In praise of Hope Davis, who could make Hollywood's A-list with ''Matador,'' and nine other dependable movie MVPs who deserve similar attention

By Gary Susman
December 17, 2005 at 05:00 AM EST
Hope Davis: Stephanie Pfriender/Corbis Outline
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Image credit: Hope Davis: Stephanie Pfriender/Corbis Outline

Hope Davis

It’s time that Hope Davis became a star

WHERE YOU KNOW HER FROM About Schmidt (2002), where she played Jack Nicholson’s exasperated, soon-to-be-married daughter

WHERE ELSE? She played comic book author Joyce Brabner (a.k.a. Mrs. Harvey Pekar) in American Splendor (2003) and the suburban housewife adrift in Manhattan in The Daytrippers (1996).

MUST-SEE ROLE She’s a Boston nurse stumbling into romance via the personals in the comedy Next Stop Wonderland (1998).

WHY SHE SHOULD BE A STAR Like Wonderland costar Philip Seymour Hoffman, Davis is a chameleon and is equally adept at comedy and drama.

NEXT She’s a deceptively bubbly housewife in The Matador (opens in limited release Dec. 23). In 2006, she’ll costar in biopics of faux Howard Hughes biographer Clifford Irving (The Hoax) and Truman Capote (Infamous).

Image credit: Philip Seymoure Hoffman: Dana Lixenberg/CORBIS OUTLINE

Philip Seymour Hoffman

It’s time that Philip Seymour Hoffman became a star

WHERE YOU KNOW HIM FROM Almost Famous (2000), where he played rock critic and mentor Lester Bangs

WHERE ELSE? He was Ben Stiller’s slobby best friend in Along Came Polly and lovelorn porn film crew member Scotty J. in Boogie Nights (1997).

MUST-SEE ROLE State and Main (2000), the David Mamet farce in which he stars as a screenwriter whose moral compass is tested during a small-town film shoot

WHY HE SHOULD BE A STAR Hoffman is astonishingly versatile and chameleonic; in 1999, he was in theaters simultaneously as a compassionate nurse (Magnolia), a drag queen/music tutor (Flawless), and a preppy snob (The Talented Mr. Ripley).

NEXT Hoffman is already earning Oscar buzz for his uncanny incarnation of author Truman Capote in Capote (in theaters). Then he goes into thriller mode with Tom Cruise in next summer’s Mission: Impossible 3.

Image credit: Elizabeth Banks: Sebastian Copeland/CORBIS OUTLINE

Elizabeth Banks

It’s time that Elizabeth Banks became a star

WHERE YOU KNOW HER FROM The 40-Year-Old Virgin, where she plays the sexually eager bookstore clerk who has a memorable moment in a bathtub

WHERE ELSE? She was Jeff Bridges’ wife in Seabiscuit (2003) and cheery Daily Bugle staffer Betty Brant in Spider-Man (2002) and Spider-Man 2 (2004).

MUST-SEE ROLE She’s Michael Showalter’s out-of-his-league fiancée in The Baxter (2005).

WHY SHE SHOULD BE A STAR She’s a babe; she’s funny; she could be the next Rachel McAdams.

NEXT Next spring there’s the horror movie Slither, then the next Spider-Man.

Image credit: Bobby Cannavale: Craig Blankenhorn/Corbis Outline

Bobby Cannavale

It’s time that Bobby Cannavale become a star

WHERE YOU KNOW HIM FROM NBC’s Third Watch, where he played paramedic Bobby Caffey during the first two seasons (1999-2001)

WHERE ELSE? He was Will’s beau Vince on Will & Grace and Lisa Kudrow’s massage-therapist boyfriend in Happy Endings (2005).

MUST-SEE ROLE He’s the hot dog vendor who befriends Peter Dinklage in The Station Agent (2003).

WHY HE SHOULD BE A STAR He has hunky Latin looks and proven leading-man appeal in both straight and gay roles.

NEXT He costars with James Gandolfini, Susan Sarandon, and Kate Winslet in the forthcoming musical Romance and Cigarettes.

Image credit: Chiwetel Ejiofor: Fabrice Trombert/Retna

Chiwetel Ejiofor

It’s time that Chiwetel Ejiofor became a star

WHERE YOU KNOW HIM FROM Dirty Pretty Things (2002), where he’s the immigrant doctor-turned-porter who uncovers a grisly mystery in a London hotel

WHERE ELSE? He’s a heavy in Serenity (2005), a Detroit crime boss in Four Brothers (2005) and Keira Knightley’s bridegroom in Love Actually (2003).

MUST-SEE ROLE He’s composer/pianist Ellis Moonsong, who romances Radha Mitchell’s title character in Woody Allen’s Melinda and Melinda (2005).

WHY HE SHOULD BE A STAR He’s handsome, suave, and charming, qualities that serve him equally well in heroic, villainous, and romantic roles.

