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Scott Glenn (26 January 1941 -)

Scott Glenn, who portrays former U.S. defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld in "W.", poses for a portrait at the Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills, Calif., Tuesday, Oct. 7, 2008. (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello)

Glenn is one of those rangy actors with a weathered face who pops up in a variety of movies, sometimes in the lead role, but always giving good value and on occasion making an average movie (or even a downright bad one) all the better when he’s on screen. From his feature debut in James Bridges’ The Baby Maker (1970), Glenn has been the epitomy of honest screen acting, someone the audience can rely on and sympathise with, even if he’s playing the villain. He’s made some high profile movies, including Oscar winners such as Nashville (1975) and The Silence of the Lambs (1991), and later this year he can be seen in season two of Daredevil. But in amongst all these well-known and well regarded movies and the performances that go with them, Glenn has made a number of movies that have either slipped unnoticed under the radar, or haven’t quite managed to get the attention they deserve, or feature appearances that you might not remember him making. Here are five such movies, and proof – if any were needed – that Glenn is a talented actor, and sometimes the only reason that some movies turn out as well as they do.

Carla’s Song (1996) – Character: Bradley

Carla's Song

Glenn in a Ken Loach movie? As unlikely as it may sound, it happens here, with Glenn playing an aid worker in war-torn Nicaragua who encounters Robert Carlyle’s politically naïve Glaswegian bus driver. It’s not the most well-written of roles that Glenn’s ever played, but he manages to overcome the movie’s second-half stylistic failings to keep the viewer energised whenever he appears, and Bradley’s complex motivations allow for a degree of suspense.

Freedom Writers (2007) – Character: Steve Gruwell

Freedom Writers

Glenn takes a supporting role as the father of Erin Gruwell (played by Hilary Swank), a teacher who tackles her class’s notions of racism by showing them the horrors of the Holocaust. He’s not required to do too much, and you could be forgiven for thinking he wasn’t in the movie at all, but this is one of those occasions where Glenn’s familiar features and personal integrity adds an extra layer of truthfulness to an already true story.

My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys (1991) – Character: H.D. Dalton

My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys

The last movie directed by Stuart Rosenberg – Cool Hand Luke (1967), Brubaker (1980) – this sees Glenn as a retired rodeo rider whose return home sees him face a new set of challenges thanks to his dysfunctional family. Glenn gives another subtle, nuanced turn that’s quietly convincing, and if the ending is a little too “Hollywood”, the movie’s still worth checking out for the very good work that leads up to it.

Buffalo Soldiers (2001) – Character: Sergeant Robert E. Lee

Buffalo Soldiers

In this satire on corruption and greed within the US military just before the fall of the Berlin Wall, Glenn is the top sergeant who squares off against Joaquin Phoenix’s black marketeer. As a no-nonsense, intensely loyal patriot, Glenn inhabits the character with aplomb and makes a wonderfully steadfast counterpoint for Phoenix’s less savoury activities, all of which lead to a spectacular showdown.

Personal Best (1982) – Character: Terry Tingloff

Robert Towne’s exploration of women’s athletics features a career best performance from Mariel Hemingway, but also a perfectly judged turn from Glenn as the coach who can accept that two of his athletes have feelings for each other but not when those feelings interfere with their aim to compete at the Olympics. Glenn gives such a good performance it doesn’t feel that unlikely that he could step off the screen and do the job in real life.

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