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Cast As The Lead Next To Brad Pitt. Not Bad: Who Is Scoot McNairy & Why Is He Suddenly Everywhere?

Photo of Oliver Lyttelton By Oliver Lyttelton | The Playlist February 17, 2011 at 6:32AM

Momentum. In terms of building a career, there's nothing quite like it, and it's something we've commented on before -- with the rise of names like Tom Hardy, Michael Fassbender and Taylor Kitsch, actors who are, as yet, unproven as box office draws, and yet find themselves linked to every high-profile role in town. The more times they crop up on these wishlists, the hotter they become -- the snowball effect, essentially.
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Momentum. In terms of building a career, there's nothing quite like it, and it's something we've commented on before -- with the rise of names like Tom Hardy, Michael Fassbender and Taylor Kitsch, actors who are, as yet, unproven as box office draws, and yet find themselves linked to every high-profile role in town. The more times they crop up on these wishlists, the hotter they become -- the snowball effect, essentially.

The latest name to join them literally overnight is Scoot McNairy. The actor, who starred in one of the big sleeper hits of last year, Gareth Edwards' micro-budget creature flick "Monsters," last night was announced as having won the second lead in The Playlist's single most anticipated film of the next few years, "Cogan's Trade," Andrew Dominik's follow-up to "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford." The crime caper also stars Brad Pitt, James Gandolfini, Sam Rockwell, Bella Heathcoate, Ray Liotta, Richard Jenkins, Vincent Curatola and fellow new addition Ben Mendelsohn (from the Aussie hit, "Animal Kingdom").

Furthermore, McNairy was also said to be in the running for two potential tentpoles: Ridley Scott's sci-fi epic "Prometheus," in which the actor would play the love interest of lead Noomi Rapace, joining Fassbender and Charlize Theron in the cast; and "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter," in which he'd play Joshua Speed, the sidekick to the titular presidential hero to be played by Benjamin Walker with Anthony Mackie and Dominic Cooper also on board. So who is McNairy, and why's he suddenly the latest actor to be linked to everything going?

McNairy's been working solidly for almost a decade, with early brief roles in pictures like the Val Kilmer crime drama "Wonderland," indie flick "D.E.B.S," teen comedy "Sleepover" and the Lindsay Lohan vehicle "Herbie: Fully Loaded." Parts in the ensemble drama "Bobby" and Terry Zwigoff's "Art School Confidential" followed, as well as guest roles on "Six Feet Under" and the sitcom "Jake In Progress" and an appearance in the video for Regina Spektor's "Fidelity," but it was as the lead in the well-regarded "In Search of a Midnight Kiss" that the actor started to get noticed.

Working with that writer-director Alex Holdridge, whom he'd already worked with on the low-budget features "Wrong Numbers" and "Sexless," McNairy produced the picture, and was involved from the ground up. While we have our share of problems with the kinda twee, kinda cliche-indie-pop-song-rolled-up-into-a-movie indie flick, it picked up mostly strong reviews and managed to be a fairly modest sleeper hit on its release in 2008, winning the John Cassavetes Award at the Independent Spirit Awards the next year.

The picture led to further TV work on "My Name Is Earl," "The Shield" and most, notably, a recurring role on the Fox procedural "Bones," but it was the film's surprise success in the U.K. that saw McNairy find the role he's now best known for. Vertigo, who distributed "In Search of a Midnight Kiss" in Britain, were backing a low-budget monster movie from Gareth Edwards, who was looking for a real-life American couple to play the leads in his picture.

Vertigo suggested McNairy, who in turn suggested his girlfriend Whitney Able ("All the Boys Love Mandy Lane"). As impressive as Edwards' low-budget effects are in "Monsters," it's their performances that make the film so effective -- Able was sympathetic, steely and vulnerable, while McNairy brought an unusual energy and a certain cynicism to his role, so it's no surprise that it has led to great things for the duo.

In the meantime, McNairy's completed a half-dozen independent pictures, including "Wes and Ella," "Dragon Day" and "Angry White Man," and he's working with Vertigo again on the horror flick "A Night in the Woods." But it looks like Hollywood will sweep him up for the next few years, and we're sure even greater things are on their way for him. But yeah, talk about someone you've barely heard of becoming a leading actor next to Brad Pitt? Not a bad vault.

We'll admit, we curse Hollywood's lack of imagination when it comes to the films they greenlight, but when it comes to picking untested talent for major projects, they're obviously unafraid to play it risky. Ok, this somewhat patently untrue. Hollywood loves a cheap actor who could become the next big thing so they're betting big on a future investment, but their calculated move is our gain as we do get to see some new faces in roles that aren't just going to tired old names.

Some are positing the same sentiments about Adrianne Palicki. Who is she and how did she get the "Wonder Woman" role on NBC? We'll admit, we don't know all of her roles, but for one, she's 5'11" and can look lean and tough. Perfect for the Amazonian woman that David E. Kelly is developing.

She's done a lot of TV work on shows like "Friday Night Lights," "Lone Star," "South Beach" and a lot of one-off spots on shows like "C.S.I." and "Smallville." We mostly know her from Sebastian Gutierrez's super-low-budget, campy "Women in Trouble"/"Elektra Luxx" films starring his girlfriend Carla Gugino, where Palicki plays a dumb-as-rocks lesbian porn star. The films don't demonstrate much acting chops (and that's the case for every actor on board, they're basically a spoof of soap operas, however, maybe a little too close to home), but clearly, she's at least got the look and physique that has convinced the "Wonder Woman" show producers. Plus there is that thing called an audition that we're not privy to, but much like McNairy, she's gone from an unknown pretty face to an actress everyone will soon have their eyes on.

This article is related to: Actors, Actresses, Scoot McNairy, Adrianne Palicki


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