In a career that started in the late eighties, JK Simmons has earned a reputation of being a hardworking character actor. Working in theatre, TV, and film, JK has won many awards including an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor and a Bafta. He has also worked with many influential directors including Jason Reitman, Damien Chazelle and the Coen Brothers.
1) Terence Fletcher – Whiplash (Director – Damien Chazelle)
After filming the short film version with director Damien Chazelle, JK reunited with the director to play the same character for the feature film version. Terence Fletcher is a well-respected music teacher who regularly subjects his students to cruel mental torture when they don’t meet his high expectations. As Fletcher, JK becomes a profane, rage-fueled monster but it’s the quieter moments that stand out. In a later scene, Fletcher shows his reasoning behind his constant pushing by arguing that “There are no two words in the English language more harmful than ‘good job'”. It’s a great scene, meant to showcase Fletcher’s thought-process and the way JK plays it almost makes Fletcher seem human. The result is a terrifying yet layered portrayal that earned him Best Supporting Actor at the 2015 Academy Awards.
2) J. Jonah Jameson – Spiderman Trilogy (Director – Sam Raimi)
You know you’ve done a great job when the franchise you’ve worked on gets rebooted and, you’re still the person everyone sees in that role. Simmons as notorious Daily Bugle editor J. Jonah Jameson is often called the perfect casting in a comic book film which is mind-blowing considering he is a supporting character that often gets used for comedic effect. Complete with a giant cigar in his mouth and flattop haircut, JK not only looks like the J. Jonah in the comics but he also captures a lot of the character’s traits including the obnoxious attitude and fiery temper to a tee.
3) Mac MacGuff – Juno (Director – Jason Reitman)
In his second collaboration with director Jason Reitman, JK plays the blunt but kind-hearted father of the titular Juno (Ellen Page) in this witty comedy about a teenage girl going through a pregnancy. Simmons and Page bounce off each other well and, their on-screen relationship feels very real and genuine. The highlight of this performance is the kitchen scene where he dispenses sarcastic comments and life advice to his daughter. JK plays the father switching between making jokes and giving life advice so naturalistically and, it’s very moving to watch. It’s an incredibly sweet and hilarious performance that showcases his talent to play these types of characters.