Tuesday, 25 July 2017

John Heard RIP

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John Heard Obituary

Frank Black
25 July 2017

John Heard, who has been found dead in a hotel room after back surgery, is probably best known for his roles as the father in the Home Alone movies and as Tom Hank's adult rival in Big. In more recent years, his on-screen appearances have become marginalised, mixing 'guest star' roles in serviceable television shows like CSI Miami and The Chicago Code with awful cinemtaic fare like Sharknado.

A look at his whole career, however, reveals an extremely talented actor, initially on stage in controversial plays like Streamers and G R Point, before moving into film with Joan Micklin Silver's excellent Boston underground newspaper drama, Between the Lines in 1977. He played Jack Kerouac opposite Sissy Spacek and Nick Nolte in Heart Beat and followed it with one of his best roles as the obsessed alcoholic Vietnam veteran Alex Cutter in Ivan Passer's conspiracy noir, Cutter's Way, alongside Jeff Bridges; this was a film so imbued with the intelligence and ideals of late 60s - mid 70s American cinema that it comes as a shock to realise it was released in 1981. The studio originally wanted Richard Dreyfuss for the role and - allegedly - Passer went to see him as Iago in the Shakespeare in the Park production of Othello, but he was more impressed with Heard's portrayal of Cassio. The roles that followed varied from those obviously targeting box office success, like Big, to more mature fare, such as his excellent cameo as the mysterious bar owner in Martin Scorsese's underrated After Hours and Robert Redford's take on John Nichols' magic realist novel, The Milagro Beanfield War.

In latter years, good roles in good films were few and far between, but he was remarkable in Bernt Amadeus Capra's Mindwalk, a daring philosophical three-hander that is, in essence, a conversation about potential and perspectives on various social and political issues facing the world.

He had a long career in television too, from guest-starring in shows like The Equaliser to meatier roles such as Abe North in Dennis Potter's less than wonderful 1985 adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald's Tender is the Night for the BBC, where his performance was head and shoulders above anyone else's. His best role in recent years was surely as, Vin Makazian, the detective who was Tony's informant in The Sopranos - before he committed suicide during a bout of depression.

In 2008, he told 411Mania.com, "I think I had my time. I dropped the ball, as my father would say. I think I could have done more with my career than I did, and I sort of got sidetracked. But that's OK, that's all right, that's the way it is. No sour grapes. I mean, I don't have any regrets. Except that I could have played some bigger parts."

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