Small roles meant big success for some celebs in 2002
Size matters not when it comes to memorable performances. Two crackling minutes of screen time, six catchy bars of music, one very realistic severed head — in the year 2002, such things made bigger dents in our cultural cortex than some lengthy Oscar-thons. Truly, madly, briefly, we give you the year’s best scene stealers.
SCREEN GEMS It’s not the length of your saber, it’s how you use it. The hoariest of galactic cliches was proven true by tiny, ancient Yoda in Star Wars: Episode II — Attack of the Clones when the wee green CG Muppet wailed on Christopher Lee’s Count Dooku with a Forceful repertoire of acrobatics and telekinetic jujitsu. (Even the suits at Fox seem to realize the two-minute duel is the best scene in the film, judging by their ”Who da man? Yo Da Man!” ad campaign for the Clones DVD.) For more special effects, look no further than The Salton Sea, where Vincent D’Onofrio’s repugnantly noseless, oddly huggable drug lord reenacts the Kennedy assassination with pigeons. (And he kills people, too!) If you think that’s funny, consider Austin Powers in Goldmember, where the biggest laughs were netted not by franchise regulars Mike Myers, Mike Myers, and Mike Myers, but by good-humored bit players Gwyneth Paltrow (as Dixie Normous) and Tom Cruise (as Austin Powers) — never has ”Yeah, baby” sounded so hilariously insincere. Of course, Hollywood’s original smooth talker, producer Robert Evans, nearly stole his own show in the exploding pop-up documentary The Kid Stays in the Picture. Viewers had a choice of their favorite Evans: the brash, ballsy go-getter who charmed the ladies on and off screen or the post-success, post-excess comeback kid who, despite an unfortunate stroke and an even more unfortunate tan, remains a sex symbol to this day. More double takes: Both Tovah Feldshuh in Kissing Jessica Stein and Cedric the Entertainer in Barbershop took what could have been stock roles (Jewish mother and cantankerous neighborhood oldster) and turned them into fully realized characters. And how does one begin to praise Matthew McConaughey for his ferocious turn as a rip-snorting dragon slayer in Reign of Fire? Answer: Start with his shaved pate and work your way down.
CATHODE CAMEOS After a busy year, Triumph the Insult Comic Dog has good reason to be pooped, if not pooped on: First, the candid canine lashed the geeks in line for Attack of the Clones with a batch of brilliantly improvised put-downs on Late Night With Conan O’Brien. Then he crashed the MTV Video Music Awards, tussling with the humor-deficient Eminem and making a mess on the red carpet. (”Look at this! It’s the American Idol a — hole,” he barked at catty judge Simon Cowell. ”A — hole!”) Even messier was the death of Joe Pantoliano’s Sopranos character Ralph Cifaretto, whose bald head was stuffed into his own bowling bag: We all knew there would be hell toupee for Ralph’s brazen behavior, but who was prepared for such a graphic de-capo-tation? Moving from beheading to belittling, let us not forget the stylish dressing-downs of HBO’s Project Greenlight producer Chris Moore: One minute he’s evincing a slap-on-the-back affability reminiscent of buddy Ben Affleck; the next, he’s in a fit of fury, eyes bulging with an anger only an incompetent assistant producer can provoke.