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Aug 26, 2009

Familiar Face - Unknown Name #17 - Zeljko Ivanek

Call them what you want - character actors, "That Guy(s)," scene stealers - I don't care. This is a regular feature where I spotlight one performer, whether they be longtime veterans like J.K. Simmons or Barry Corbin, or a fresher face just making their way up the stardom ranks. For previous FF-UNs, click here.

Today's Familiar Face-Unknown Name:

Zeljko Ivanek

Where You've Seen Him (high profile): If you've watched any TV in the last ten years, Ivanek's face is almost certainly familiar to you. Name a show and he's probably guest-starred and/or had a recurring role on it. A short role call includes: Damages, Heroes, The Mentalist, Numb3rs, Big Love, Law & Order, LOST, 24, The Practice, and Oz. He's also been featured in such prominent films as School Ties, Donnie Brasco, Black Hawk Down and Live Free or Die Hard.

Where You've Seen Him (not-so-high profile): On Broadway, where he's been a mainstay over the three-plus decades since he graduated from Yale and attended the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art. He's no stranger to independent films, either, with roles in Lars von Trier's Dogville and Manderlay, as well as Dancer in the Dark, In Bruges and Julian Po.

Character Specialties: To be honest, though I respect his work, I've never really liked Ivanek all that much, and the reason is likely due to the types of roles he gets: he's often an unlikable prick. Overwhelmingly, he's a cop or FBI/CIA type, but any kind of stern authority figure seems to work. His follically-challenged head appears to be the guilty party here; the all-over-the-place Ivanek is just 52, but it seems like I've been watching him play "older" jerks for decades. Turns out I have; he was just in his 30s, being typecasted in roles that played older than his own age.

My favorite role: See above. It's hard to pick a favorite role when you don't like the characters. I recall reading an interview with Matt Damon (sorry, I have no source) where he called Ivanek the best actor working; as you might recall, Damon was in School Ties as well, prior to his becoming a star. Ivanek's role in the Brendan Fraser coming-of-age story is one of the larger film roles that I can recall, so I'll go ahead and pick that one. His character in that Dead Poets-feeling film was an anti-Robin Williams - a strict teacher that berated and harped on the children to the point of breakdown. Those beady eyes worked wonders.

Little Known Facts: As might imagine given his name, Zeljko was not born in the United States. He was born in the former Yugoslavia and was brought to the States with his parents when he was a small child.

His name is pronounced Zhel-ko Ee-Vah-nek.

On Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/%C5%BDeljko_Ivanek
On IMDb: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0411964/
On Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Zeljko-Ivanek/49657054759

9 people have chosen wisely: on "Familiar Face - Unknown Name #17 - Zeljko Ivanek"

Jess said...

He was awesome in the first season of Damages. He also had a terrific episode of House this past season I think. I really like him since Damages, but you're right, he often plays a jerk.

wiec? said...

while he often plays a terrific snarky ahole he's really great at playing impatient too.

he was perfectly cast as the Canadian tourist in In Bruges who hated 2nd hand smoke and gets punched in the head for saying so. then later when the cops catch up to Farell's character and Ivanek's character is there pointing with a "he did it" look on his face ... pure gold.

Tom Clift said...

He plays governer devlin in "Oz", and actually manages to come across as more of a scumbag than any of the prison inmates. Really good performance; the man you love to hate

Nick said...

I've seen a handful of the stuff you've listed, but I don't recognize the guy at all. Though he does vaguely resemble John Malkovich in that picture.

It wasn't until weic said "the canadian" that I knew who he was in In Bruges.

Fletch said...

Jess - apparently, I need to watch Damanges. I knew when it came out that it had a good cast, but when you take a look at their roster, it's really pretty outstanding.

wiec - funny you should mention In Bruges. When I do these FF-UN posts, they are always preceded by some film I've just watched that had actor X in it. He gets into my head and I decide that he will be the next one. Such was the case with Ivanek and In Bruges; just watched it again two nights ago, so yeah, he was fresh in my mind. Seemed too small a role for him, but he was pretty damn good, anyway.

Tom - I remember seeing him on Oz, and yeah, he was definitely worse than many of the inmates.

Nick - really? Well, you do watch a lot of juvenille programs, and he's in more adult fare. ;P

Nick said...

Oh, har har. :P

Of what you listed, I've seen him on Heroes, Lost, In Bruges, Dancer in the Dark, and Live Free or Die Hard.

Though it took me until now to realize who he was in Heroes (because I guess I skipped over that one when I originally read the list). Which is ironic, because on the show, I also thought he looks strikingly like John Malkovich.

Abby said...

I like Ivanek, he's the guy you love to hate in most of the films he's in. He does it so well though it's hard to imagine him in playing another kind of character.

As a side note, he was also in True Blood last season. He played a strict magistrate for the vampire disciplinary world, with a slightly cruel side to him.

Daniel Getahun said...

As I literally haven't watched a TV series in the last 10 years, it should say something about his face that I still recognize him from some movies. Black Hawk Down jumps out because I recently saw it again, but since wiec mentioned In Bruges that may be more likely. Don't really remember him all that much from Live Free or Die Hard. But I think I kind of want to see that again...

Ceri said...

He was in School Ties? Wow, I haven't seen that in years - must rewatch that.