That Actor Whose Name You Don’t Know: Leland Orser

That Actor Whose Name You Don’t Know: Leland Orser

Some actors are simply too distinctive to forget since their face or their voice, or both will be immediately recognizable when they show up in a movie or on TV. This is why it’s hard to not notice Leland Orser, even if you don’t happen to remember his name. That part is forgivable in some cases since he’s played a lot of characters, and most of them with that sarcastic, deadpan note that some might not care for that much but many think is what makes Leland the kind of guy he is since in many of his roles he feels as though he’s walking through them in a boring kind of manner that indicates that he’d rather be anywhere else. The performance he puts on most of the time though is usually good enough that one can still accept the fact that he puts his own spin on things and helps to make the movie a little more balanced because of it. He’s played the villain and he’s played someone that’s not exactly the hero, but who definitely pushes the story forward in a manner that makes it clear that he’s not the bad guy. That might not make a lot of sense when one really thinks about it but the point of saying it is that he has played characters that aren’t good or bad, but that still helps the heroes far more than the villains.

A good example is the role of Larry Purvis in Alien: Resurrection, since the character was innocent enough given the fact that his ship was hijacked by spacefaring pirates and transported to a military research vessel that was, duh duh duh, experimenting with DNA they’d pulled from the same planet where Ellen Ripley had tangled with a xenomorph in Alien 3. Keep in mind that she did have blood drawn, and it was apparently still in the lab on the prison planet. So through some means of movie magic, the military cloned Ripley over and over and even managed to replicate the xenomorphs in what can be described as a bonehead move that many people could see coming. But long story short, Purvis and the rest of his crewmates were impregnated with embryos and somehow he was the last one to survive since he had a xenomorph that decided to be a late bloomer in his chest.  He wasn’t really a heroic character, but he went out in a strange but effective fashion since he took the life of the chief science officer by pressing the back of his head to his chest just as the baby xenomorph was bursting free. The result was pretty gruesome, but it served a rather effective purpose.

Then there are movies such as Very Bad Things in which he played the slightly off-kilter Charles Moore, who wasn’t a bad person but also wasn’t a good person since he went along with the group when it came to covering up two murders and in the end became a brain-damaged vegetable that couldn’t walk because of a horrendous car accident that came along like some cosmic judgment to deliver a big heaping of karma to Charles and his last remaining friend. Leland tends to play characters that are usually not all good or bad, but he’s played villains that are kind of despicable even if they’re a little hard to believe since he straddles that line between good and bad so often. In The Bone Collector with Denzel Washington and Angelina Jolie, it was a bit hard to understand why anyone couldn’t pinpoint him as the killer since in the trailers his voice was a dead giveaway as there was no attempt to mask it or even alter it, meaning that all one had to do was listen for his customary tone of voice and it was simple to realize just who was committing the murders. But then again, some folks don’t know the sound of one actor’s voice from another and were genuinely surprised since Orser isn’t always the bad guy and such a turn is kind of hard to see coming at times. Maybe I’m just a nerd along with a lot of those that can distinguish voices, but this was one kind of a gimme since there was no one else in the movie that it could have been.

In any case, Leland Orser is a fun actor to watch since he can be sarcastic as hell and make you laugh simply because he deadpans so well as he’s done in his TV appearances, or he’s kind of unnerving, but in a good way since he does kind of a disappear in a cast but is easy to listen for and spot when the moment is right. Forgetting him in the middle of a star-studded cast isn’t too hard, but recognizing him again is easy.

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