Big Men Actors of the Small Screen

  • 3 min read

Gravitas. Charisma. Sex Appeal. Today’s leading men have to have it all. It’s not uncommon for the top male actors of today to spend hours in the gym every day pumping and preening to ensure they exude as much machismo in their performances as possible. Men want to look like them and women just want them. But there is another kind of male star. One that can steal the spotlight with their wit, their charm, or just their unforgettable magnetism. Welcome to the world of Big Men on the small screen.

As life slowly returns to normal, there are probably a few good things that Lockdown has taught us. It’s definitely shown us we don't need a gym to work out. It’s shown us the importance of slowing down and enjoying time with our families. And hopefully we won’t ever get too busy again not to enjoy the pleasure that is to be found in a good, old-fashioned Netflix-binge session.

With this in mind, let’s take a look at two big men actors who, when it comes to the small screen, stole the show. Two big men stars whose work is definitely worth a watch (or a re-watch) and is streaming on Netflix now.

Funny Big Guy: Jack Black

Multitalented. Exuberant. Over the top. These are just some of the words that come to mind when trying to describe the comedy powerhouse that is Jack Black. Born Thomas Jacob "Jack" Black in 1969 in Santa Monica, California, Jack is now a very much in demand big man actor, voice over artist, musician, comedian, writer, and YouTuber.

Known for his boyish, cheeky grin this big man all-rounder is usually seen sporting an unkempt look. However, when the big guy does tear himself away from his Tenacious-D rockstar vibe, he actually cleans up alright. Appearing on the red carpet for the 2011 premiere of the film Bernie, Jack cut a very trendy figure in a simple tee underneath a suit jacket which is paired with some nice-fitting jeans.

big man jack black suit

Jack Black as big man fashion icon (© Getty Images)

We all know him from his standout performance in the 2003 breakout film School of Rock. But one film that many may have missed is the 2017 Netflix release Polka King. Described by some critics as ‘mediocre’ the film is in fact as eccentric and endearing as its real life inspiration. Polish immigrant and con man, Jan Lewan was the original Polka King of Pennsylvania who ended up running a very lucrative Ponzi-scheme. This role is perfect for Black as it provides him a platform for his usual over-the-top performance style. However, he also manages to portray Lewan in such a way as to have the audience empathise with the inveterate fraudster. A difficult task because the real life Lewan managed to swindle millions of dollars from unsuspecting people until he eventually got caught.

4 out of 5 stars.

Genius Big Man: Orson Welles

To say the big man was a bit of an enigma would be an understatement. Orson Welles' life was both turbulent and daring. His exploits both on and off screen are the stuff of legend today. Born in 1915 in Kenosha, Wisconsin, young Orson would shoot to fame by directing and narrating the 1938 radio play War of the Worlds that convinced listeners in the golden age of radio that a real-life alien invasion was under way.

Welles would go on to carve out for himself a truly unique career as both a big man actor and director. Best known for the 1941 film Citizen Kane (which he both directed, produced and starred in), Welles would never again replicate this level of work which is considered a true cinematic masterpiece. In fact, the rest of his career was largely spent fighting with producers or beginning film projects that would never see completion. Indeed, today he is remembered as an obsessive workaholic whose narcissism got in the way of greatness.

big man suit orson welles

The big man’s imposing status was helped by his penchant for wearing dark suits with structured shoulders

The recent highly-acclaimed 2018 Netflix release of The Other Side of the Wind is actually one of Welles’ unfinished projects. More than 40 years in development, the film was originally abandoned in the 1970s due to financial constraints. The film’s haphazardly organised plot revolves around an aging film director who hosts a screening party for his latest unfinished project. Very meta indeed!

The Other Side of the Wind is well worth a watch (even for its notable sex scene). This movie within a movie is Welles’ parting gift; a well-intentioned piss-take of Hollywood by a Hollywood heavyweight no one really ever knew how to take.

4 out of 5 stars

By Anthony Cheadle