David Thewlis is fantastic as VM Vargas in season three of Fargo, but this isn't his first great part.
Here, we rank some of his most loved and much maligned films from worst to best...
Basic Instinct 2 (2006)
A blot on the resume of all who worked on it, Michael Caton-Jones’s limp sequel to the Paul Verhoeven erotic thriller earned Thewlis a Golden Raspberry as Worst Supporting Actor for his troubles. Terrible on almost every level, despite Sharon Stone returning to the role of novelist Catherine Tramell, Verhoeven’s daring cheek and Michael Douglas’s v-neck jumper were replaced by British stiffness. Thewlis plays the cop on her tail, but his talents - and everyone else’s - are wasted.
The Island of Dr. Moreau (1996)
Director Richard Stanley’s much-maligned adaptation of the HG Wells classic is better known for its chaotic shoot than the final film itself. Star Val Kilmer bullied his way through pre-production, Marlon Brando went missing after the suicide of daughter Cheyenne, and tension between Stanley and his film studio were tense at best. Thewlis was cast as UN negotiator Edward Douglas, a role that had already been given to James Woods and Northern Exposure’s Rob Morrow. Then, three days into the shoot, Stanley was fired and John Frankenheimer stood in to finish the film. As tempers raged, Brando and Kilmer spent hours fuming in their respective trailers, and Thewlis rewrote his own character, which in turn, got on Brando’s nerves.
The Omen (2006)
Taking the role that David Warner made famous in Richard Donner’s 1976 original, Thewlis plays unlikeable photographer Jennings, who captures strange omens in his pictures that are premonitions of the bizarre deaths for which the original film was famous. Where Warner's Jennings was decapitated by a sheet of glass, Thewlis gets his comeuppance when a falling sign separates his head from his body. Thewlis hams it up but doesn’t match Warner’s grimy take on the character.
Gangster No 1 (2000)
Thewlis plays London gangster Freddie Mays, a dodgy geezer who finds himself on the hit list of his criminal opposition. Left for dead with his fiancée, played by Safron Burrows, bleeding by his side, Mays might have avoided this perilous predicament if Paul Bettany’s young gangster hadn’t ignored the fact he knew the hit was going to happen. The joy of the film, however, is when we meet the gangsters in later life. Malcolm McDowell, playing an older version of Bettany's gangster, and Thewlis duke it out in a very sweary verbal confrontation.
Cast because Rob Cohen loved his performance in Naked, Thewlis plays King Eoin, another despicable character. In Dragonheart, a fantasy featuring a fire-breathing dragon voiced by Sir Sean Connery, his regal rascal is more in the boo-hiss panto category, however. Drako the dragon saved a young Eoin’s life by sharing his heart. Now grown up a tyrannical king obsessed with destroying the last remaining dragon, Eoin must kill the dragon without whom he would be dead. As always, Thewlis lends the mythical nature of the film a gritty realism and an unhinged quality.
Aussie director Justin Kurzel, fresh from the sickening Snowtown, made a full bloodied version of one of the great Bard's most brilliant works. Alongside a stellar cast including Michael Fassbender and Marion Cottilard as the titular Scottish general and his lady, Paddy Considine, Jack Raynor and Aussie Elizabeth Debicki, Thewlis excels as the ill-fated King Duncan, who must die to fulfill a witches’ prophecy. Visually stunning, Kurzel’s operatic adaptation of Shakespeare’s Scottish play is littered with thespians at the top of their game and Thewlis, as always, delivers.
The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas (2008)
Based on the novel of the same name by Irish writer John Boyne, The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas is a holocaust story told through the eyes of two young boys. One, the son of the Nazi camp commandant; the other, from a Jewish family. The innocence of youth during such a horrific period in history is beautifully portrayed. The final scenes, when Thewlis’s Ralf realises what has happened to his missing son are devastating.
Thewlis lent his vocal talents to Charlie Kaufman’s exquisite stop-motion comedy Anomalisa, based on the writer/director’s own play of the same name. Thewlis plays customer service expert Michael Stone, who is travelling to Cincinnati, Ohio to promote his latest book. Everyone he sees and meets looks the same to him, thanks to the voice of Tom Noonan. That is, until he meets Jennifer Jason Leigh’s Lisa. The animation is delightful and the introspective drama unique in its depiction of a lonely soul. Thewlis’s sombre tones are the perfect accompaniment to Kaufman’s askew view of the world.
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004)
The third Harry Potter film marked the first appearance of Remus Lupin. Lupin taught at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry as the Professor of Defence Against the Dark Arts but resigned after Severus Snape (Alan Rickman) revealed Lupin moonlighted as a werewolf. As a student, the lycanthrope joined Gryffindor and was a member of the Order Of the Phoenix. Thewlis obviously had a ball in the role, adding class to the fantastical part, and was lucky enough his character had legs - four, in fact - with Lupin appearing in all of the subsequent films in the magical franchise.
Largely improvised, Mike Leigh’s bleak and brutal Naked was a vicious kick in the guts for the '90s British middle classes. Thewlis played perennial loner Johnny, fleeing Manchester after sexually assaulting a woman. He heads to London and proceeds to destroy every relationship laid before him. It’s an amazing performance. Johnny is a truly despicable and unlikeable character. He rants and raves about the world, using his scabrous wit as a defence mechanism against everything and everyone he hates - almost as much as he hates himself. The sociopath has no redeemable qualities and therefore every moment he is onscreen is unmissable.
An all new season 4 Fargo story will premiere with two weeks of double episodes, beginning 8.30pm Thursday 8 October on SBS. Episodes will continue weekly at 9.30pm from Thursday 22 October. New episodes will be available at SBS On Demand each week on the same day as broadcast.
Relive the first three standalone seasons of Fargo from September 17 at SBS On Demand.
Watch the first episode of season 3 at SBS On Demand right here: