“You can still be strong, no matter how you look and carry yourself,” Kodi Smit-McPhee recently told The Guardian. Well said. The Aussie actor already has a Golden Globe to his name this year, with the Oscars coming up this month. Back in the day, he gained recognition as a child actor for his leading roles and went on to co-star in several blockbusters. He has not shied away from juicy roles in more thought-provoking works, as demonstrated in his standout supporting role for The Power of the Dog. His father and sister are also actors, interestingly enough.
Smit-McPhee played Kurt Wagner, aka Nightcrawler, in 2016’s X-Men: Apocalypse along with its 2019 sequel Dark Phoenix. As of now, there are no official plans for Nightcrawler to make another appearance in a future Marvel movie or series, but Smit-McPhee recently voiced his support for the character’s return to the MCU. As we await confirmation on that, as well as the releases of Smit-McPhee’s various other upcoming projects, here’s a closer look at his best performances to date.
5 ParaNorman (2012)
Norman Babcock never asked to see the ghosts of dead people in his daily life, but his strange talent is now the only thing standing between his cursed town and an all-out zombie apocalypse. Delightful and relentlessly enjoyable, this animated tale is sharply written and made by – and for – horror fans. According to Laika, the animation studio behind the film, ParaNorman was the first stop-motion film to utilize a 3D color printer to create replacement faces for its puppets. More than 31,000 face parts were printed, according to Laika’s website. Funny and thrilling all the way through, ParaNorman received positive reviews overall and performed well in the box office. Smit-McPhee voices Norman with a commanding heroism and humor required for this quirky film. Who ever said voice acting was easier than live action?
4 The Road (2009)
In a dangerous post-apocalyptic world, an ailing father defends his son as they slowly travel to the sea. The Road is a 2009 American post-apocalyptic survival film based on the 2006 novel of the same name by renowned author Cormac McCarthy. It received generally positive reviews from critics, particularly for the performances. It also received numerous nominations, including a BAFTA nomination for Best Cinematography.
Smit-McPhee plays the unnamed son of the film’s lead character, played by the reliably excellent Viggo Mortensen. “I remember scenes that were really difficult for a young actor – for anyone, but especially for you, at that age,” Mortensen once told Smit-McPhee during a People Magazine interview. “[You had] an intelligence, a self-contained quality, a strength. “
3 Let Me In (2010)
Let Me In takes place in early 1980s New Mexico, where a 12-year-old boy is lonely and bullied in school. At home, he dreams of avenging himself against the trio of bullies. He befriends his next door neighbor, a 12-year-old girl who only appears during the night in the playground of their building. Meanwhile, the girl’s father is a wanted serial killer who drains the blood of his victims to supply her. On top of all that, a police officer is investigating the murder cases, believing that it’s all part of a satanic cult’s efforts.
Let Me In also stars Chloë Grace Moretz and Richard Jenkins. It’s a remake of the 2008 Swedish film Let the Right One In, and Moretz won several awards for her performance with critics praising the on-screen chemistry with her co-star, Smit-McPhee. An official comic book miniseries prequel titled Let Me In: Crossroads was released after the film that establishes the back-story of Abby. Smit-McPhee plays Owen, the young boy opposite Moretz’s Abby. At a ripe young age, Smit-McPhee was already showing signs of a true A-lister here.
2 Romulus, My Father (2007)
This epic, dramatic story follows Romulus, his beautiful wife Christina and their struggle in the face of great adversity to bring up their son, Raimond. As the boy is forced to navigate a difficult home life between his deeply moral father and capricious mother, the film is ultimately a moving love story that celebrates the unbreakable bond between father and son. Romulus, My Father is based on the memoir by Raimond Gaita, with Eric Bana (Star Trek) and Franka Potente (The Bourne Identity) playing husband and wife. Smit-McPhee plays Raimond, and his on-screen chemistry with a veteran like Bana is not to be missed.
“This film has been acclaimed everywhere it has been seen, including at this year’s Toronto festival,” Arclight head Gary Hamilton once said upon the film’s release. “We think the film is absolutely right for Magnolia Pictures, and we’re very proud and happy that they will release it in the US”
1 The Power of the Dog (2021)
Phil Burbank is brutal in every sense of the word. Played with shocking intensity by Benedict Cumberbatch, the cowboy is a tour de force of emotion and hostility. He can castrate a bull with ease at one moment, swim naked in a river the next and cap it off by smearing his body with mud. Taking place in Montana 1925, The Power of the Dog follows the Burbank brothers (Jesse Plemons and Cumberbatch), wealthy ranchers who eventually meet a widowed proprietress Rose (Kirsten Dunst) and her impressionable son (Smit-McPhee). Phil behaves so cruelly that he drives them both to tears, revealing in their hurt. His brother George, however, comforts Rose and eventually marries her. Phil’s cunning ways then kick into high gear, and the rest of the film plays out with cord-cutting tension.
This genre-mashing masterpiece is based on the 1967 novel of the same name by Thomas Savage and was beautifully filmed across rural Otago, New Zealand. And it’s not just multiple genres covered here – the film also incorporates numerous themes, including love, grief, resentment, jealousy and sexuality.
Smit-McPhee plays Peter with such subtle intensity that he often takes the spotlight away from Cumberbatch. Their scenes together will make your skin crawl – but in a good way. “I related to a lot of aspects of Peter and his personality,” Smit-McPhee told TheWrap. “Just in terms of being a bit different, being a deeply curious person, being OK in isolated environments, being an outcast somewhat but also, as it turns out, being confident in embracing who he is.”
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