As
the old adage in Hollywood goes, “You’re only as good as your last
movie.”  It’s a sad, harsh reality that plenty of actors are forced to
contend with.  Some are deserving of what comes their way, others not so
much.  Because of this, I frequently catch myself thinking about films
that helped shape who I am- my film likes and dislikes, if you will.  What
quickly follows is that feeling of nostalgia, of seeing a favorite actor or
actress do what they do best: impress the hell out of you.

What ever happened to… is a weekly column that
focuses on an actor or actress who has (or had) the talent to succeed in the
industry, and by all accounts should, but for one reason or another, simply
disappeared from the public and cinematic eye.

This week, I am wondering: what ever happened to… Jonny Lee
Miller?

In 1995, a little film was released.  Entitled Hackers, the story
attempted to give a (then) burgeoning sub-culture a more definitive
representation on screen.  Focusing on a
group of computer-geek hackers, the film failed to leave a mark when it was
first released.  On home video, however,
that’s where the film found its audience. 
While the film is far from a classic, it is known for introducing
audiences to Angelina Jolie; then, an intriguingly beautiful young woman, who
showed monstrous potential.  The film
carried that unique “90’s” look; you know, the kind that, when we look back on
it, we think, “Did we really dress or act like that?” 

While Hackers proved to be entertaining fluff,
I always look at it as being the vehicle that introduced me to an actor whom I
thought would eventually become a major star. 
Exuding a charm not seen since the days of Connery, Jonny Lee Miller
stood tall amongst a group of unknown twenty-somethings and pretty much
proclaimed that he arrived.  And in
1996, he lived up to that promise. 

Trainspotting is arguably one of the best
films of the 1990’s.  It is a film that,
when viewed today, hasn’t aged one bit. 
The direction is perfect, the script impeccable, but the ensemble cast…
heaven.  Ewan McGregor, Robert Carlyle,
Jonny Lee Miller, Kelly Macdonald- a great cast that brought these quirky
characters to life and made them memorable. 
Everyone had their favorite scene or character.  Me, I was a fan of Sick Boy, Miller’s
character.  A wise-ass kid with horribly
bleached blonde hair, he was the guy in high school who made snide remarks that
you laughed at, but later felt sorry about having found it funny in the first
place.  Like almost every character in
the film, he was a likeable unlikeable person.  Plus, as proven in one scene, Miller does a killer Connery
accent
. 

After Trainspotting, Miller wasn’t a household
name.  I thought it would only be a
matter of time until that happened.  I
always envisioned him as a great Bond villain. 
Think about it: he’s got the look, the arrogance, that smirk.  Around that time, 007 was making a comeback
and I thought for sure he’d be on the shortlist of villains that the Broccoli’s
had in mind. 

And then, the years that followed brought… nothing.  It’s as if he fell off the face of the earth
without any rhyme or reason.  For a
while (and I’m sure a lot of people felt the same way), I even forgot about
him.  

A number of years later I did a search on the trusty IMDB
and found out that he didn’t disappear; rather, he just made unsuccessful
movies that failed to adhere to his skills. 
It’s as simple as that.  Plunkett
& Macleane
, Dracula 2000, Aeon Flux- I
don’t know what happened, but this was not the direction I thought Miller would
ever go.  He is that rare sort of actor
you can like and hate in equal measure. 
He would make a great hero or the ultimate villain.  Above all, however, he needs to find the
right material that compliments his skills as an actor.  Miller has a very interesting classic
leading man type feel to him; perhaps he should rejuvenate his career by
starring in a few romantic comedies.  I
can’t stand the rom-com genre, but I do know that those type of films are
commonly very successful and shine a spotlight on the leading actors.  Plus, there are a few peppered throughout
his filmography.  At this stage in the
game, Miller would be wise to choose strong material that is easily accessible
to the masses.  From there, he can work
his way up again and start to choose projects better suited to his tastes.  Look at Clooney, he trudged through
different cinematic landscapes in order to get to where he is today.  Miller can do the same. 

Although, much like Zane, perhaps Miller doesn’t want to be
considered one of Hollywood’s elite.  I
mean, the guy did have a very public relationship and subsequent break-up with
Angelina Jolie.  Maybe he’s never been
one to enjoy the Hollywood scene and after all of that, who could blame him.  Or maybe, and this is a big maybe, he enjoys
the films that he works on.  If that’s
the case, then I begrudgingly respect him even more than I did before.  He never seemed like the kind of actor who
wanted to shoot into the stratosphere with fame.  I think he just enjoys the odd little role here and there.  And normally I wouldn’t care, nor would I
talk about the actor, if that was the case. 
But just watch Trainspotting and watch Sick Boy and tell
me that there isn’t a glint of greatness in that performance.  Jonny Lee Miller is an example of an actor
who has the untapped talent to exceed in this business.  I just hope the decline in quality of the
pictures that carry his name isn’t a reference to a memorable exchange between
Renton and Sick Boy in Trainspotting. 

Renton: Right. So we all get old and then we can’t hack it
anymore. Is that it?
Sick Boy: Yeah.
Renton: That’s your theory?
Sick Boy: Yeah. Beautifully fucking illustrated.

Let’s hope it’s not that beautifully fucking
illustrated.

 

Next week, I wonder what ever happened to… Fisher Stevens?