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We live in a magical, golden age where we have so many awesome pop culture characters that we have a hard time keeping track of them all. Think what your ancestors who were stuck with Gilgamesh and maybe a couple of lesser heroes would think about the first Avengers movie alone -- tons of super-interesting characters doing amazing things, all crammed in the span of a couple of hours. (Also, their brains would probably implode because you just introduced them to the concept of movies that they have no mental tools to handle, you monster, but that's beside the point.)

In fact, we have so many cool characters that a few of the most interesting ones inevitably end up as sidekicks and supporting roles, despite the fact that they have all the tools to become the next Wolverine or Iron Man or Ernest P. Worrell. Let's take a look at some of the better small-time characters out there and see if we can't elevate them to the superstar status they so clearly deserve.

5
Sallah From The Indiana Jones Movies

Lucasfilm

Before John Rhys-Davies was the criminally underappreciated gem of badassdom that was Gimli, son of Gloin, he was the criminally underappreciated mountain of aptitude and virility known as Sallah, aka that fat guy you were mildly amused by in Raiders Of The Lost Ark and Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade. "Hold on," you probably think at this point. "Wasn't the guy little more than a fairly competent comedy sidekick, good for a couple of laughs and the same number of plot devices?" Yes, he was, and yes, it is a crime.

Consider the backstory of Sallah Mohammed Faisel el-Kahir, the best and most powerful digger in Egypt at a time where the digging circles were pretty, uh, chaotic, even in real life. Only, he doesn't exist in real life -- he exists in the goddamned Indiana Jones-verse, where a mild-mannered university professor punches Nazis into chopper blades and his even milder dad is James Bond. That is the world where Sallah plies his trade in the most brutal digging scene imaginable, and rules it like it's nothing. While fighting Nazis on the side. And managing to avoid the two worst movies in the franchise. That's skill.

Lucasfilm
Note that this picture features both Indy and Sean Connery, and Sallah still manages
to look the coolest of the lot.

What's more, Sallah is an extremely nuanced character, unlike certain alumni of the franchise that I could name if I wanted to kick people whose careers are already at a "screaming at caged children in music videos" stage. He has a huge family, a vibrant life, a sense of humor that is far too nuanced for a bit-part character, and even a bad habit (his love of Gilbert & Sullivan tunes). What we have here is basically a heroic version of Tony Soprano, juggling his duties, contacts, and family life while fighting external threats (Sallah's Nazis to Tony's cops and opposing criminals) and trying to live his life.

You know what? Screw the inevitable Indiana Jones reboot; this is the direction the franchise totally needs to take. Recast or don't, 1940s or 1960s, I don't even give a damn. Just give us a Sallah-driven hustle movie set sometime after Raiders. Maybe it could feature Marion Ravenwood too, because, let's face it, in a world where 19 out of 20 superhero films revolve around male protagonists, she's not going to get that movie of her own in a hurry.

4
Mr. Pink From Reservoir Dogs

Miramax

If you were to tragically hit your head and lose your memories of all pop culture made within the last 30 years, chances are you'd still recognize Mr. Pink's legendarily dickish take on the necessity of tipping. Steve Buscemi's career-making gangster from Reservoir Dogs is a nihilistic asshole through and through, but in the end the only true professional of the group. Not only does he survive the movie as the only major character, he also gets the diamonds and manages to escape the warehouse. Was he arrested or killed immediately after? Maybe! Probably! Chased as a cop-killer and with nowhere to run, certainly. Not great odds, those.

The thing is, you know who else didn't have great odds? Jackie Brown. Butch. Django. Almost every single Tarantino protagonist who nevertheless survives. What if Pink pulled a truly Tarantinoan "against all odds" trick and fought/bamboozled his way through the cops waiting outside? He is armed, after all, and his knack for survival has been demonstrated throughout the movie.

But his absolute greatest strength is simple: Despite being a popular character, he is virtually a blank slate ... that is played by Steve Buscemi.

Miramax
This is an excellent thing, regardless of your stance re: weasels.

