Actor spotlight: the many faces of Bill Hader


It has become somewhat of a running joke in my family when guessing an actor in a series or film. The scene plays out something like this:

”No way! Guess who does the voice for this.”

“Hmmm, Bill Hader?”

This came about after discovering the many cameos and films that Bill Hader has been a part of. From the narration voice in Scott Pilgrim vs The World (2010), voicing BB8 in Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015), playing Captain Dozerman in Brooklyn 99 and voicing Flint Lockwood in Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs (2009) – Hader is everywhere in Hollywood yet has only recently received the recognition he deserves.

Without a doubt, Bill Hader’s most recognisable and critically acclaimed project is Barry; a dark comedy about a hitman finding a passion for acting. But before his two Emmy wins for the series, Hader, like many before him (Bill Murray, Will Ferral and Adam Sandler to name a few) started his career on Saturday Night Live. Listed as “unquestioned MVP of his last few seasons” of ‘SNL’ cast members by Rolling Stone, Bill Hader’s iconic impressions and memorable characters cement him as a modern legend of the time. Characters like Stefon, a flamboyant “city correspondent” made even Bill Hader break character, adding to the humour and longevity of the sketches. He was recognised on the show from 2005-2013 for his ability to completely change into the character he portrayed showcasing his incredible impressions of the likes of Clint Eastwood and Al Pacino. So, it was no secret in his time at SNL that he was a great actor, but like many comedians he was not considered as seriously as other actors.

Throughout his SNL days, he continued to stay in the comedy sphere, featuring in Hot Rod with cast member Andy Samberg in 2007. Hot Rod was an extremely funny and in my opinion underrated film. Despite its silly premise, super-short runtime, off-beat humour and absurdist comedy. Bill Hader plays Dave, friend to aspiring yet unsuccessful stuntman Rod Kimble (Andy Samberg). Despite having a fairly small role, I felt the film too iconic to ignore, especially considering Hader’s mullet and deadpan expression when saying “Aw man, it’s totally serendipitous”. The film also features one of my favourite musical cameos; Queens of the Stoneage performing at Rod’s final jump. Legendary.

In a similar vein, Hader had a more prominent role in the smash-hit cult-classic Superbad (2007) which was released just 2 weeks after Hot Rod. The police officer duo of Seth Rogan and Bill Hader created some of the most iconic interactions in the film with the infamous ‘McLovin’ (Christopher Mintz-Plasse). The film has now been hailed as one of the best high school movies of all time with Bill Hader’s quips and banter with Seth Rogan making it so. Despite their great reception (which is true more for Superbad than Hot Rod), these two films are not treated with the same merit as serious dramas or thrillers, but Hader still proves himself as a great comedian.

Further into the 2010’s, Hader continued on the comedic train with films like Trainwreck (2015) and Paul (2010). But in 2019, at the suggestion of Stranger Things actor Finn Wolfhard, Bill Hader starred in the Stephen King adaptation, It Chapter Two. As a big fan of the first film, I was quite disappointed with the second instalment despite its star-studded cast. The horror wasn’t great, the plot boring and the nostalgic 80’s aesthetic of the first film wasn’t there. Nevertheless, Bill Hader gave a great performance, showing his acting skills in a new light and bringing a darker dimension to the comic relief of Richie Tozier. And it was in 2018 just a year prior to the release of It Chapter Two that Hader’s best project was released: Barry.

Barry is filled with a combination of tragedy and comedy, tension and humour exploring the complicated life of Barry “Block” tied together through compelling writing and plot. Henry Winkler gives an outstanding performance as Gene Cousineau, Barry’s acting coach, providing heartfelt and meaningful scenes in the series beginning to darker and almost frightening ones as it progresses. The comedic elements of the series are elevated by Anthony Carrigan in his role as NoHo Hank, a soft-spoken and non-violent (initially) mafia boss gives some of the most memorable lines from the entire show. But it is Bill Hader’s relationship and interactions with these characters, especially through their dialogue, that makes Barry so brilliant. It combines the almost silly humour Hader explored in the early 2010’s with a extremely tense and unnerving drama, resulting in what is now considered one of the best TV shows of our time.

Image credits: Gage Skidmore via Flickr

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