Most Known For: “Spider-Man 2,” “An Education,” “The DaVinci Code”
Snubbed For: “Spider-Man 2,” “An Education,” “Frida”
There have been a number of British invasions over the years that have brought us such talents as The Beatles, Julie Andrews, and, as of late, Benedict Cumberbatch. But our closest ally has supplied us with countless wonderful artists that have received much less fanfare. One example is Alfred Molina, a character actor who has given some wonderful performances over his 30 plus year career but still manages to go under the radar.
Molina’s first major film in Hollywood was a pretty big one, Steven Spielberg’s “Raiders of the Lost Ark.” Sure, he gets killed in the opening booby trap scene without ever uttering a line, but you can’t ask for a better way to start your career than in one of Hollywood’s most iconic films. Molina would find bigger parts on TV and the indie circuit for a good while. Some highlights would be “Ladyhawke,” “Prick Up Your Ears” alongside Gary Oldman, and “Enchanted April,” which was nominated for 3 Oscars. Things really started to pick up in the mid-90s and early 2000s with roles in Paul Thomas Anderson’s “Boogie Nights” and “Magnolia,” and Lasse Halstrom’s “Chocolat.”
Success on the awards circuit, outside of ensemble work, would come in the form of 2002’s “Frida.” As the husband to Salma Hayek’s Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera, Molina plays a double-sided character. He helps push Kahlo to continue with her artwork, but also causes her much heartbreak with his infidelities. Molina would receive his only individual SAG nomination for his performance and a BAFTA nod.
Molina’s biggest role to date and his biggest snub are one in the same, his magnificent performance as Dr. Octavius in “Spider-Man 2.” Still a year away from Christopher Nolan’s “Batman Begins,” Sam Raimi’s “Spider-Man” franchise was the start of the superhero mania we are still in today, and Molina’s portrayal of the villainous Doc Ock was a key piece in the genre’s strives for respectability.
Molina’s Octavius is not a single layered villain, who simply wants destruction, he is a conflicted soul who has lost the love of his life and as a result desperately attempts to salvage his life’s work no matter the cost. It may have been a chicken and the egg scenario, but it is interesting to think what would have happened with this performance if it had come after Heath Ledger’s Joker. But because it was still in the early days of the new superhero genre, Molina’s performance got very little mainstream recognition.
2009 was the last time Molina really flirted with the Oscars with his supporting role as Carey Mulligan’s father in “An Education.” “An Education” probably doesn’t get enough credit for it’s great ensemble, which featured Peter Sarsgaard, Rosamund Pike, Olivia Williams, Dominic Moore and Emma Thompson, but each had moments to shine. Molina particularly had a great speech, which likely led him to be the supporting character most often singled out by the likes of BAFTA, the Broadcast Film Critics Association, London Film Critics and more. Again, his leading lady would be the only one to grab the Academy’s attention.
2014 has already proven to be a strong year for Molina, however. He was an Emmy nominee for his supporting role in Ryan Murphy’s “The Normal Heart,” and he may very well be on his way to a number of other critic citations for the recently released “Love is Strange.” Ira Sachs’ intimate story of a gay couple forced to temporarily separate after one is fired and they must look for a new living situation. Molina stars alongside John Lithgow as the two leads, and both are receiving heaps of praise for their work. Having not seen the film yet it’s hard to say, but considering how stacked Best Actor is, we may have another potential snub right in front of us.
Alfred Molina may have never made girls scream like some of his fellow Brits after they cross the pond, but whether or not the Academy chooses or not to recognize him one day we should all be thankful that he made the trek.