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14 Celebrities Who Appeared on Comic Book Covers

by Robert Schnakenberg

This fall marks the 75th anniversary of DC Comics. The publisher is celebrating the occasion with the release of DC Comics: The 75th Anniversary Poster Book, a collection of more than 100 comic book covers featuring the best-loved, most iconic superhero characters like Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman. But comics creators have never been shy about reaching into the wider universe of pop culture for cover subjects. DC's main rival Marvel Comics has gotten in on the act on occasion as well. Here are 14 examples of surprising, unexpected, downright unusual celebrities who have found their way onto comic book covers through the years.

Orson Welles

In 1949, United Artists released Black Magic, a big-screen adaptation of an Alexandre Dumas novel, starring Orson Welles as the 18th century Italian occultist Alessandro Cagliostro. Eager to help out with a little cross-promotion, National Periodicals Publications (later to be known as DC Comics) plopped the Citizen Kane auteur smack dab in the middle of a Superman adventure. "Black Magic on Mars" has Welles zooming off to the Red Planet after discovering an experimental rocket ship in the Italian countryside. There he must contend with The Great Martler, leader of the Solazis, a cadre of hydrocephalic aliens who model themselves on Nazi Germany. Naturally, Welles' broadcasts back to Earth warning of an imminent Martian invasion go unheeded—a consequence of his War of the Worlds hoax some years earlier—but he does hold the Martians at bay with swordplay and magic tricks. Soon enough, Superman arrives to set things right and return Welles to Earth in time for the Black Magic wrap party.

Bob Hope

In the late 1940s, the declining popularity of superheroes prompted America's comics publishers to rely increasingly on movie and TV characters to populate its funny books. After bombing with The Adventures of Alan Ladd and a short-lived Ozzie and Harriet title in 1949, DC Comics struck gold in 1950 with The Adventures of Bob Hope, which followed the humorous adventures of the ski-nosed film comedian as he solved crimes, flirted with pretty "dames," and performed a series of odd and unlikely jobs over the course of an improbable eighteen-year run. In this issue, Hope becomes a private eye and helps a gorgeous blonde locate her lost dog. Storylines were submitted to Hope's "people" for approval, but for the most part DC creators had free reign to use the popular entertainer's lascivious coward persona however they saw fit. As the series wheezed on, the situations grew more fanciful. In the mid-1960s, Hope acquired a teenage sidekick—a nerdy nephew named Tadwallader Jutefruce—who could transform himself, Incredible Hulk-like, into an Austin Powers-attired rock 'n' roll alter ego named Super Hip. The first four issues of The Adventures of Bob Hope all featured photographic covers, like the one at left.

Pat Boone

Long before he attempted to reinvent himself in the eyes of younger audiences with his headbanging 1997 album In a Metal Mood, America's avatar of wholesome family entertainment turned up on the cover of this 1959 issue of Superman's Girlfriend Lois Lane. "Next to standing in front of an altar with Superman," the comic's unseen narrator informs us, "Lois Lane's wildest dream is to share a microphone with America's top singing star and idol of millions, Pat Boone!" (Shhh, don't tell Perry Como, whom she had previously crushed on in the pages of Superman #67 nine years earlier.) In the whimsical ten-page tale "Superman's Mystery Song," Lois gets to live out her dream by performing a duet with Boone honoring their mutual BFF, Superman. But a careless mental error on the part of lyricist Clark Kent nearly results in the public revelation of the Man of Steel's secret identity. Only some quick thinking by Pat Boone—and the awesome power of his celebrity—averts a musical catastrophe.

Jerry Lewis

The strong sales of The Adventures of Bob Hope inspired a string of similar titles based on licensed TV properties and popular comedians. Thus was spawned Jackie Gleason and the Honeymooners in 1956, Sgt. Bilko in 1957 (with a separate series for the sitcom's Private Doberman character the following year), and The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis in 1960. Easily the most successful of all these "comic comics" was The Adventures of Jerry Lewis, which began life as The Adventures of Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis, but was recalibrated to focus solely on the Dumb Kid following the duo's breakup in 1957. The series ran for an incredible 14 years and 124 issues and featured plots even more outlandish than the movie clown's infamous Holocaust comedy The Day the Clown Cried. In this issue from June of 1964, Jerry encounters a fire-breathing dragon on the grounds of a bucolic resort hotel.

