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L.A. Confidential, 20 Years Later
Based on the James Ellroy novel of the same name, L.A. Confidential tells the story of three LAPD detectives with widely differing methods who team up to uncover corruption and fight for justice in the City of Angels. Drawing upon actual headlines from the 1950s and depicting the push and pull between Hollywood glamour and its underlying seediness, the 1997 film earned nine Academy Award nominations, including one for Best Picture. Overseen by the late writer-director Curtis Hanson and marked by evocative, atmospheric design and crisp writing, L.A. Confidential secured a place in history with its deep cast, combining the efforts of established talents (Kevin Spacey, Kim Basinger, Danny DeVito) and then-rising stars (Guy Pearce, Russell Crowe). Twenty years after L.A. Confidential brought the streets of midcentury Los Angeles to life, let's catch up on what the cast members have been up to.
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Kevin Spacey (Jack Vincennes)
When Spacey took on the role of celebrity crimestopper Jack Vincennes, he was already well on his way to being known as one of the premier actors of his generation. He'd delivered masterful and varying performances in Seven, Glengarry Glen Ross, and The Usual Suspects, winning an Oscar for the latter. As Vincennes — a snappy-dressing cop more concerned with his public image than his arrest record until the death of an innocent precipitates a change of heart — Spacey turned out another career highlight. Since then he has continued to make unexpected choices: winning his second Oscar for 1999's American Beauty, playing Lex Luthor in Superman Returns, and channeling his inner Shakespearean villain as Frank Underwood on Netflix's House of Cards. An acolyte of the stage, he also served as the artistic director of London's Old Vic theatre for 11 years. In 2017 alone, he took on another season of House of Cards, played a crime boss in the summer hit Baby Driver, and hosted the Tony Awards. With roles as Gore Vidal and J. Paul Getty on the horizon, he doesn't appear to be slowing down anytime soon.
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Russell Crowe (Bud White)
Crowe was still an up-and-coming Australian actor with only two American films to his name when he scored the role of Bud White, a cop who is unafraid to use violence to get a confession and has a soft spot for victims of domestic abuse. L.A. Confidential brought him stateside recognition, and many felt he deserved an Oscar nomination for his subtle work as a quiet enforcer who falls for high-class prostitute Lynn Bracken (Kim Basinger). Crowe soon went on to Oscar recognition, earning back-to-back nominations for Gladiator (2000) and A Beautiful Mind (2001) and winning for the former. He once again played a tough-guy detective in 2016's The Nice Guys and recently portrayed Henry Jekyll in Universal's reboot of The Mummy.
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Guy Pearce (Edmund Exley)
English-born, Australian-raised actor Guy Pearce was also a fresh-faced newcomer in Hollywood when he was cast as Exley, an ambitious young detective so obsessed with justice and proving himself that he's willing to break codes of brotherhood within the police force to uncover corruption. Pearce made his breakout performance as a drag queen in 1994's The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, but Exley marked his first major role in an American film. Since then, he has gone on to feature in both awards contenders (The King's Speech, Memento) and blockbusters (Prometheus, Iron Man 3). Pearce revisited the noir genre with his Emmy-winning turn as Monty Beragon in the 2011 miniseries adaptation of James M. Cain's Mildred Pierce. A lifelong lover of music, he released his first album, Broken Bones, in 2014. This year he appeared in Dustin Lance Black's miniseries about the gay rights movement, When We Rise, and he has no fewer than seven film projects in the pipeline.
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James Cromwell (Dudley Smith)
Since his television debut in 1974, including a recurring role on All in the Family, Cromwell has not wanted for work. His most memorable role is perhaps that of Farmer Hodgett in the Babe movies, but many cite his layered performance as the conniving, duplicitious Capt. Dudley Smith in L.A. Confidential as his best work. His résumé since then has featured a multitude of television work, including recurring roles on Six Feet Under, 24, American Horror Story, and Boardwalk Empire. His film roles have also remained abundant, with appearances in Oscar winners (The Artist, The Queen) and tentpoles (Spider-Man 3, the upcoming Jurassic World sequel). More recently, he has made headlines for his work as an activist, including being sentenced to jail time for his participation in a New York power plant protest.
