Little Roles That Moved You Big

Up late last night and watched Midnight Run - hadn’t seen it since it was out in 198(8? 9?). But I was struck again with a reaction I remember having sixteen or so years ago… the great, albeit extremely brief, performance given by the girl who played DeNiro’s daughter. Skip tracer DeNiro has captured embezzling accountant Charles Grodin, and is trying to return him to LA to collect the bounty. Their journey is derailed by all sorts of problems, and DeNiro runs out of money near Chicago, where his ex-wife and daughter live; he hasn’t seen them in several years. But he’s forced into the embarrassing position of having to show up on his ex-wife’s doorstep and ask her to borrow money. They quickly end up yelling at each other, re-hashing old wounds. In the middle of this, they freeze as they realize the daughter, now an eighth-grader, is there.

The ex gives DeNiro a little cash and lets him take her car. As he’s leaving, the daughter comes out and offers her dad another hundred, her babysitting money. DeNiro says he can’t take it. The girl tries to insist; he keeps refusing. And painted almost perfectly on her face is the aching desire to do something, make some connection with the father she hasn’t seen in years. But she doesn’t know how, and DeNiro’s character doesn’t know how either.

That was it. Total screen time less then three minutes, I think. But DAMN. I don’t know who the little girl was, but she nailed that role.

Cloris Leechman in “Hanging Up” a terrible movie with Diane Keaton, Meg Ryan, Lisa Kurdrow and Walter Matheau. She’s in one scene with Meg Ryan where she plays her mom that abandoned her and her sisters to the care of their father (Matheau). Ryan comes to confront her about it after all these years. Leechman is heartbreaking and really the only sympathetic character in the movie. She reveals that motherhood “just didn’t take”. They were far better off with their loving but crass and alcoholic father over a woman who didn’t want anything to do with them.

I found that performance memorable, too. The role was played by Danielle DuClos.

There are probably quite a few mentioned in Best performance by an actor in only one scene of a movie

Well, not nearly as serious as the other suggestions in this thread, but one role which has stuck with me over the years…

In the zombie movie Dead Alive, by that guy who went on to do that Lord of the Rings trilogy you might’ve heard of… there was a priest who seemed fairly normal when you first see him, although maybe a bit fire and brimstonish.

However, the scene in the cemetary, when the zombies attack, reveals his true nature… as he suddenly flips out into full martial arts mode. His tagline: “I kick arse for the LORD!”

Man, I laugh so hard every time I see that scene, I have trouble breathing.

Another, similar scene was in a fairly bad grade B horror movie… something about a haunted house or somesuch. A nun finds out about the demons haunting the place and, in a montage scene such as you might find in any action movie, starts getting dressed to fight them. The way she slung her rosary beads around with a dramatic “swish” sound, and wielded her yardstick as a sword made the movie for me. A small character, but I wanted the whole movie to be about her.

Omigawd omigawd omigawd.

I know that girl.

Not personally or anything. But she was Jenny in the stage version of Aspects of Love I saw.

Wow. Two reasons to be impressed by her.

I’ve got you all beat. The role I’m about to describe is so small, it’s smaller than Bush’s approval rating. It lasts about 15 seconds. It’s a nonspeaking role. <i>By a computer generated character</i>. Yeah, that’s right.

The movie is <i>Toy Story</i>. Near the beginning, Mr. Potato Head rearranges his face and pulls a “look, I’m a Picasso!” joke. The piggy back says, “Eh, I don’t get it.” Potato man then walks away, past a faceless hockey puck. He says, “Ah, whaddre you lookin at, ya hockey puck?” The hockey puck (which has hands) merely shrugs.

That one tiny little shrug did two things. One, it amused me to no end. Two, it taught me how to be laid back in life and not worry about other people’s problems. Or my own, if I can help it. That’s a lesson I will live by for the rest of my life.

I win.

Anthony LaPaglia - as the Mafia wannabe trying to be good - stole every scene he was in, in Betsy’s Wedding.

Edna “E” Mode in The Incredibles did likewise.

Love 'em. Just love 'em.

For me, nothing can surpass the “anal probe” monologue in Passion Fish.

And if that just encouraged one more person to see the movie, then my work is done here.

Night Of The Demons 2. Up to that point, the nun has been a standard dull, stiff, authority figure. But after the montage she’s not only funny, she gives a good portrayal of a devout Christian combatting actual demons. After the demons take away her yardstick, the nun says

“I have all I need right here (taps chest). It’s a little thing called faith.”

:eek: I own that movie and I don’t remember such a scene. Note to self: must rewatch Passion Fish.

The girl with the pink coat in Schindler’s list. Seeing that coat pass by without her was as sad as it would have been to watch her die.

I’ll have to disappoint you: it’s a dialog scene, wherein they discuss the proper reading of a line. Very funny.

What a great movie.

Edward Norton in Kingdom of Heaven made a masked leprosy victim very fuckable (ymmv) :cool:

I was gonna mention that too! Weird. It was the first thing I thought of when I read the OP. The guy who played Saladin in that movie did a very fine job in a smallish role.

Capt. Hunt’s sister appears briefly in one scene in Breaker Morant. She doesn’t say a word, just looks down and blushes as Morant is singing a love song to an Edwardian drawing-room audience. I don’t even remember her name, but that scene has stuck with me for 20+ years.

I always thought Brad Pitt was fantastic as the stoner dude in True Romance. I don’t know what kind of “research” he did for that role, but speaking from some pretty extensive experience myself I thought he nailed it.

I don’t know if you know it or not, but the pig is voice by Don Rickles, famous insult comic. His signature line is calling someone a hockey puck.

If by pig you mean Potato Head, then yes. Throwaway gag? Sure. Still funny? You bet.

I was watching the new DVD release of the 1966 racing movie Grand Prix last night and thought of this thread at one point.

The British driver, Stoddard has been badly injured and is returning to the family home after being released from the hospital. It’s a very nice place in the country and judging by the hired help on hand they must be fairly well to do. His mother is around but say’s very little, mostly hovering in the background, looking concerned and yet very “stiff upper lip”. Next day or so he and his friends are wheeling his late (killed in a racing accident) brother’s old race car out of storage in a barn so the injured brother can ease back into driving. They take the cover off and and a friend says “I suppose the question is whether it will start.” Quick cut to Mom’s face, as she says, with a devilish gleam in her eye “It’ll start,” implying that she has personally seen to it that this car has been maintained in running order. Kinda’ choked me up a little for some reason.

That’s the last time she’s in the movie.