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Life Begins at 60: The Reintroduction of J.K. Simmons

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J.K. Simmons was 60 years of age when he walked up to the podium to deliver his speech for winning Best Supporting Actor at this year’s Academy Awards. His career up until this point has been a bit of a mixed bag – turning in some indelible, electrifying displays in some films, and lending his talents to several projects that it’s likely you’ve never even heard of – and for good reason.

In the past few years, Simmons has appeared in TV shows such as Ben 10: Ultimate Alien, Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore, and even The Marvellous Misadventures of Flapjack. Hardly shows that will earn him a Golden Globe anytime soon – but littered in between these productions, comes an array of impressive performances, where he portrays his distinct aptitude for both comedy and drama, excelling in both.

He’s a regular collaborator of Jason Reitman, for starters – having been cast in every single one of the popular director’s cinematic endeavours. The Coen brothers are also big admirers of Simmon’s work, as he’s appeared in The Ladykillers, True Grit, and a memorable turn in Burn After Reading. It just shows that important filmmakers in Hollywood are aware of what he’s capable of, and seemingly enjoy having him around on set.

But it’s really only now that J.K. Simmons is a name you could speak about with friends, safe in the knowledge they’re likely to know who he is – and that’s thanks to Whiplash. Before this remarkable performance that led to a fully deserved Academy Award, he was known to many as “Peter Parker’s boss in the Spider-Man films”. Or to some, just “the dad from I Love You, Man”.

But as Fletcher in Whiplash, he really showed off his talents, as the vindictive, tyrannical music teacher that locks horns with his pupil Andrew, played by Miles Teller. It’s one of the performances of last year without question, as you fear, empathise with, and hate this man in equal measure. For somebody with such an eye for comic timing, his ability to be a savage bully is quite remarkable to say the least.

What you can hope for off the back of this success, are more roles of this ilk. Often confined to mere supporting roles, if there’s anybody that now deserves more leading performances, it’s J.K. Simmons. He’s already in line for a handful of major roles too – appearing in the forthcoming Terminator Genisys, not to mention a role alongside Anna Kendrick and Ben Affleck in The Accountant. The most exciting of all is Kong: Skull Island, where he stars alongside Tom Hiddleston, and another actor given a new lease of life: Michael Keaton.

J.K. Simmons is an example of actor with bags of ability, but rarely the platform to show it off. Now, with the hype – and success – behind him, you feel the best is yet to come: proving that sometimes in Hollywood, age really is just a number.

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About Stefan Pape

Stefan Pape is a film critic and interviewer who spends most of his time in dark rooms, sipping on filter coffee and becoming perilously embroiled in the lives of others. He adores the work of Billy Wilder and Woody Allen, and won’t have a bad word said against Paul Giamatti.

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