed Gein! Dare we hope for a comeback?

Variety broke the story, but since they have a pay-wall, I'll link to The Playlist.  I'm not one to comment on every bit of casting news as it happens, but this one is personally exciting so I'll share.  Most of the hub-bub about Fox Searchlight's Alfred Hitcock and the Making of Psycho has focused on the casting of Scarlett Johansson as Janet Leigh and Jessica Biel as Vera Miles, with Anthony Hopkins and Helen Mirren as Mr. Hitchcock and his wife.  But buried in the flurry of casting news is what I can only pray is a comeback role for one of my favorite character actors.  Among those joining the cast is none-other than Michael Wincott, who will be playing real-life serial-murderer Ed Gein, who allegedly served as the inspiration for Norman Bates (arguably more-so in the original Robert Bloch novel than the Hitchcock movie).  Anyway, I won't go into Gein's sordid history here (although he's only confirmed to have murdered a few people), but I will say that if you feel like spending $9 to buy the 2003 remake of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre  on blu-ray, there is a fine documentary about the man.  He is the loose inspiration for Norman Bates, Leatherface, and Buffalo Bill from The Silence of the Lambs, so I suppose it makes sense that he would play a role in this making-of-a-movie story.

Point being, I complained way back in October 2008 about the lack of work that had come Wincott's way over the 2000s.  He hasn't been seen in a studio release since Magnolia's tepid showbiz satire What Just Happened? back in October 2008, and he all-but disappeared after his turn in 2001's Along Came A Spider, where he played Gary Soneji (basically the Moriarty for Detective Alex Cross).  I don't presume to assume that this will be some kind of rebirth for the forever-congested character actor (I've often joked that he sounds like someone who has smoked since he was 6 years old and hasn't cleared his throat since middle school), but I can only hope that perhaps he has reached the age where he is now a 'distinguished character actor'.  Steady work, especially outside of television guest spots, can be tough when you're too old to be a strapping hero but too young to be a mentor or authority figure.  But once you stick it out long enough you can sometimes pull a Bruce McGill and have a second wind as 'that guy'.  McGill is a prime example, as he barely worked in the 1980s save for his guest turns as Jack Dalton on MacGyver.  But all it took was one small role in Michael Mann's The Insider (with one of the film's few 'crowd-pleasing moments') to show off his elder-statesman qualities and he's been steadily employed in major movies ever since.  Any way, we've been down this road before, so here's hoping that this seemingly high-profile role will get Wincott back on the casting directors' lists yet again.

Scott Mendelson

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