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Kim Basinger (Lynn Bracken)
Basinger, who began her career as model and portrayed a Bond girl in Never Say Never Again, was the perfect choice to play the mysterious Lynn Bracken, a character modeled after classic femme fatales. Basinger won an Oscar for her portrayal of Bracken, a prostitute who uses her uncanny resemblance to Veronica Lake to attract customers. It was her first film after a two-year absence from the screen following the birth of her daughter with Alec Baldwin. Since then, she has gone on to feature in many films, often taking a year or two off between projects. She memorably portrayed Eminem's mother in 2002's 8 Mile, also directed by L.A. Confidential helmer Curtis Hanson. In 2016, she reunited with L.A. Confidential love interest Russell Crowe in The Nice Guys, another tale of detectives and corrupt law enforcement. Most recently, she featured as Elena Lincoln, Christian Grey's former lover in Fifty Shades Darker.
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Danny DeVito (Sid Hudgens)
DeVito had already amassed a formidable list of credits by 1997, including an Emmy-winning, career-making role as hot-headed dispatcher Louie DePalma on Taxi. His reputation for playing mean-spirited crooks made him an ideal choice for mercenary gossip rag editor Sid Hudgens. That same year, he earned a new generation of fans as the voice of satyr Phil in Disney's animated take on Hercules, and since then he has appeared in countless films, including Big Fish, Be Cool, and Death to Smoochy, which he also directed. His production company with ex-wife Rhea Perlman, Jersey Films, has produced numerous hits, and DeVito earned a Best Picture Oscar nomination for 2000's Erin Brokovich. Since 2006, he has shown off his comedic chops as curmudgeon Frank Reynolds on FX's It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia.
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David Strathairn (Pierce Patchett)
Strathairn is another of the stalwart character actors populating the cast of L.A. Confidential. He plays Pierce Patchett, a millionaire developer who dabbles in citywide corruption and runs a high-class prostitution ring with girls who resemble movie stars. Strathairn rose to fame in the films of John Sayles, particularly the baseball drama Eight Men Out, and he also had another memorable baseball role as women's league manager Ira Lowenstein in A League of Their Own. Since 1997, he has widened his profile, earning an Oscar nomination for his portrayal of tenacious journalist Edward R. Murrow in Good Night, and Good Luck. He also won a 2010 Emmy for his work in the HBO telefilm Temple Grandin. Action fans will recognize him as CIA deputy director Noah Vosen from the Bourne franchise, but most recently he's had recurring roles on television's Billions and Z: The Beginning of Everything.
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Ron Rifkin (Ellis Loew)
Ron Rifkin's turn as morally bankrupt District Attorney Ellis Loew is one of his most memorable roles, but he's become a television favorite in the years since. Just before L.A. Confidential, he had a recurring role on ER. Many viewers will remember him as defense attorney Marvin Stan Exely on Law and Order: SVU, a role he reprised often from 2011 to 2014. Perhaps most famously, he portrayed ruthless intelligence agent Arvin Sloane on Alias and Sally Field's business partner Saul Holden on Brothers and Sisters. Recently he's had recurring roles on Gotham and the short-lived Limitless.
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Matt McCoy (Brett Chase)
Matt McCoy sent up the image of the archetypal TV detective as L.A. Confidential's riff on Dragnet's Joe Friday (just the facts!). He'd already become a fan favorite for his recurring role as Lloyd Braun on Seinfeld, and today he continues to make a splash on television in a string of guest and recurring roles. Most recently, he appeared as disbarred lawyer Pete Monahan on Silicon Valley, and he'll soon be seen as Dr. Nadler in Amazon's Jack Ryan series.
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Simon Baker (Matt Reynolds)
Simon Baker, then known as Simon Baker Denny, made his film debut as Matt Reynolds, a naive young actor caught in the web of Jack Vincennes and Sid Hudgens' flashy celebrity arrests. His role was small but memorable, with his character's fate inspiring a crucial turning point in the film's twisty plot. Since then, he's become a far more prominent star, tempting Anne Hathaway in The Devil Wears Prada and leading CBS' crime procedural The Mentalist for seven seasons.