Cliff Curtis -- Mr. Versatility
Not enough can be said about the so-called "sub A-List" actors who toil long thankless hours in Hollywood. They're the very adhesive keeping a story together. In their absence, it seems, certain stories could never be the same.
I've been keeping a close eye on Cliff Curtis ever since I saw him in New Zealand's delightful coming-of-age story Whale Rider, 2002's sleeper film of the year that took international audiences by storm.
Since then, I'd backtracked his filmography to check where I might have seen him in the past, but didn't. He joins a long line of fantastic Maori thespians who've done their time in Hollywood -- and who continue to shine: Temuera "Tem" Morrison, Lawrence "Mr. Kill" Makoare, not to mention the fantastic director Lee Tamahori among them (Die Another Day).
Cliff's played all manner of roles for which his swarthy look and lithe build ideally permit him to play a variety of different character types -- Chechen, Arab, and most notably, Hispanic as Pablo Escobar in Blow -- I'll be the first to say that he resembles a younger Anthony Quinn (who had a penchant for Arab roles in his day -- in Lawrence of Arabia and Omar Mukhtar among them). I hope someone tells him. (Tell him to ring me if he calls you back).
I keep catching Cliff in different flicks. Recently, I'd also seen him in an all-New Zealand production called Fracture at the Montreal World Film Festival. As a true character actor, his dedication to his craft pays off in these various true-to-life portrayals of a man living life on the edge.
We talk about leadership here.
It seems actors exude a different type of leadership, though no less persuasive than the one honed by the gurus whose names fill bookshelves in town. Cliff's a leader in his own small way.
I'd be willing to bet dollars that aspiring New Zealander kids imagine that they too, someday, might live out their dreams like their idol Cliff. He's the embodiment of the truism that even those from a small quaint place -- New Zealand, "Land of the Long White Cloud" -- can shine beyond their wildest expectations.