Top photo: Greg Kinnear in pose (USA Today); left
photo--Kinnear (center) with the ensemble cast of the summer runaway hit "Little
Miss Sunshine"; right: in "Fast Food Nation."
There was a time not so long ago when actor Greg Kinnear was a journalist on
American television. He was on E! Entertainment Television's "Talk Soup"
providing irreverent comedy as its host. Now, a few years and an Oscar
nomination later, Kinnear has firmly established himself as a solid, serious
actor. Nominated for the 1997 film "As Good As It Gets", Kinnear has gone
on to star in such films as "Sabrina", "You've Got Mail", "Nurse Betty", "Auto
Focus" and "We Were Soldiers".
Kinnear has had a tremendous 2006, with no less than
five roles this year, the latest coming this Friday in "Fast Food Nation", the
new film directed by Richard Linklater, based on Eric Schlosser's best-selling
novel of the same name. Schlosser also wrote the film adaptation of his
novel with director Linklater. Greg Kinnear has been called by some one of
the nicest men in Hollywood. (For the record, Tom Hanks has been dubbed
the nicest. The two shared the big screen in "You've Got Mail.")
Kinnear has made the choices that have kept him working and thriving in a tough
industry and has continued to bring forth some impressive work. Mr.
Kinnear has made such a seamless transition from television to big screen movies
that many people may have long forgotten his entertaining appearances on "Talk
This year Kinnear has diversified tremendously. He began 2006 in "The
Matador" alongside Pierce Brosnan, a film which expanded in the U.S. to a wide
release platform in early January, then kept moving during the summer in "Little
Miss Sunshine" as an relentlessly upbeat motivator who helps get his young
daughter to a beauty pageant. "Sunshine" was the little movie could -- a
smash hit with American audiences. Kinnear then appeared in the late
summer as 1970's Philadelphia Eagles NFL football coaching legend Dick Vermeil
in "Invincible" and in November in the action film "Unknown". Now he
headlines another ensemble cast in "Fast Food Nation", a film that is receiving
a lot of buzz. A sensation at Cannes earlier this year, "Nation" got the
attention that the book it was adapted from garnered as a worldwide best seller.
Kinnear plays an employee of fictional fast-food corporation Mickey's, who is
sent by the company's executives to investigate just what is in the meat of
those tasty Mickey's "Big One" burgers that everyone in America loves and
adores. In an interview with the film's distributor Fox Searchlight,
Kinnear says that his character, marketing director Don Anderson is "asked to
look into some potential contamination problems." Kinnear continued, "he
gets an education in how one of these delicious burgers, how it starts, where it
starts, how it turns into this, and what are the conflicts along the way.
He's learning about the underbelly of an issue that is a little unseemly and he
doesn't make maybe all of the right decisions but is trying to do the best he
can, which is probably the case in the universe with how everybody's kind of
dealing with stuff as best they can, but maybe not always dealing with it the
best way they can."
"Fast Food Nation" promises to be an unsettling experience but Kinnear has
appeared in films that have that effect, while still getting rave reviews for
his performances in those films. For instance, in "Auto Focus" (2002),
directed by Paul Schrader ("Taxi Driver" screenwriter) he plays Bob Crane, the
actor who played Hogan in the 1960's American television situation comedy series
"Hogan's Heroes". Crane, a man who was sexually addicted and obsessed with
pornographic material, was murdered in 1978 in Scottsdale, Arizona. The
film dealt with sexual obsession in a remarkably powerful and uncomfortable way,
and Kinnear's amazing acting as Crane was even more profound due to his acting
resume being previously devoid of portraying such base characters. Indeed,
"Auto Focus" producer Scott Alexander in an interview for that film, said: "Greg
was talking about how he had been cast in a lot of these light parts and how he
wished people would look at him as a more serious actor capable of more
challenging material, which is essentially the same thing that Bob [Crane] says
in the ["Auto Focus"] script." For "Auto Focus", Kinnear described his
early admiration of the t.v. character Hogan: "[g]rowing up, I watched "Hogan's
Heroes" religiously -- Hogan was so cool because he knew how to deal with the
Germans in such a funny and heroic way. But Bob Crane was like most people
-- complex, full of contradictions. And at some point, when his libido met
up with his passion for photography, he had a difficult time keeping his
appetites in check."
In "Auto Focus": Greg Kinnear as troubled
actor Bob Crane, the "Hogan Heroes" television star who was brutally murdered in
1978. Crane's murder has never been solved. (Photo:Sony Pictures
Perhaps none of the films in 2006 have been as satisfying for Greg Kinnear as
"Little Miss Sunshine", the little movie that could. The film, released in
late July in North America, has been the stuff of which dreams are made.
Though it will appear on video in North America in December, it has grossed a
remarkable $58.5 million in the United States and Canada and continues to motor
on as awards season gets underway. There is a very strong chance that the
film could garner several nominations for numerous film awards, including the
most heralded of film awards shows in the world, the Academy Awards.
Kinnear spoke in the film's notes about what drew him and other actors in the
film to "Little Miss Sunshine": "I think everyone in this film was attracted to
the script. You have this family seemingly going on a very simple trip and
suddenly you uncover this whole complex family dynamic that leads them towards
change. It's a darkly funny movie but at the same time it's also kind of
positive and uplifting. It takes unexpected turns that are quite
refreshing." Kinnear plays Richard, a win-at-all costs, positive and
forward-thinking man who wants the best for his daughter and tries to get her to
the beauty pageant for the Little Miss Sunshine contest.
But it is "Fast Food Nation" which essentially gives Greg Kinnear his first
leading role of 2006. He is both the moral anchor of the film as well as
the guy who could or might be able to do more to make things a little better for
all in the risky intersection of the business of fast food, calories, factory
worker conditions and animal treatment. Following "Fast Food Nation" he
scheduled to appear next year in the film "The Feast of Love" as part of an
ensemble cast that includes Morgan Freeman, Jane Alexander and Selma Blair.
Greg Kinnear was born in Logansport, Indiana in 1963, and once quipped in an
interview that "being from Indiana has its benefits." A comedian by trade,
he ventured into American television, hosting the "Later" show in 1994 on
American network television station NBC. Prior to that in 1991 he hosted
"Talk Soup" for E! Entertainment television, for five years. Kinnear is a
husband and father of two daughters. He has been quoted as saying that
"I'm just doing the best I can with what I have. There are certain
physical limitations to being a Waspy-looking dude from Indiana, right?
Travis Bickle part two probably ain't coming my way. So with the roles I
get, as best I can I try to see the cracks within the face and then magnify them
in an interesting way."
Greg Kinnear's roles in 2006 have magnified his onscreen profile and the actor
seems destined for greater glories in his film career.