Allen Funt

Billed as “the creator of TV’s wildest half-hour,” Allen Funt was just wrapping up the original network run of his popular hidden camera series Candid Camera when Mort Weisinger, the editor on DC’s Superman line, dragooned him into an appearance on the cover of Action Comics. Weisinger, a proponent of using gimmicks and guest stars to boost comic book sales, had previously performed a similar trick with This Is Your Life host Ralph Edwards. Comedian Steve Allen, President John F. Kennedy, and actress Ann Blyth had also crossed paths with the Man of Steel at various points during Weisinger’s tenure. This 1967 issue, in which Funt’s prying lens nearly catches Clark Kent in the act of changing into his Superman costume, marked the end of the long parade of celebrities in Metropolis. Weisinger departed as editor three years later, taking his Rolodex of big-name guest stars with him.

Woody Allen

Fresh off his directorial debut, What’s Up, Tiger Lily?, Woody Allen was enjoying his first blush of national fame when writer E. Nelson Bridwell and artist Mike Sekowsky commandeered his likeness for the cover of Showcase #71 in December of 1967. In fact, Bridwell—a humor writer by trade who had once toiled for Mad magazine—was such a big fan of the Woodman that he had used him as the model for Merryman, a member of DC’s parody superhero team The Inferior Five, the previous year. Showcase was DC’s venerable tryout title, a place where new and unconventional characters were trotted out for “let’s throw it up against the wall and see if it sticks” auditions. Featured here are the Maniaks, a fictional rock band created to cash in on the success of the Monkees, and never seen again after this issue. The pop quartet gets snapped up by Woody to star in his new Civil War-themed stage musical, Confederate Yankees. The hastily drawn, heavily padded story consists almost entirely of “musical” excerpts from the play, proving that the magic of Broadway does not translate to the comic book page.

Don Rickles

In 1971, DC handed the creative keys to Superman’s Pal: Jimmy Olsen to legendary artist Jack Kirby. Kirby proved to be a somewhat erratic driver, to say the least, repopulating the title with a host of unusual new characters, bringing back old ones, and generally trying to shake things up. Some of Kirby’s changes were inspired; others were bizarre—like a two-issue story arc involving insult comedian Don Rickles and his lookalike, Goody Rickels. The idea for a Rickles guest spot originated with Kirby’s assistants, Mark Evanier and Steve Sherman who, like “the King,” were huge fans of the abrasive comic, then performing regularly before national audiences on the Johnny Carson Tonight Show. Rickles’ appearance was at first going to consist of a brief cameo, but DC publicity people were so thrilled at the cross-promotional opportunities that they insisted that Kirby feature him on the cover and expand the storyline over two entire issues.

Uri Geller

Not to be outdone by DC, Marvel Comics added some star power to its pages in 1976 with a cover appearance by renowned mentalist Uri Geller. The Israeli-born spoonbender was riding high at the time, having just published his bestselling autobiography My Story. Marvel Comics headman Stan Lee met Geller at a party in New York and became enamored with the idea of casting the charismatic paranormalist in a comic book. Daredevil writer Marv Wolfman was given with the unenviable task of shoehorning Geller into this issue of Daredevil, in which the titular hero turns to Geller for help defeating a mind-reading supervillain and his army of ESP-endowed henchmen. Geller, whose eyes glow an eerie yellow at various points, is given an extensive superheroic back story of his own. “Curse you, Geller! Curse you!” the villain spits, in a representative snippet of dialogue.

John Travolta

Strange as it may seem, there was a time when the future star of Saturday Night Fever and Pulp Fiction was relegated to the background along with Ron “Horshack” Palillo, Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs, and the other supporting characters on the cover of 1976’s Welcome Back, Kotter #1, which kicked off a ten-issue run for this DC Comics series based on the then-popular ABC sitcom. While Travolta capers with a coloring book, series star Gabe Kaplan takes center stage as Gabe Kotter, a former juvenile delinquent who takes a teaching job at his old Brooklyn high school. In the inaugural issue, Gabe’s application for a transfer to a cleaner, safer, less chaotic school in Manhattan is accepted. But will those conniving Sweathogs let him go so easily?

