2006:The Year of Kinnear

                       A busy year for Greg Kinnear has helped keep the actor 
on the big screen throughout 2006, and most prominently in the new film "Fast Food Nation"


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."

by Omar P.L. Moore/The Popcorn Reel

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 Soup". 

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."

Auto Focus (2002)
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 Classics)

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.

by Omar P.L. Moore/The Popcorn Reel


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