5 Must-See Films Starring Bill Pullman
This year’s Excellence Award Moët & Chandon honors an actor capable of playing romantic leads, Lynchian antiheroes and, on two separate occasions (the second one on television), the President of the United States. Over the course of a 30-year career (his first film role was in Ruthless People, released in 1986), Bill Pullman has worked with the likes of Mel Brooks, Lawrence Kasdan, Michael Winterbottom and Rob Reiner. To celebrate his presence in Locarno, we look back on five unforgettable performances, in order of release.
Though it may not be as sharp as The Producers or Young Frankenstein, Mel Brooks’ parody of science-fiction films (Star Wars first and foremost) still manages to deliver a reliable series of good gags, thanks primarily to an excellent cast. Pullman is on Luke Skywalker/Han Solo duty as Captain Lone Starr, a role that was turned down by Tom Cruise and Tom Hanks. Their loss was Pullman’s gain, as he gets to show off his comedic chops next to the likes of John Candy and Rick Moranis. May the Schwartz be with him!
While You Were Sleeping (1995)
Jon Turteltaub’s romantic comedy might have a hard time getting made today (even back in 1995, the only way to get the script approved was to switch the genders of the protagonists), but beyond the slightly problematic premise lies a rather sweet and amusing love story, that owes most of its success to the chemistry between Pullman and Sandra Bullock. Effortlessly charming, the actors share an on-screen bond that still elicits smiles and tears, two decades after the film’s original release.
Independence Day (1996)
The belated sequel, currently in cinemas, doesn’t quite have the same goofy charm as the original, and not just because Will Smith is absent this time around. Pullman’s performance as President Whitmore, however, remains as electrifying as it was twenty years ago, and it’s no accident that his epic speech about freedom played a pivotal role in the marketing. All together now: «We will not go quietly into the night! We will not vanish without a fight! We’re going to live on! We’re going to survive! Today we celebrate our Independence Day!»
Lost Highway (1997)
«We’ve met before, haven’t we?» A seemingly innocent conversation is but the beginning of a protracted nightmare, during which David Lynch puts all his obsessions onto the screen with typical gusto and glee. Trapped between realities, Pullman delivers an affectingly relatable performance as an ordinary man thrust into a situation beyond his control. His presence is so magnetic that the film almost begins to suffer when he morphs into Balthazar Getty.
Zero Effect (1998)
Loosely based on Conan Doyle’s famous story A Scandal in Bohemia, Jake Kasdan’s crime comedy reinvents Sherlock Holmes as private investigator Daryl Zero (Pullman), a socially awkward misanthrope who is asked to investigate a blackmail scheme. Pullman is on top form, and forms a compelling screen duo with Ben Stiller, who plays Zero’s assistant Steve Arlo. Kasdan subsequently tried reviving Zero’s adventures on the small screen, unsuccessfully. For now, Pullman remains the one and only Daryl Zero, and that’s more than enough.Max Borg