The Cast of Saturday Night Live

Back in the days when Saturday Night Live was the hippest show on television, Marvel Comics tried to glom on to some of the show’s countercultural cachet by having its marquee superhero crash a performance by the Not-Ready-for-Prime-Time Players. The threadbare plot has a supervillain called the Silver Samurai coveting a ring that’s stuck on the finger of SNL cast member John Belushi. When chaos erupts during the live broadcast, Spider-Man must team up with the quick-thinking sketch comics to defeat the bad guy and his minions. Bill Murray gets to knock out henchmen with a giant rubber hammer. Garrett Morris gets to dress up as The Mighty Thor. Laraine Newman gets to do…very little, proving that Marvel scribe Chris Claremont had as much trouble coming up with material for her as Saturday Night Live’s writers did. Gilda Radner, Dan Aykroyd, and Jane Curtin round out the cover cast for this 1977 issue of Marvel Team-Up, which also includes cameo appearances by SNL producer Lorne Michaels and Marvel honcho Stan Lee.

Muhammad Ali

Sure, Superman could leap tall buildings in a single bound, but could he float like a butterfly and sting like a bee? In one of the most heavily hyped comic books in history, The Greatest of All Time took on The Man of Tomorrow in a 1978 single-issue “treasury sized” special. The blockbuster story has Supes and Ali slugging it out to determine who is Earth’s true champion and claim the right to take on an alien contender named Hun’Ya. (In an ironic twist, the comic arrived on stands so late that Ali was no longer even the champion of his own weight class anymore; he’d been dispatched by Leon Spinks several months earlier.) As it turns out, Ali wins the bout, but the comic’s lasting appeal lies in savoring every last detail of artist Neal Adams’ eye-popping wraparound cover, a Sgt. Pepper-ish tableau featuring the likes of Kurt Vonnegut, Jimmy Carter, Frank Sinatra, and Jerry Garcia amid a host of other Disco Era celebrities.

David Letterman

In the summer of 1984, while its senior editors were off attending Comic-Con in San Diego, Marvel Comics turned control of its superhero titles over to its second string staff for one issue only. The “Assistant Editors’ Month” stunt generated some predictably zany stories, including this bizarre guest appearance by the gap-toothed host of NBC’s Late Night with David Letterman. In a plot inspired by Martin Scorsese’s The King of Comedy, several of the auxiliary heroes from Marvel’s superteam flagship The Avengers get themselves booked on Letterman’s show. Unbeknownst to them, a clownish supervillain named the Mechano-Marauder has rigged the set with booby traps. After some leaden banter with the host, all manner of chaos erupts, until Letterman himself saves the day by bonking the fame-seeking baddie on the head with an enormous prop doorknob. Sadly, it wasn’t until 2002 that another late-night host turned up in the pages of a Marvel Comic, when Letterman’s rival Jay Leno joined forces with Spider-Man for a series of back-up stories entitled “One Night Only.”

John Walsh

When the trail goes cold on their search for the leader of a child slavery ring, the costumed superteam known as The Outsiders knows just the right man to call: John Walsh. The host of Fox TV’s long-running criminal manhunt program America’s Most Wanted turns up in photographic form on the cover of this 2004 issue, which earns extra celebrity bonus points because it was written by Judd Winick, star of MTV’s The Real World: San Francisco. In the following issue, a lead provided by an America’s Most Wanted viewer helps The Outsiders crack the case. This wasn’t the first time John Walsh had seen us in the funny pages. He’d previously done a three-month-long guest stint in the newspaper comic strip Dick Tracy, becoming the first real-life person ever to appear in its panels.

Stephen Colbert

As regular Colbert Report watchers know, the Comedy Central host is an inveterate comics junkie. He regularly promotes Marvel Comics on his show, and Marvel editor-in-chief Joe Quesada famously bequeathed him Captain America’s mighty shield during a Colbert Report appearance in 2007. So when Colbert needed help publicizing his farcical run for the presidency in 2008, he naturally turned to his friends at the House of Ideas. The result was “Colbert for President” signage liberally seeded throughout scores of Marvel titles, plus an eight-page backup story in Amazing Spider-Man #573. The variant cover, drawn by Quesada himself, mimics the famous first appearance of the web-slinger in Amazing Fantasy #15.

Robert Schnakenberg is the author of DC Comics: The 75th Anniversary Poster Book, available now from Quirk Books. Visit him on the web at www.robertschnakenberg.com.

