Most Known For: “Spider-Man” trilogy, “Juno,” “The Closer”
Snubbed For: “Juno”
It’s a good thing I’m writing this article now, because in a couple months there’s a very good chance that veteran character actor J.K. Simmons will no longer be eligible for this column. Simmons has received a lot of praise for his performance in the upcoming “Whiplash” and seems a heavy favorite for an Oscar nomination for Supporting Actor, if not already in the pole position. But let’s take a look back at Simmon’s career up to this point, and why he is a favorite among the industry.
Ever since Simmons began his film and television career, he has gave standout performances. Whether it be as the manager in Kevin Costner’s forgotten baseball drama “For Love of the Game” or a recurring role over three of the four “Law & Order” series. His role as the neo-nazi inmate Vernon Schillinger on HBO’s cult prison drama still remains a fan favorite as well.
Simmons’ big break, however would come in 2002 when he was cast as J. Jonah Jameson in Sam Raimi’s “Spider-Man” trilogy. Simmons portrayal of the loudmouth newspaper editor was a highlight whenever he was on the screen. If he had had more screen time, a half decent arc and wasn’t just comedic relief those performances might have been included as one of his snubs. However, his performance was so good that it is the one thing the new “Amazing Spider-Man” films haven’t dared to touch yet.
After “Spider-Man” Simmons would find a collaborator that has given him some of his best roles. Simmons has been in every Jason Reitman movie since Reitman’s first feature film, “Thank You for Smoking,” including a small role in the director’s latest, “Men, Women and Children.” He was great in “Thank You for Smoking” and his lone scene in “Up in the Air,” but Simmons best performance in a Reitman film was in “Juno.”
As Juno’s father, Mac MacGruff, Simmons provides classic pearls of wisdom to the titular character. He has a particularly great scene with Ellen Page at the dinner table about love that is one of the sincerest moments in the film. He is just as on point when he is spewing out the dry humor. Considering the love the Academy had for “Juno” it is surprising more of a campaign didn’t materialize for Simmons, but it was really good work nonetheless.
Since then Simmons has teamed up with the Coen brothers on a number of occasions in small roles, he’s been memorable in films like “I Love You, Man” and has had some hit and misses on TV, including “The Closer” and the comedy “Growing Up Fisher.”
There is no need to speculate about his potential Oscar chances because he has a golden one this year. “Whiplash” has been getting raves from its festival screenings, including Sundance where it won both the Jury and Audience prizes. Simmons reprises his role as the band teacher from hell that he played in writer/director Damien Chazelle’s short film version of the film. I can’t wait to see the performance for myself, but word of mouth makes it seem like Simmons will be a near lock for a nomination – if not we’ll have an even bigger snub to add to his resume.
“Whiplash” will open in select theaters this Friday, Oct. 10.