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Avengers 2: James Spader Retrospective

Avengers 2: James Spader Retrospective

As one of the biggest movies of the year is about to be unleashed across cinemas, for good reason most of the talk around Avengers Age of Ultron is the regrouping of the elite A-list ensemble as part of the superhero squad including Scarlett Johansson and Australia’s own Chris Hemsworth. The Marvel universe is in full swing with many more comic book adapted stories on the horizon with productions green-lit beyond the next five years. At some point, the super hero big screen influx has to implode. Not every attempt can be a hit, but not yet. This one is already anticipated as eager by pop culture fans on an equal if not higher scale than the upcoming Star Wars Episode 7.

Little has been mentioned however of the new addition to the cast playing master villain Ultron. Of Boston origin, 55 year old James Todd Spader has stood the test of time where many Hollywood talents longevity is often tested. Preferring to be called Jimmy, coming through the ranks in the glorious 1980s, Spader became an unofficial member of the so called Brat Pack of the time due to starring alongside many of his pinup colleagues in many now considered retro classics.

It is often said that an impressive bad guy often gets the most attention, Jimmy perfected it. A first major role was as a harassed bike-riding teenager (although he was 25 at the time) in Tuff Turf opposite the future Ironman himself Robert Downey Jr and Real Housewife of Beverly Hills Kim Richards when she looked natural. Not a massive box-office hit, it became a cult favourite VHS rental as this new kid in town went head on to aggravating the high school street gang in order to win the heart of the most unattainable girl.

In true 1980s individuality amongst the bravado of fighting, he starts a new ‘dance’ during a school disco and even takes the reigns of a grand piano to serenade the gang babe much to the disgust of the leader’s angst. Tuff Turf is a time capsule worth seeking out and really just started the ball rolling for a decade of cool, interesting and edgy roles that often consisted of sneaky bad boys.

All time favourite Pretty in Pink, showed his rich yuppie rude side to perfection not able to deal with the rejection of Molly Ringwald. 1987 was a big year for Spader in three vastly different projects intimately playing the same sleaze ball yuppie roles. Mannequin and Wall Street were the major successes but it was in the scrutinised Less Than Zero, that his performance as an objectionable drug dealing pimp made critics take notice.

Still early in his career, nothing could have predicted the response to a genuine strange role in a movie that many thought would never get distributed but has since become a trailblazer for the independent film industry. Sex, Lies and Videotape, received a standing ovation at the prestigious Cannes film festival, mixed reviews from critics could not stop the buzz and the debut from director Steven Soderberg was a hit. As the unannounced visiting friend of a cheating businessman who asks women to talk about desires or fantasies while video recording them in order to cure impotency upon playback, Spader gets under your skin but in fact is the most normal person in the story. Sex, Lies and Videotape remains a notorious timeless classic largely due to making the viewer uncomfortable through performance.

More commercial fare followed, the wicked Bad Influence (more sex on videotape but of a different kind with Rob Lowe) and romance drama with an older woman, Susan Sarandon in White Palace, but controversy was about to strike again. Secretary, pre-curser in some respects to Fifty Shades of Grey, Spader plays a shady office boss that delights his unhinged new secretary (Maggie Gyllenhaal) in the art of bondage. Crawl space in the office took on a whole new meaning.

Raising eyebrows even higher was Crash, the confronting story of a group of individuals that seek out car wreckage or create their own so they can converse in depraved activities amongst the metal. The blonde hair and square jaw matinee looks took a back seat in Crash, still there but not as obvious.

Spader wasn’t always about depraved characters but he did have a building list of obscure roles. Wolf was a commercial failure but starred Jack Nicholson as a modern day werewolf sharing an unforgettable scene with Spader marking his territory at a men’s urinal. Taking on a genre that was not so good to him when starring in the abysmal Supanova, a science-fiction would-be epic that was so questionable many of his fellow cast and the director fought to take their name out of the credits.

When the original Stargate took the box-office by storm, Spader and his teaming with action man Kurt Russell became another hit in his levitated career successfully into sci-fi. Having always applauded the attitude of Spader and his defining movies not equal to the usual Hollywood path with very few mishaps along the way, except for possibly the regrettable The Watcher with Keanu Reeves, I’ve enjoyed his style. Television was kind in recent years, multiple Emmy award nominations and wins for popular network shows Boston Legal, The Office and currently The Blacklist.

James Spader shows no sign of slowing down and although I am not permitted to give away exact details as of writing this about Avengers Age of Ultron, his silky smooth operatic voice and rhythmic movements of an accomplished actor is put to brilliant use in a rare blockbuster from his alternate film background.

Shane A. Bassett

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