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Scarface is Returning to Theaters for Its 35th Anniversary
Tribeca Film Festival/Screenvision Media/Universal Pictures
Tribeca Film Festival/Screenvision Media/Universal Pictures

Pop culture history was forever altered on December 9, 1983, when Scarface arrived in movie theaters across America. A loose remake of Howard Hawks's classic 1932 gangster film, Brian De Palma's F-bomb-laden story of a Cuban immigrant who becomes the king of Miami's drug scene by murdering anyone in his path is still being endlessly dissected, and quoted, today. To celebrate the film's place in cinema history, the Tribeca Film Festival is teaming up with Screenvision Media and Universal Pictures to bring the film back into theaters next month.

Just last month, Scarface screened at New York City's Tribeca Film Festival as part of a 35th anniversary celebration. The film's main cast and crew—including De Palma and stars Al Pacino, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Steven Bauer—were on hand to discuss the making of the film and why it has endured as a contemporary classic. (Yes, that's the same conversation that left the panel momentarily speechless when moderator Jesse Kornbluth asked Pfeiffer how much she weighed during filming.) That post-screening Q&A will be part of the upcoming screenings.

"Scarface is a timeless film that has influenced pop culture in so many ways over the last 35 years. We're thrilled to partner with Universal Pictures and Tribeca Film Festival to bring it back to the big screen in celebration of its anniversary," Darryl Schaffer, executive vice president of operations and exhibitor relations at Screenvision Media, said in a press statement. "The Tribeca Film Festival talk was an important commemoration of the film. We're excited to extend it to the big screen and provide fans a behind-the-scenes insight into what production was like in the 1980s."

Scarface will screen at select theaters nationwide on June 10, June 11, and June 13, 2018. Visit Scarface35.com to find out if Tony Montana and his little friend will be coming back to a cinema near you.

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20 Character Actors Who Make Everything They’re in Better
Netflix
Netflix

If the main character in your movie is a straitlaced do-gooder, or really, blandly relatable in any way, you’re going to need some eccentric figures to bring some spice to the party. More than mere sidekicks, these characters either make the world they inhabit feel dangerous and chaotic or bring order to insanity by sheer force of personality. They’re characters that make your ears perk just as the movie starts to lose you.

Character actors are tasked with making movies more interesting, but only the best of them succeed. So here are 20 ultra-talented stars who never fail to make good films great, great films classic, and terrible films almost watchable.

1. PETER STORMARE

Peter Stormare in 'American Gods'
Jan Thijs, Starz Entertainment/FremantleMedia North America

Thank Fargo for this one. Peter Stormare’s magic stems from his range, which runs from Genuinely Kind to Terrifyingly Aggressive. You might expect him to play a growling bad guy every role, but his comic timing and humane sensitivity allow him to play everything from an unlicensed eye doctor in Minority Report to multiple voices on children’s shows to an incompetent nihilist kidnapper in The Big Lebowski.

2. OCTAVIA SPENCER

Octavia Spencer in 'Hidden Figures' (2016)
Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

Octavia Spencer is a world-class actor and producer with the hardware to prove it (including an Oscar, a BAFTA, and a Golden Globe). She’s a dynamite talent who offers a Herculean amount of support to everyone she shares scenes with. It’s possible that her trademark is a wry, knowing sense of humor, but she’s not that easily pinned down or pigeonholed, mightily subverting expectations in genre work like Snowpiercer and gut-wrenching dramas like Fruitvale Station.

3. SCOOT MCNAIRY

Scoot McNairy in 'Halt and Catch Fire'
Eric Ogden, AMC

Possessing leading man looks and chops with a character actor’s transformative ability, Scoot McNairy is a deft craftsman who brings meek powder keg Gordon Clark to life on Halt and Catch Fire as well as embodying slimy slave trader Brown in 12 Years a Slave and amateurish holdup man Frankie in the crime drama Killing Them Softly.

4. TILDA SWINTON

Tilda Swinton in 'Only Lovers Left Alive' (2013)
Sandro Kopp, Sony Pictures Classics

Some character actors are in the hall of fame, some have won awards, but Tilda Swinton is on (and possibly from) another planet. She can more than hold her own as a leading performer, delivering searing portrayals in We Need to Talk About Kevin and deathly mystery in The Only Lovers Left Alive. But it’s her bizarre character work that most endures, like having your brain smacked with a rainbow baseball bat. From her toothy despot in Snowpiercer to her thousand-year-old dowager in The Grand Budapest Hotel to her wintry witch in The Chronicles of Narnia to a dozen other deeply strange performances, Swinton is playing a totally different game than everyone else. If Hollywood ever makes a David Bowie biopic, they know who to hire.