There are many great Tarantino creations out there, but surprisingly few of them would work as spinoffs. Some of them, like Hans Landa, are awesome characters but would chew the scenery off any set if you ever attempted to put them front and center. Others have already completed their character arc -- Butch has his watch/redemption thing, The Bride gets her revenge, even Jules Winnfield finds new meaning in life. But you know who doesn't have any of that stupid "closure" shit going on? That's right, Mr. Pink. All he has is a loud mouth and either a shitload of diamonds or a pile of cash, depending on which theory about the Pulp Fiction briefcase you buy into. What's more, Steve Buscemi of today is an absolute powerhouse of an actor: Apart from his usual "snarky little shit" roles, his stint in Boardwalk Empire (even with all the flaws of his character) has proved that the man can have more presence than 99 percent of Hollywood's supposed tough guys. His real-life heroics certainly don't hurt, either.

So, Mr. Tarantino, heed this call: Set Buscemi loose on the world once more. Shit, you can even let Robert Rodriguez direct if you want. Pink could have escaped to Mexico, and Rodriguez certainly has experience making things explode south of the border. I will not apologize for that accidental euphemism.

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3
Inigo Montoya, Fezzik, and Vizzini From The Princess Bride

20th Century Fox/Vestron Pictures/MGM

It's hard to name a more cartoonish movie than The Princess Bride, even if you count actual cartoons. It's not easy to be the most deliciously outlandish character in such a film, yet somehow the trio of flamboyant sword-master Inigo Montoya, giant strongman Fezzik, and bossy, not-quite-as-clever-as-he-thinks Vizzini all manage to conquer the podium together. In the movie, the antagonist-turned-two-thirds-protagonist trio (spoiler for a 28-year-old movie: The short guy dies) soon turns into The Inigo Montoya Show (feat. the big dude sometimes), but the trio's chemistry works so impeccably that it's a shame their screen time together lasts only a few minutes.

So, let's fix that shit. I'm thinking animation.

20th Century Fox/Vestron Pictures/MGM
For whatever reason.

Here's my issue with a live-action Inigo/Fezzik/Vizzini adaptation: Who the hell would you cast as them? You could probably get away with replacing Vizzini with Peter Dinklage or an It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia-mode Danny DeVito, but it's not like you can just stick a Mandy Patinkin nose on Channing Tatum or glue an Andre The Giant mask on one of the guys who plays The Mountain in Game Of Thrones. Entire generations of fans who have grown up quoting the movie would scream bullshit, and the whole thing would turn into that Three Stooges reboot with Will Sasso that I'm not even going to link to for fear of clawing my eyes out at the sight of its IMDb page.

A cartoon would have none of those drawbacks. The voices are easy enough to replicate, and Patinkin -- the most quotable of the three -- is still around to provide Inigo's esteemed repeat promises of revenge. As for the setting, the possibilities are endless as long as the events take place before the movie (because we obviously still want to keep the quote around, and also, you know, Vizzini). The Princess Bride has plenty of themes to go around -- you could make this spinoff cartoon an Adventure Time-style barrage of absurdity, or Venture Bros. that shit. Go nuts. In fact, I feel that would be the point.


Oh, and here's the damn quote. We both know you've been waiting for it all entry long.

2
Les Grossman From Tropic Thunder

DreamWorks Pictures

Tom Cruise. Man, oh man, Tom Cruise. For all his wealth and fame, and for all the times we've jumped at the chance to rip the guy a new one, I can't help but feel a little bad for him. I hear stories that he might be slowly waking up to the fact that his life is controlled by what is essentially a hundred-tentacled kaiju of a corporate religion, with at least 95 percent of said tentacles firmly wrapped around him, and I sigh and fart and forget the whole thing and go about my day. (My "feeling a little bad" is, uh, not the strongest currency out there.)

Still, maybe this underlying suspicion that it's been a long time since Tom Cruise truly enjoyed his life is why I've always liked him best in movies where he genuinely seems to enjoy himself. These are invariably roles where he's at least partially cast against his usual explosion-punching Mission: Impossible type: the "respect the dick" guy in Magnolia, the hapless fucker thrown into hopeless battle in Edge Of Tomorrow, and even the "same guy as always but now silver-haired and evil" hitman in Collateral.

Oh, and then there's this fuckin' guy:


For extra fun, imagine Matthew McConaughey's character is True Detective's Rust Cohle.

