Happy Birthday to William Fichtner — a Modern Classic

William Fichtner in "The Perfect Storm"Much of the time around here we’re talking about old things, and dead people, and it felt like a good time to be able to celebrate someone who’s alive, well and doing wonderful work in the movies.  Actor William Fichtner — the face is definitely familiar if perhaps you don’t immediately connect the name — turns 52 years old today.  Fichtner’s name in the credits of a movie or television show make you sit up and take notice, waiting for his appearance, because you know it won’t disappoint. 

You’ve no doubt seen him in some of the recent past’s most successful films, working for an assortment of contemporary directors who look to him as a solid onscreen presenceWilliam Fichtner in "Strange Days" who always adds something special to a scene.  (By the way, his last name is pronounced fick ner).  Fichtner’s a Long Island boy who made it big in soap operas — As The World Turns — then graduated to minor uncredited roles in several movies such as Quiz Show.  He received good notices for his recurring role in the TV comedy Grace Under Fire in 1995, and soon after his feature film career William Fichtner in "Contact"started to take off in earnest. 

Roles in Virtuosity, Strange Days, Heat and several others led to his standout role as Jodie Foster’s blind scientist colleague, a charming and sympathetic supporting performance, in the science fiction drama Contact from 1997.  The movie roles just kept coming, sometimes smaller, sometimes more major, but William Fichtner and Jodie Foster in "Contact"always showing his versatility and credibility onscreen.  Switchback was followed by a role as part of the macho ensemble of players in director Michael Bay’s overdone but popular meteor-meets-Earth disaster action movie Armageddon, which put Fichtner smack in the middle of a box office mega-hit.  He went from Armageddon to a series of smaller but interesting roles in movies like the 1999′s offbeat drug drama Go, the equally offbeat all-star murder comedy Drowning Mona, and the romance Passion of William Fichtner in "Armageddon"Mind opposite Demi Moore.

In 2000 he joined the cast of The Perfect Storm, director Wolfgang Petersen’s adaptation of the best-selling book about the tragic aftermath of a once-in-a-lifetime weather event on the crews of several commercial fishing boats.  He followed that up with a role, again for William Fichtner in "The Perfect Storm"director Michael Bay, in his ambitious but ultimately not-so-successful Pearl Harbor, but soon was back in the audiences’ good graces via his role in the harrowing Black Hawk Down, based on the book of the same name, about a group of U.S. soldiers who find themselves in the middle of a violent uprising in Somalia.   Fichtner also assured his place in the hearts of hardcore gamers everywhere with his voicework in the insanely popular and controversial title Grand Theft Auto (plus a sequel).  Here’s the trailer for Black Hawk Down:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4bSxp7Pu6Ac]

William Fichtner in "Black Hawk Down"Since then, Fichtner’s enjoyed a career which has freely moved between television and motion pictures, the latter including Equilibrium, 2004′s Oscar-winning drama Crash, 2005′s The Longest Yard, the futuristic vampire pic Ultraviolet, the broad comedy Blades of Glory, and most recently a role in the latest Batman movie The Dark Knight.  Television-wise, William Fichtner’s done great work in the short-lived medical drama MDs, HBO’s miniseries Empire Falls, plus he turned short-lived science fiction series Invasion into a mini-cult classic, and these days is enjoying super tube success with a big role as agent Mahoney in Fox’s exciting drama Prison Break.   Here’s his scene from The Dark Knight:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vRvfUwLOTME]

I know you’ve seen William Fichtner and enjoyed him.  He’s the kind of actor whose performances are worth savoring and seeking out.  We love to talk about classic actors around here, and William Fichtner is certainly the new version of one, a contemporary classic with many more skilled performances ahead of him.  We look forward to all of them.  Happy Birthday, William Fichtner!

(Many thanks to The Official William Fichtner Fan Site and Fanzone50.com for the lovely pics of Mr. Fichtner!)

6 Responses Happy Birthday to William Fichtner — a Modern Classic
Posted By rhsmith : November 28, 2008 1:54 am

I wrote something about Lionel Atwill a while ago, that his bad guy roles gave his (at times) thinly written good guy roles an extra layer of meaning or at least an extra something and I think the same is true of William Fichtner. When he plays bad (who didn’t love seeing him get his comeuppance in Heat?) you love hating him but when he’s on the side of the angels it’s a particular pleasure.

Posted By rhsmith : November 28, 2008 1:54 am

I wrote something about Lionel Atwill a while ago, that his bad guy roles gave his (at times) thinly written good guy roles an extra layer of meaning or at least an extra something and I think the same is true of William Fichtner. When he plays bad (who didn’t love seeing him get his comeuppance in Heat?) you love hating him but when he’s on the side of the angels it’s a particular pleasure.

Posted By Jenni : November 29, 2008 11:25 pm

I will always associate this actor with As the World Turns, which I watched off and on in the mid- to late 1980s, when Mr. Fichtner played,I think, crazy Josh, Lillie’s real father. He did such a good job playing a crazy creepo that is sadly how I remember him whenever I happen to see him on screen!

Posted By Jenni : November 29, 2008 11:25 pm

I will always associate this actor with As the World Turns, which I watched off and on in the mid- to late 1980s, when Mr. Fichtner played,I think, crazy Josh, Lillie’s real father. He did such a good job playing a crazy creepo that is sadly how I remember him whenever I happen to see him on screen!

Posted By Stephen : December 1, 2008 10:03 am

Definitely a fine character actor, in a current filmmaking era that’s starving for them. Seeing his name in the opening credits usually brings some sort of relief about what is to come.

Also got to meet him when he was in my city filming Julie Walking Home with director Agnieszka Holland, and he was very charming and pleasant to chat with, even if for just a short time.

Posted By Stephen : December 1, 2008 10:03 am

Definitely a fine character actor, in a current filmmaking era that’s starving for them. Seeing his name in the opening credits usually brings some sort of relief about what is to come.

Also got to meet him when he was in my city filming Julie Walking Home with director Agnieszka Holland, and he was very charming and pleasant to chat with, even if for just a short time.

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