5. OLIVER PLATT

Oliver Platt in FX's 'Fargo'
Chris Large, FX Networks

An actor’s actor, Oliver Platt never seems content to play the same role twice, yet he has the peerless ability to make it feel as if we’ve known a character our whole lives. That bone-deep familiarity is a quality that comes from another level of acting talent. Even if he’s only in one scene, Platt never phones it in. He’s never less than fantastic. Whether droll and off-the-cuff or stridently severe, you get the feeling that Platt is in it for the pure, unbridled love of acting.

6. ANN DOWD

Ann Dowd plays Aunt Lydia in 'The Handmaid's Tale'
Hulu

This Emmy-winning, 30-year veteran is in five movies coming out this year alone. That’s on top of a busy slate of guest starring roles on TV shows where she almost always becomes the best thing about the episode. She just finished up a remarkable run as the dead-eyed, chain-smoking Patti in The Leftovers, but her reign of matronly terror as Aunt Lydia on The Handmaid’s Tale has only just begun.

7. GIANCARLO ESPOSITO

Giancarlo Esposito in 'Breaking Bad'
Michele K. Short, AMC/Sony Pictures Television

To offer some perspective on Giancarlo Esposito’s genius: he recently did a single episode of Westworld where he delivered a fiery monologue that shook a character to the core, and the creators of Westworld almost definitely hired him because they knew he’d deliver a fiery monologue that would shake an entire audience to its core. Best known as Gus Fring on Breaking Bad (and Better Call Saul), Esposito has appeared in more than 75 movies and a list of TV episodes no one has time to count (though it's worth a reminder that he played Big Bird's camp counselor on Sesame Street). Unfailingly charismatic, Esposito is a modern marvel who, over four decades of acting, has never failed to astound.

8. CARRIE COON

Carrie Coon stars in HBO's 'The Leftovers'
HBO

Carrie Coon’s acting talent is so outstanding that she often commanded entire sequences in The Leftovers without interacting with anyone else. Her character was marked by isolation, and you could wind up not remembering to blink while watching her complete even the most mundane of tasks with a seemingly infinite pool of sorrow. She brought that concentration of anxiety to Gone Girl, where she played the sister of Ben Affleck’s character, and, most recently, to the third season of the Fargo TV series.

9. MICHAEL STULHBARG

Michael Stuhlbarg in 'A Serious Man' (2009)
Focus Features

Last year, in addition to his starring role in the third season of Fargo, Michael Stulhbarg was in three Best Picture nominees—The Shape of Water, Call Me By Your Name, and The Post—where he played pivotal roles as a modest Soviet spy, a father with a barn-burning monologue of compassionate acceptance, and a cosmopolitan newspaper editor, respectively. Three in one year. That’s incredible, but easy to believe when it comes to a talent like Stuhlbarg, who combines a workmanlike consistency and a stage actor’s perfectionism to create everymen who, far from being boring, are each singularly memorable.

10. MARGO MARTINDALE

Margo Martindale in 'The Americans'
FX Networks

The one. The only. Margo Martindale is so transcendent that BoJack Horseman features a character called “Beloved Character Actress Margo Martindale” (which is voiced by Martindale). Perhaps the most famous character actor currently working, she brings a maternal energy to even her craziest characters, which probably makes them seem even crazier. She also excels in roles that exude a sense of cool confidence, which helps if you’re handling soviet spies on The Americans or leading a weed-dealing family on Justified.

11. WALTON GOGGINS

Walton Goggins in FX's 'Justified'
FX Networks

Speaking of Justified: Walton Goggins earned an Emmy nomination for his portrayal of gritty-yet-charming criminal Boyd Crowder on the show, but he deserves so many more awards (though it's worth noting that he did win an Oscar in 2002, when The Accountant—a short film he produced and starred in—was named Best Live-Action Short Film). He’s got a flare for playing wild-eyed thugs and weirdos blissfully lacking self-awareness, but the scummy majesty he offers isn’t solely used for black hats. Goggins popping up randomly in movies and TV shows is always a delight because he’s a hell of an actor who seems to have time traveled here from the Wild West.

12. CCH POUNDER

CCH Pounder in 'NCIS: New Orleans'
CBS

CCH Pounder’s niche is serious professionals in police stations and emergency rooms, but she’s also brought steely playfulness to the neighborhood witch Madame Dorothea in the Mortal Instruments franchise. She’s consistently fantastic, drawing on years of expertise, natural magnetism, and an amazing number of starring and guest-starring roles on TV.