NEXT He costars with Denzel Washington and Jodie Foster as a cop in Spike Lee’s Inside Man, due in the spring.

Image credit: Judy Greer: Daniel Chavkin/Corbis Outline

Judy Greer

It’s time that Judy Greer became a star

WHERE YOU KNOW HER FROM 13 Going on 30 (2004), where she plays Lucy, Jennifer Garner’s backstabbing colleague

WHERE ELSE? She’s Orlando Bloom’s sister in Elizabethtown (2005), the waitress Nicolas Cage fantasizes about in Adaptation (2002), and Jennifer Lopez’s frazzled assistant in The Wedding Planner (2001).

MUST-SEE ROLE Kitty, the blackmailing secretary on Fox’s Arrested Development

WHY SHE SHOULD BE A STAR She’s hilarious and sexy in an offbeat, Anne Heche kind of way, but she’s been stuck in a rut of Joan Cusack-type best friend parts.

NEXT She’s costarring with Tom Cavanagh in CBS’ new romantic drama series Love Monkey (premiering Jan. 17). She also appears in next year’s big-screen satires American Dreamz and The TV Set.

Image credit: Catherine Keener: Warwick Saint/ContourPhotos

Catherine Keener

It’s time that Catherine Keener became a star

WHERE YOU KNOW HER FROM Being John Malkovich (1999), where she played John Cusack’s seductive coworker Maxine

WHERE ELSE? She’s Daniel Day-Lewis’ girlfriend in The Ballad of Jack & Rose (2005) and the frustrated housewife who makes tiny chairs out of twigs in Lovely & Amazing (2002).

MUST-SEE ROLE She’s Trish, the single mom and online merchant wooed by the inexperienced Andy (Steve Carell) in The 40-Year-Old Virgin (2005).

WHY SHE SHOULD BE A STAR No matter the role, Keener radiates a worldly intelligence.

NEXT She’s To Kill a Mockingbird author Harper Lee in Capote (in theaters). In April, she costars with Jennifer Aniston in the dramedy Friends With Money.

Image credit: Peter Sarsgaard: Emily Shur/CORBIS OUTLINE

Peter Sarsgaard

It’s time that Peter Sarsgaard became a star

WHERE YOU KNOW HIM FROM Garden State (2004), where he plays Mark, the continuously stoned gravedigger

WHERE ELSE? He was a very game assistant to sex researcher Alfred Kinsey (Liam Neeson) in Kinsey (2004) and a killer in Boys Don’t Cry (1999).

MUST-SEE ROLE He’s Charles Lane, the New Republic editor who cleans up the mess left by reporter and serial fabricator Stephen Glass (Hayden Christensen) in Shattered Glass (2003).

WHY HE SHOULD BE A STAR He’s quiet but dramatic and fearless, à la John Malkovich.

NEXT He’s currently on screen as the air marshal in Flightplan, and as a Gulf War Marine alongside Jake Gyllenhaal in Jarhead.

Image credit: Kerry Washington:Daniela Federici/CORBIS OUTLINE

Kerry Washington

It’s time that Kerry Washington became a star

WHERE YOU KNOW HER FROM Ray (2004), where she played Della Bea, long-suffering wife of Ray Charles (Jamie Foxx)

WHERE ELSE? She was Alicia Masters, the blind woman who takes a liking to The Thing (Michael Chiklis) in Fantastic Four (2005), and she was Jasmine, assassin Angelina Jolie’s colleague, in Mr. & Mrs. Smith (2005).

MUST-SEE ROLE She stars as Niecy, an upwardly mobile shoplifter, in Lift (2000).

WHY SHE SHOULD BE A STAR She’s classy, beautiful, and smart, and she deserves more than girlfriend roles.

NEXT She’s appearing opposite Forest Whitaker, who stars as Ugandan dictator Idi Amin, in next year’s The Last King of Scotland.

Image credit: Jeffrey Wright: Isabel Snyder/CORBIS OUTLINE

Jeffrey Wright

It’s time that Jeffrey Wright became a star

WHERE YOU KNOW HIM FROM Shaft (2000), where he played Dominican drug kingpin Peoples Hernandez

WHERE ELSE? He’s Bill Murray’s nosy neighbor Winston in Broken Flowers (2005) and ’80s art-world sensation Jean Michel Basquiat in Basquiat (1996).

MUST-SEE ROLE Wright plays three characters, most notably, the fierce and compassionate nurse Belize, in HBO’s Angels in America (2003).

WHY HE SHOULD BE A STAR Wright’s a shape-shifter who all but disappears into his roles.

NEXT He’s an oil company lawyer in the Middle East spy thriller Syriana (in theaters), and he appears opposite Paul Giamatti in next year’s M. Night Shyamalan drama Lady in the Water.

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