Dawson’s Creek stalled James Van Der Beek’s career before
it even began. The late-90s television
show was the voice for thousands of teenagers who felt that the world was
against them and the only remedy was a group of smartass kids. I remember catching the first season of Kevin
Williamson’s series before it started to buy into its own hype and was pretty
intrigued by the world he created.
What’s more, the actors he cast… they truly brought Williamson’s world
to life. While they were far from being
masters of their craft, they believably sold the show’s unbelievably outlandish
When the show came to an end, it was anyone’s guess as to
where these actors would end up. Today
Joshua Jackson plays the same roles he’s always played, starting with Charlie
in The Mighty Ducks. Michelle Williams
has dabbled in some truly interesting work, both in mainstream and independent
cinema. Katie Holmes… do I really need
to talk about her contributions to cinema?
Then there is James Van Der Beek, Dawson Leery himself. The kid was good and I thought for sure he
had a career ahead of him. And no, it
wasn’t because of Dawson’s Creek. It
was because of a little seen film entitled Angus.
Back in 1995, Angus fell into the laps of the MTV
generation and landed with a thud. No
one cared. It turned out to be one of
the best films about life as a teenager ever made. In fact, it still is. Truth be told, I’m guilty of missing the
original run as well, having only discovered Angus around the year 2000 or
so. The story of an outsider fighting
for respect, while doing battle with a group of football jocks was a story that
I could relate to. In fact, it was one
we could all relate to, because at one point in our lives, we were all
Anyway, that is another article for another day. Back to Van Der Beek.
One of the jocks that Angus had to deal with every day was
played by James Van Der Beek and he injected him with as much smart ass gusto
as possible. Every time he pulled a
slimy stunt on Angus, you were just dying to see him get his comeuppance. Playing an effective bastard takes skill, the
kind in which Van Der Beek has. Admittedly,
he didn’t have great range, but he played his character incredibly well. He had absolutely no redeeming factor (which
is a shame), but he made you hate him, which is essentially what a character
like that is supposed to do.
From there, Van Der Beek worked on Dawson’s Creek and Varsity Blues, in which he relocated Dawson Leery to Texas and fashioned him
with a Texan accent.
After that, nothing.
Not even straight to video fare.
No mention of where he went. Then
Roger Avery (one half of the Pulp Fiction team) surprised us all and cast Van
Der Beek as the lead in his adaptation of Bret Easton Ellis’ novel The Rules
of Attraction as Sean Bateman, the younger brother (and just as psychotic) of
Patrick Bateman from American Psycho fame.
Sean Bateman was a role that played on Van Der Beek’s Dawson
persona. He looked like a nice guy
(because for a number of seasons, that’s what he was), but was really, truly
insane; believably and frighteningly so.
It was a stroke of genius in terms of casting and one that still
impresses me to this day. As for Van Der
Beek? He was incredible. Frightening, hilarious, pathetic,
unpredictable and dangerous, all in one character. I would have loved to have seen Christian
Bale and Van Der Beek chew the scenary together as two of the most twisted brothers
in filmdom, something that would’ve knocked the socks off a number of
After Avery’s film, I was convinced Van Der Beek broke the
mold he unwittingly made for himself.
Sadly, the quality of the film did not match the quality of the
performance and such a fact became evident in the film’s box office
returns. He drew the self-deprecation
card yet again in Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, in which he played Jay of
the titular duo. Even though he shared
the screen with Jason Biggs (as Silent Bob) for less than a minute, you can
tell he was having a good time and it showed on screen.
After that, Van Der Beek, again, disappeared.
I’ve seen his name pop up from time to time on a number of
straight to video titles, which is heartbreaking. He’s got limited talent; but his strengths
far outweigh his weaknesses. It’s just
the nature of the industry, I guess.
Something must have happened along the way. Maybe he lost interest in the art of acting
and stopped caring. Maybe he’s waiting
to unleash something new and exciting on moviegoers who have forgotten
him. One thing is for sure, it takes a
special kind of actor to make me see their face whenever I think of bullies I
knew as a child. Even if it was through
only two performances, Van Der Beek impressed me. Will he do it again? I’m not so sure.