The Matthew Lillard Paradox

I have always loved watching Matthew Lillard act. Even before I knew anything about the acting side of acting, I latched onto just how honest he was. He wasn’t acting for a screen or for camera, but acting with something a lot of people don’t let us see. His characters react to sadness and horror with an honest manner. His face contorts. He is genuinely ugly. He reacts to happiness with honest silliness that is difficult for most people to admit they feel.

He is emotional instead of pretty. It’s amazing.

That is why I have a Matthew Lillard Paradox. I love watching Lillard act so much that any movie he is in runs the risk of not being good enough for him.

Like a lot of people, I first saw him in “Hackers.” My brother insisted we punish ourselves with that one. My reaction was, “The guy who played Cereal Killer was alright. Too Green Jellö already had the name and the movie sucked.”

My brother subjected me to “SLC Punk.” He was knowledgeable about Lillard and hoped I would enjoy a film focusing on him. I finished the movie with some version of, “Yeah, he’s really good. What is he doing in this kind of movie?”

Thir13en Ghosts had him condense his negative emotions into a great comic relief role. He played it honestly. The humor in his performance came from portraying someone who honestly feared for his life. That kind of comedy relief adds to the horror instead of detracting from it.

Then he and James Gunn (“Tromeo and Juliet,” “Slither”) had their names attached to a family movie. Hell yes. I’m not a Scooby Doo or Buffy fan, but Gunn and Lillard together meant I had to watch both Scooby Doo movies.  I was not at all surprised to read reviews stating that Lillard appeared to be the only person on screen playing with heart.

Everyone is supposed to hate Uwe Boll movies by default, so this only counts to praise Lillard.  “In The Name of the King: A Dungeon Seize Tale” shows Lillard as sleazy, underhanded, kind of dumb, and especially sincere at all of the above.  Lillard plays the kind of person we have all met, who make us feel somehow dumber for having spoken to them.  It even shows in his physical appearance, facial hair, and mannerisms.  Lillard was smart and committed enough to make that work very well.

Today, I occasionally play in a theater that seats about fifty people. One of my teachers keeps asking me to think of an actor I enjoy. I answered: Matthew Lillard, who plays to be honest instead of pretty.  That sincerity is why I always wonder if any movie is good enough for Matthew Lillard.


Andrew is a web developer by day.He has played drums nearly all his life, creates music whenever possible, and plays too many video games.
He has worked as a level designer for a small online video game, as the grim reaper in a haunted house, and traded web design for concert tickets and tattoos.He can be sometimes found performing improvised comedy or stage magic in the south side of Austin, Texas.

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