Sunday, November 25, 2012

Train Don't Run Outta Wichita, Lessin' Yer A Hog

Every Thanksgiving I make it a point to watch Planes, Trains And Automobiles. It's one of my favorite movies and even though I've probably seen it 25 times I never get tired of it.

During this year's viewing I picked up on something I never noticed before. In one of my favorite scenes, Gus' son Owen comes to pick up Neal Page and Del Griffith (Steve Martin and John Candy) and drive them to Wichita to catch a train.

Owen is a semi-sentient tobacco chewing hillbilly who can barely string two words together.

He also has a bizarre and rasping sinus condition that punctuates (and sometimes interrupts) his sentences. Owen's only onscreen for little more than a minute, but he makes a memorable impression, especially when he regales the pair about his wife who didn't scream when her first baby "came out sideways."

Imagine my surprise during this year's viewing when I realized that Owen was played by none other than character actor Dylan Baker! Baker's been in a ton of movies and TV shows, but is probably most recognized as Dr. Curt Conners in Spider-Man 2 and 3.

He cleans up real nice, doesn't he? Planes, Trains And Automobiles was Baker's feature film debut. I've watched that Owen scene dozens of times and it never once occurred to me that he was played by Baker. I just assumed they found some real life local redneck to play the part. I surely never suspected he was played by an actual Hollywood actor.

I say this without any sarcasm or irony-- it's a remarkable piece of acting and Dylan Baker deserved some kind of award for throwing himself into the role and making himself completely unrecognizable.

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