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William H. Macy: Five must-see roles of an indie darling

William H. Macy at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival

Most film fans will recognize William H. Macy from his Oscar-nominated role in FARGO and his supporting turns in MAGNOLIA and BOOGIE NIGHTS. But if that’s all you know of this indie Everyman hero, are you ever missing out. Both awkward and intelligent, apprehensive and over-eager, Macy conveys a jittery familiarity — you know a guy like this, however far-fetched a character he may be playing. Here’s a William H. Macy sampler that will give you the full picture of his considerable talents — and, lucky for you, you can even catch two of these movies this weekend on Sundance Channel.


Mr. O’Day, COLIN FITZ LIVES!
It’s the classic example of an indie film that wasn’t sold and thus never made it to theaters — so most people didn’t get to see it. But for those who did, it became one of those cult favorites that lived on in legend, much like the late rock star who it’s named for. COLIN FITZ LIVES! — Saturday at 8P on Sundance Channel — is a silly, strange, sweet comic musing on life’s big questions featuring standout performances, including Macy’s as security specialist Mr. O’Day, who sends out two guards to protect the grave of Colin Fitz on the anniversary of his death.”It’s a lovely comedy,” Macy said of it.


Walt Price, STATE AND MAIN
In the David Mamet comedy STATE AND MAIN — playing Sunday at 10P on Sundance Channel — Macy gets to show off his comedy chops in a typically Mametian way, with lots and lots of pointed dialogue and absurd realism. Macy plays movie director Walt Price, whose crew descends upon a small New England town to shoot a movie called THE OLD MILL, only to discover that the mill he’d been promised is long gone. But Walt forges ahead anyway, and the results are delightfully hilarious. Macy and Mamet have worked together frequently since their early days — Macy took Mamet’s class at Goddard College in the early ’70s; “I credit him with teaching me everything I know,” Macy has said.

Edmond, EDMOND
This Mamet play-turned-movie stars Macy as Edmond, a man who slowly comes undone from the rigid strictures of his upstanding Upper West Side life. His frustrated descent into violence, wanton sex and racism in a single night is a wonder to behold; both mad and maddening, his ever-deepening depravity may be hard to believe, but on Macy it is so compelling that it’s impossible to turn away.

Frank Gallagher, Shameless
In this Showtime series, Macy plays Frank Gallagher, a drunk, dysfunctional dad who loves his six kids despite his inability to actually care for them in any adult way. Messy, out-of-control, totally irresponsible, Frank is a far cry from the more bottled-up characters Macy usually takes on. Which is why it’s especially fun to watch.

Father Brendan, THE SESSIONS
In this Sundance Film Festival favorite — previously known as THE SURROGATE — Macy plays an unusual priest with a deep empathy for one of his parishioners, a bedridden poet and writer who, at the age of 38, seeks permission to lose his virginity — without being married — before he dies. A spiritual advisor who nonetheless appreciates the specific needs of man, Macy’s Father Brendan is both quiet and surprising as a priest with a sense of humor and a willingness to bend the rules to serve the greater good.

Photo credit: William H. Macy photographed at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival by Dmitry Gudkov