That's Tom Cruise as chubby, balding, sociopathic producer Les Grossman in Tropic Thunder, giving fatherly advice on the subjects of face-fucking and scorched-earth tactics. He's never been more intimidating, and you can see a mile away that he's never had more fun in his life.

Now, a couple of years ago I'd have said that devastatingly scene-stealing joke characters such as Grossman fall firmly in the "will never work as a main character" category. However, we're seeing more and more unconventional protagonists that work like a dream -- shit, Better Call Saul alone proved that a fast-talking sleaze character can easily own the screen, given the right script and actor. Here, we already have a neat character and an actor that truly crushes in the role -- and I can't imagine that Cruise would have massive trouble acquiring/commissioning a suitable script.

So, yeah. Just something to think about, Tom. Why not do more of the stuff that people like and you clearly enjoy doing? Life's too short to get caught up in rumors about prearranged wife interviews when you can dance instead.

DreamWorks Pictures

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1
Q From The James Bond Franchise

MGM/UA

Regardless of what you think about that conspiracy theory where 007 has already died numerous times and "James Bond" is just a code name they give to the next guy in line, no one can argue about the fact that everyone's favorite misogynistic murder machine would have died approximately three or four times per movie if it wasn't for Q and his trusty gadgets. All the super-powered cars, watches, shoes, and other gear that has made the franchise iconic and distracted the audience from the times George Lazenby was playing the lead came from the Quartermaster and his division, yet the man himself is generally treated with joking dismissal and friendly-but-not-quite animosity by the man whose life, remember, he's trying his level best to save.

United Artists
Let's see you hand a seven-figure supercar you've built for years to a dickhead
who you know will trash it within minutes.

But why does a proud combat-inventor like Q take shit from a cocky, clearly replaceable field guy like Bond? Because he's seen plenty of kids like 007, that's why. In fact, I have my suspicions that Q has very much been a kid like that: The arc of Desmond Llewelyn's Q (real name: Major Boothroyd) over the films, plus his occasional involvement in field work despite advanced age, reveals heavy hints that not only does he have a background in field work but that maybe Bond's inane shit-flinging is actually a display of grudging respect for a man with credibility far beyond his own. Over the course of the movies, this Q is pretty much the only guy who can and frequently does get the last word on Bond ("When have I ever let you down?" "Frequently."). Finally, here is their final exchange of words, in The World Is Not Enough:

Q: "I've always tried to teach you two things: First, never let them see you bleed."

Bond: "And second?"

Q: "Always have an escape plan."

"Never let them see you bleed. Always have an escape plan." Those are the words of a man with a lifelong knowledge of two things: shit, and how to deal with it. No wonder he didn't mind the field agent kid firing a few potshots at him and became only mildly agitated when he kept breaking his hyper-expensive gadgets and fucking up his budget.

(That still doesn't explain why Bond gets away with the puns when John Cleese is Q, mind you -- that man looks like he would specifically equip your supercar with a device that sticks bananas in the tailpipe the second the big chase scene starts if you so much as looked at him the wrong way.)

MGM/Columbia Pictures
Maybe he tried that on Daniel Craig, who tracked him down and
punched him until he was condensed into Ben Whishaw.

So, to recap: What we have in the classic Q character is the biggest gadget genius in all spy moviedom, who can handle himself in the field, and is enough of a badass to give spying advice to motherfucking 007. This is not about what kind of movie the man deserves -- why doesn't he have a dozen already? Just have the character start from the 1950s and slowly work his way up to the current Bond universe's time frame, perhaps working with Judi Dench's future Q at some point in the 1970s -- and eventually retiring just before Daniel Craig is promoted to 007. The rebooted Bond-verse could finally get a somewhat coherent timeline, for the first time in the franchise's history. Really, there's just one question: What use would we have for James Bond after Q: Rise Of Agent Boothroyd inevitably overshadows him?

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Steve Buscemi starring in his own action movie would certainly be pretty rad. Even more rad would be a movie about Chewbacca. Check out more great sidekicks who didn't get their due in 6 Famous Sidekicks Who Deserved To Be In Charge. Or imagine Davy Jones from Pirates Of The Caribbean teleporting his way around his own movie when you read 5 Famous Movie Characters Who Wasted Awesome Superpowers.

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