Waterloo Region Record

Nelson’s smorgasbor­d of characters


The first thing Tim Blake Nelson does when he gets on the phone to talk about his new feature film, “Angel Has Fallen,” is apologize for being five minutes late. That he can carve five minutes out of his acting schedule is remarkable, as he has nine projects being released this year.

“If I haven’t slept, it’s probably because I feel so lucky,” Nelson says. “It’s the life I always wanted to lead and it’s extraordin­ary that I’m getting to do it now.”

The Tulsa, Okla., native knew from an early age he wanted to be an actor. He’s been playing a wide variety of roles on television and in movies since 1989. In “Angel Has Fallen,” he takes on the role of Vice President Kirby, a politician pushed into the highest office when an assassinat­ion attempt sidelines President Allan Trumbull (Morgan Freeman). The chief suspect is world-saving Secret Service agent Mike Banning (Gerard Butler). As in most political thrillers, many of the players have secrets. Whether the vice president is hiding something will only be revealed by seeing the movie.

“He is a reassuring­ly complex character because he certainly has more nuance than characters usually do in these movies,” Nelson says. “I think that is the same with Jerry’s (Gerard Butler) character as well. Jerry is not just your workaday action movie star. He’s not just a wooden action hero, he’s an actor.

“I am lucky to be in a cast of really wonderful actors telling a story that is a little more complicate­d and nuances than the usual fare in this kind of movie.”

Nelson adds that when he hears himself talking in such terms about a massive action movie, he almost has to laugh. The bottom line is that it is loaded with gun battles, explosions and fights that will garner most of the audience’s attention.

The experience Nelson brought to “Angel Has Fallen” follows no pattern, going from the quirky Coen Brothers film “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” to the comic book-inspired “The Incredible Hulk.” He continues to take on different jobs with the upcoming movies “Just Mercy,” “The Long Home,” “The True Don Quixote” and “Arara.”

The smorgasbor­d of characters has been mostly by design. “I won’t lie to you and say that sometimes I need work and I take the best work that’s available,” he says. “I think because of the way I look that it is a self-selective process and most of the stuff that ends up coming to me is because I am a little offbeat in my appearance and energy, I end up being offbeat by nature and therefore interestin­g to people.

“I am attracted to stuff — even if it is a big studio movie like ‘Angel Has Fallen’ —which is going to offer a challenge and be something I have never done before even in a subtle way with some subtlety and nuance to the writing. Sometimes you find that in the most obscure indie and sometimes you are just surprised it is in a franchise movie like ‘Angel Has Fallen.’”

Two upcoming projects are examples of finding good writing in small projects and major franchises: “The True Don Quixote” and “Watchmen.” The first has Nelson playing the title character in an updated version of the Miguel de Cervantes story about a man who dreams the impossible dream. “Watchmen” puts him into another comic book project that has a major following.

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Tim Blake Nelson

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