Under the Circuit: Ben Foster


Most Known For: “3:10 to Yuma,” “Lone Survivor,” “The Mechanic”

Snubbed For: “3:10 to Yuma,” “The Messenger,” “Ain’t Them Bodies Saints”

I said in the comments of the recent Logan Lerman column for Under the Circuit that his “3:10 to Yuma” co-star Ben Foster would have his own edition. Well, no time like the present. Foster has been a tremendous talent in all of his films, which have ranged from a vampire comic book adaptation to intimate indie dramas. Despite proving this on multiple occasions, Foster has been overlooked by a majority of the awards bodies, including good old Oscar.

Foster got his start on TV, with a number of roles in TV movies and recurring roles on cult hits like “Freaks and Geeks” and “Six Feet Under” – he would be nominated a couple of times by SAG as part of the ensemble for the latter. He’d even have small parts in a couple of superhero blockbusters, “The Punisher” and “X-Men: The Last Stand.” Despite “X-Men” being a major disappointment, 2006 was a breakthrough year for Foster, as he gave a solid performance in “Alpha Dog” that earned him a Breakthrough Actor award from the Young Hollywood Awards.

3-10-to-yuma-2007-5In 2007, with“3:10 to Yuma,” he gave one of his best performances. As the psychopathic sidekick to Russell Crowe’s gangster, Foster is a volcano of intensity despite his petite stature. He is a ticking time bomb in the film; you’re never sure what he is going to do next. Foster would be nominated by some critics groups and as part of ensemble by SAG, but he wouldn’t take home any trophies for his work.

After “breaking through” with Young Hollywood in 2006, Foster did it all over again after starring in Oren Moverman’s directorial debut, “The Messenger.” Starring as a veteran who returns from the war and is assigned the duty of informing family members of their loved ones death in service, Foster’s soldier must readjust to life away from battle as well as seeing the other side of war. It’s a more controlled performance than “3:10,” but no less challenging or well earned.

However, Foster would again be overlooked, save some critics, for his co-star Woody Harrelson, who gave an equally strong performance and was nominated for Best Supporting Actor by the Academy. Foster would once again “break through,” this time being nominated by the Gotham Awards.11122009_TheMessenger1

Foster would fill the next few years with another collaboration with Moverman in “Rampart” and some generic action films, “The Mechanic” and “Contraband.” All of this would lead up to an incredibly strong 2013.

The actor had three films come out in 2013, starting with “Kill Your Darlings,” where he starred as William Burroughs. He’d also have the underrated war film “Lone Survivor.” Though his fate was predetermined by the title, Foster is great in the film, as in the entire ensemble for that matter. His best performance in 2013, however, was in “Ain’t Them Bodies Saints.”

Director David Lowery harkens to Terence Malick’s “Badlands” in the film that stars Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara, but Foster’s police officer is a standout. Like the film itself, Foster gives a gentle performance but certainly an impressive one. “Saints” simply never made a strong dent in the film landscape in a crowded 2013; it was quickly forgotten despite a number of things to like about it.

That brings us to the present. Foster will be absent from theaters this year, but he has a couple of big projects coming down the pipe. He has two big films, including Disney’s “The Finest Hours” in 2015 and Duncan Jones’ highly anticipated “Warcraft,” adapted from the popular “World of Warcraft” games, in 2016.

Foster also may have his best shot at earning his first Oscar nomination with Stephen Frears “Untitled Lance Armstrong Biopic.” Foster will chronicle the rise and fall of Armstrong, a great opportunity to play one of the most conflicted subjects of the last few years.

Time will tell, but the Academy, and all awards voting groups for that matter, will hopefully soon recognize the quality of work Ben Foster has been putting out and give him his due.