James Badge Dale. Heard of him? Probably not. But you should have. With The Departed, Shame, World War Z, Flight and Iron Man 3 Dale has been racking up credits in both big budget blockbusters and interesting independent films: and he’s consistently brilliant. Ladies and gentleman, I present the case for James Badge Dale – the most underrated actor in Hollywood.
Fans of Empire’s podcast and blog may be familiar with the concept of a “27 percenter”; an actor who can steal scenes from the headline stars despite being billed further down the cast list. Their appearance on screen is regularly greeted with a shout of “Oh, that guy? I love that guy!” These are no overrated hacks: they’re excellent actors like David Morse, William Fichtner and Chris Cooper. As Empire explain, what earns these stars the title of being a 27 percenter is “their ability to make even the most cliche-ridden, workmanlike dross seem an exciting prospect.”
To many, James Badge Dale is the perfect candidate for inclusion in this illustrious gathering, with his string of exceptional supporting performances and ability to divert attention from the stars without resorting to scenery chewing histrionics. However, I would argue there is much more to Dale than being a 27 percenter. He deserves more.
James Badge Dale is leading man material.
Like many, I was first made aware of Dale back in 2003 when he played Chase Edmunds, the young field agent and boyfriend of Kim Bauer, in season three of 24. He defied expectations of being the annoying and expendable sidekick by holding his own against Kiefer Sutherland and proving himself a commanding screen presence in his own right. Injury ruled out his character’s future in the series but Dale had done enough to leave his mark: a young, charismatic and handsome star able to balance drama and action with conviction.
A native of New York and the son of parents in the acting profession, his first film credit was the largely forgotten 1990 remake of Lord of the Flies, when he was only 12. 24 seemed set to be his big break, but Hollywood failed to come calling and Dale was largely absent from our screens for a number of years, notching up only the occasional CSI appearance alongside a minor role as Trooper Barrigan in The Departed (2006), where he didn’t look out of place alongside DiCaprio, Damon and Wahlberg.
In 2010, Dale returned with a vengeance, landing the lead role in the TV series Rubicon as well as one of the three leads in HBO’s Band of Brothers follow-up, The Pacific. He particularly distinguished himself in the latter, not only standing out amongst an impressive ensemble of young talent but also giving arguably the most complex and difficult performance of the three leads. While Joseph ‘the kid from Jurassic Park’ Mazzello captured Eugene Sledge’s arc of an innocent youth’s maturation amidst the brutality of war and Jon Seda gave a heroic performance as the Medal of Honor-winning John Basilone, Dale’s Robert Leckie had to embody the middle ground between the two. Across the series Dale demonstrated his extraordinary potential, showing Leckie’s fear, trauma, arrogance, humour and charm. His performance in The Pacific appears to have inspired his recent cinematic roles; and lest we forget, it was Band of Brothers that introduced us to the likes of Tom Hardy, Damien Lewis, James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender …
Since 2010 Dale appeared in Robert Redford’s The Conspirator (2011) and alongside Liam Neeson in The Grey (2012), as well as playing the cocky colleague of Michael Fassbender in Shame (2011) and the gaunt cancer sufferer sharing a smoke with Denzel Washington in Flight (2012). 2013 saw Dale rise to new heights, bringing a confident swagger to the Extremis-powered killer, Savin, in Iron Man 3, military machismo to his special forces operative in World War Z, and empathy to his role in Parkland as Lee Harvey Oswald’s brother – the best performance in the film. Perhaps his finest hour was in the much-maligned The Lone Ranger, where he continued his fraternal roles as the older brother of Armie Hammer’s eponymous protagonist. However, unlike Hammer, Dale had the stoic, self-assured confidence and charisma of a hero: he should have been The Lone Ranger!
Whatever the role, Dale delivers. 2014 will see him reteaming with The Grey helmer Joe Carnahan for Stretch, alongside Chris Pine, as well as roles in Miss Meadows and A Relative Stranger, while in 2015 he joins Cate Blanchett and Catherine Keener in David Mamet’s Blackbird. But this isn’t enough: somebody needs to give him a leading role because, trust me;
James Badge Dale is the real deal.
Are you a devotee of Dale? Who would your top 27 percenters be? Let us know below…