13. STEPHEN ROOT

Stephen Root in 'Idiotsitter' (2014)
Comedy Central

Stephen Root has portrayed so many outlandish characters that it’s shocking when he turns up in a movie in khakis and a Polo shirt. There are no limits on his range, and you can take your pick from a metric ton of favorites: Office Space, O Brother, Where Art Thou?, Dodgeball, Idiocracy, King of the Hill, NewsRadio, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, and Get Out are just a few. In his TV career, he’s been in over 700 episodes and continues to elevate his game. This is legendary character actor status here.

14. ALLISON JANNEY

Allison Janney in 'I, Tonya' (2017)
Neon

West Wing fans have known about Allison Janney’s ability to command a room either with charm, severity, or by doing "The Jackal" since the late 1990s. But she solidified her place in the Character Actor Hall of Fame with her Oscar-winning turn as Tonya Harding’s abusive, bird enthusiast mother in I, Tonya. With a comic edge that echoes vaudeville (see: Hairspray) and a scary intensity when things get serious, Janney excels in any role you lay at her feet.

15. PAT HEALY

Pat Healy in 'The Innkeepers' (2011)
Magnolia Pictures

Often portraying the disturbing or the disturbed, Pat Healy is willing to push extremes of manic glee while staying grounded. He most notably shines through the grit in Cheap Thrills as the downtrodden mechanic Craig who performs increasingly violent and degrading stunts for a bigger pot of money. He also menaced Ann Dowd and Dreama Walker by phone in Compliance and was menaced by ghosts in The Innkeepers.

16. MICHELLE HURST

Michelle Hurst in 'Orange Is the New Black'
Netflix

If you’re a fan of Law & Order and its 1000 spinoffs, you’ve seen (and likely marveled at) Michelle Hurst a dozen times. She possesses a sharp ferocity, as proven by her portrayal of the acerbic Miss Claudette on the first season of Orange is the New Black. She was sidelined after a 2013 car accident, but she’s back this year in a supporting role in the romantic comedy Permission, so hopefully casting directors will take of this criminally underused powerhouse.

17. MICHAEL PEÑA

Michael Peña in 'CHIPS' (2017)
Peter Iovino, Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

If you only know Michael Peña as the fast-talking goof in Ant-Man, you’d be forgiven for not realizing the dangerous dramatic work he has done since Crash. He’s the rare talent who’s at the top of his game whether trying to make us laugh, cry, or wrestle with difficult truths. How else can you explain him stealing scenes in Marvel’s miniature superhero film a year after transforming wholesale into Cesar Chavez for a biopic of the civil rights activist?

18. KATHRYN HAHN

Kathryn Hahn in 'Happyish'
Showtime

Kathryn Hahn has been outshining her leading counterparts for years, but Bad Moms really gave her room to run. She absolutely has the skills to heighten the drama in movies like Revolutionary Road and This Is Where I Leave You, but the sweet spot of her talent is in finding humor by playing an exaggerated version of our funny best friend. Jill Soloway’s Afternoon Delight proved Hahn could shoulder a starring role, but it’s great that she has found her stride as the bar-hopping, sexually adventurous single mother ripping through stereotypes in a budding Bad Moms franchise and continues to command the screen in ensembles.

19. KEITH DAVID

Keith David and Parker Young in 'Enlisted'
Adam Taylor, Fox

This Juilliard graduate got his cinematic start with The Thing and Platoon, then went on to lend his unmistakable, Emmy-worthy voice and stature to a slew of harrowing dramas. But Keith David’s secret weapon is his comic perfection as an exasperated authority figure on display in There’s Something About Mary, Rick and Morty, the short-lived-but-brilliant Enlisted, and later seasons of Community. You can count on the Tony winner for acting perfection on screen or on stage.

20. BETH GRANT

Drew Barrymore and Beth Grant in 'Donnie Darko' (2001)
Newmarket Films

If you need an actor to play a religious zealot or snappy rule-enforcer, Beth Grant is your first and last phone call. She’s the consummate stick in the mud, crafting figures who scold and harangue the main character for having even the tiniest bit of fun. We often love to hate the characters she portrays in movies like Donnie Darko and No Country for Old Men (not to mention her regular role on The Mindy Project), but she always transforms flat antagonists into fully realized humans by carving out space for sympathy.

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