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Tom Wilkinson in ‘Batman Begins.’

Mr. Movie: Tom Wilkinson

I have long admired the quiet, underplayed acting of Tom Wilkinson, who left us last year at 75. Rarely the top banana, he was the go-to guy when you needed a solid back-up character actor. And he had a marvelous string of good performances in good movies.


Priest (1994) is about a youthful Catholic priest whose homosexuality gets him banished to a small rural congregation with Father Matthew Thomas (Tom Wilkinson) as the senior, conservative priest. And yet, Father Thomas steps up to aid the young priest in his troubles and does all he can to help him. A solid, low-key Wilkinson performance. The 2011 film with the same title is a loser.


The Ghost and the Darkness (1996) is the somewhat questionable story of blood-thirsty lions attacking humans. Tom Wilkinson is Sir Robert Beaumont, trying to build a railroad across Africa. Val Kilmer is the chief engineer on the job. To stop the carnage caused by the marauding lions, Beaumont enlists storied white hunter Charles Remington (Michael Douglas). From there, things get more complicated and the mighty hunter winds up the prey.


The Full Monty (1997) is about a group of unemployed steel workers in Britain who decide to earn money by putting on a male stripping show. They tell prospective customers they will be better than the famous Chippendale strippers because they will go The Full Monty (totally nude). In a very surprising role, Tom Wilkinson appears as Gerald Cooper, their former boss and a talented dancer, who the group hires to teach them some moves. Of course this works out, or it wouldn’t be much of a movie!


Smilla’s Sense of Snow (1997) features Tom Wilkinson as a consummate bad guy. He plays Professor Loyen, who performed the autopsy in the Inuit boy whose death is the centerpiece of the movie. Smilla (Julia Ormond) has a sense that something isn’t right about this death. There ensues an incredibly complicated plot that I will not attempt to resurrect here. Tom Wilkinson was just fine as the bad guy. Nuff said!


Wilde (1997) is a somewhat truncated biopic about the British author Oscar Wilde, played here with winning flamboyance by Stephen Fry. He falls into a flaming homosexual relationship with foppish nobleman Bosie Douglas, whose stern father The Marquess of Queensberry (Tom Wilkinson) violently objects to their liaison. This pushes Wilde to sue the Marquess for libel. Bad idea. Wilde’s homosexuality is revealed and he winds up going to prison. Wilkinson is winningly hateful in this film.


Nothing here for littlies. These are for adults.