The Other Greats: The Histrionic Genius of Ray Wise

ray-wiseRay Wise’s name rarely appears early in the credits. Most often it shows up after a few names have passed. Wise doesn’t often garner top billing. But with a combination of histrionic acting and a smile range from hiding something to downright evil, Wise has the presence to make at least a few people in the theater grin when his name appears.

Wise’s appears often on the sidelines. Wise brought his unstable persona alongside Miguel Ferrer as henchman Leon Nash in Paul Verrhoven’s classic Robocop (1987). He also voiced Commissioner Gordon in the recent animated version of Alan Moore’s classic Batman comic The Killing Joke (2016). He is best known as Leland Palmer, the unbalanced and paranoid father of Laura Palmer on the cult pillar Twin Peaks (1990-1991). Wise’s everyman look, crazy blue eyes, and ability to spiral dark emotions with harrowing howls and werewolf-esque motions gives Nicolas Cage a run for the money in the category of bizarre performances. But to really get Wised, check out the 2003 direct to video (or whatever they call that now) Dead End. Wise carries the film along with second-string stalwart Lin Shayne as quarreling parents on a road trip detour that forces them into a journey into the repetitive. If you can’t get enough, Wise elevates Jeepers Creepers 2 (2003) as the harpoon-wielding farmer out for revenge against a creature no one understands. I won’t say it’s underrated, but it’s enjoyable to a point, especially if you liked the first one.

Ray Wise can switch gears from calm to completely frantic in seconds and deliver humor to a tense situation. His nuclear family-style charm and sinister presence makes him a unique character actor.

How cool is he? Check out his PSA against bullying:

–Billups Allen

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