Some of us here at THN often get our panties in a pickle when we see some of the talentless goons gracing our small and silver screens. We don’t want to name and shame (perhaps that could be a follow-up feature), but for now we’re taking a look at some of our favourite unsung heroes and heroines – those who perhaps have been unlucky with high-profile projects, and a few supporting actors who may not have had the chance to shine as a major lead in a big-budget blockbuster or dramatic epic.

Now before we start, we want to state that all these actors make a steady living working in television and/or film still, and some have for many years. We are not saying they’re deadbeats living on the streets unable to find work – they’re a successful bunch in there own niche way. But these are the ones that should get the recognition and be paid big bucks, the ones mobbed by fans for an autograph and photo due to their success – against those ungrateful celebrities and reality TV twits.

So here we go…

10. Maria Bello

Coming to attention during the the late 1990s, Maria Bello featured as Mel Gibson’s hooker lover in Brian Helgeland’s PAYBACK, a darkly comic remake of John Boorman classic POINT BLANK. It’s startling she’s not looked at in the same light as Sandra Bullock, Reese Witherspoon or Uma Thurman – her career includes Paul Schrader’s dark biopic AUTO FOCUS (which centres on the unsolved murder of television star Bob Crane), crowd-pleasing fave COYOTE UGLY, and the super remake of ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13. However, it’s brave roles in the fantastical fairytale-like mob-thriller THE COOLER and Cronenberg’s brutal character study A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE that puts her on our list.

9. John Hawkes

A chameleon actor who can project intensity and innocence better than most, despite his unimposing appearance. Always giving his utmost alongside his much starrier support, he often outshines them, with Wolfgang Petersen’s THE PERFECT STORM perhaps being the best example. He’s also worked with some of the best directors around: Michael Mann on MIAMI VICE, Ridley Scott in AMERICAN GANGSTER and James Mangold for IDENTITY. Hawkes has also juggled many TV hits too, with roles in 24, LOST and EASTBOUND AND DOWN. He was the right-hand man to the our number one, in HBO’s awesome western series DEADWOOD, playing the level-headed Sol Star. He’s also showcased his versatility in indie outings WINTER’S BONE (for which he was Oscar-nominated) and MARTHA MARCY MAY MARLENE, in which he crawls under your skin as charming cult leader Patrick.

8. David Morse

Much like Hawkes, Morse is another ultimate character actor, appearing in what feels like absolutely everything. For non-film buffs, he’s ‘that guy out of…’ kind of actor, always leaving a presence on screen, in part due to his hulking 6ft 4 stature. Morse play heroes, villains, and those roles in-between perfectly, and is called upon time and again for his reliable talent. To list all his effective roles would take a feature in itself so we’ll just stick with pointing out the Sean Penn-directed duo of THE INDIAN RUNNER and THE CROSSING GUARD, THE ROCK, THE NEGOTIATOR and THE GREEN MILE. Also notable is his serial-killer next-door in DISTURBIA, in which he was easily the best thing. My favourite of his is actually one of his shortest and least seen, which is surprising considering it’s based on a Stephen King story. Scott Hicks’ HEARTS IN ATLANTIS, which is headlined by Anthony Hopkins, sees the versatile actor as the narrator and adult version of Anton Yelchin’s Bobby Garfield. It’s a heartwarming but ultimately heartbreaking tale, mostly part due to Morse’s sombre narration and performance as he recounts the (supernatural) summer that changed his life.

7. Walton Goggins

Goggins has worked in television bit parts and films since 1990, featuring as throw-away characters in everything from BEVERLEY HILLS 902010 to JAG. However his recurring role in cop-drama THE SHIELD led to his most high-profile role to date: conflicted anti-hero Boyd Crowder in JUSTIFIED, equally as popular as the series’ lead actor (more on him later). That intense borderline sociopathic performance in FX’s acclaimed series landed Goggins criminally underused parts in blockbusters PREDATORS and COWBOYS & ALIENS, and most shocking of all, completely wasted in Rod Lurie’s STRAW DOGS remake. Hopefully upcoming efforts DJANGO UNCHAINED and LINCOLN will see him utilised to better effect.

6. Leelee Sobieski

At the age of 16, Sobieski missed out to Kirsten Dunst for a role in AN INTERVIEW WITH A VAMPIRE. However significant roles in the kids comedy JUNGLE 2 JUNGLE and blockbuster DEEP IMPACT made Leelee Sobieski a star to watch. Further supporting turns in teen hits NEVER BEEN KISSED, HERE ON EARTH along with Stanley Kubrick’s EYES WIDE SHUT showed the future looked bright for the stunning actress. Acclaimed performances opposite the awesome Albert Brooks in MY FIRST MISTER and war-drama UPRISING showed Sobieski could certainly act. Sadly her first meaningful lead role, 2001’s tepid thriller THE GLASS HOUSE, bombed with both critics and audiences. She has since appeared in high-profile disasters THE WICKER MAN, IN THE NAME OF THE KING and 88 MINUTES. Someone fire her agent and save her from such atrocities – she’s better than this!

5. Paul Bettany

Bettany was a regular on UK television until an astonishing breakout role as a psychotic hoodlum-turned-kingpin in GANGSTER NO.1, playing the young version of Malcolm McDowell’s unhinged headcase. Soon there were roles in Oscar-winning A BEAUTIFUL MIND and big-budget blockbusters A KNIGHT’S TALE, FIREWALL, MASTER & COMMANDER and THE DA VINCI CODE. Still, it took until 2009 to finally see someone take a chance on him for a significant lead role. Scott Stewart cast him as avenging archangel Michael, one of God’s winged heroes unwilling to take part in Earth’s demise at the nearing apocalypse. LEGION is B-movie brilliance at its best, with Bettany playing it dead straight despite the bonkers premise. Shame the duo’s follow-up PRIEST, a disappointing vampire-thriller based on a comic book, couldn’t replicate the same enjoyable formula. He was also part of this year’s cracking ensemble, the financial-thriller MARGIN CALL and will voice Tony Stark’s computer Jarvis for a fourth time in Shane Black’s IRON MAN 3, released next summer.

4. Joel Edgerton

Aussie actor Joel Edgerton has been back and forth between Hollywood and his home country for the best part of a decade. Early blink and you’ll miss him parts in George Lucas’ STAR WARS prequels, and supporting roles in KING ARTHUR, SMOKIN’ ACES and NED KELLY helped establish him as actor on the way up. His most high-profile roles came in the last year with the better-then-expected prequel to John Carpenter’s THE THING and epic sports-drama WARRIOR. There’s also more on the way, with Baz Luhrman’s THE GREAT GATSBY and Kathryn Bigelow’s ZERO DARK THIRTY. It’s his Australian efforts that really mark him out, with his profile allowing him major input into his characters and overall projects, as well as working with friends and family. THE HARD WORD, nail-biting thriller THE SQUARE (directed by brother Nash) and harrowing fact-based crime drama ANIMAL KINGDOM are absolute must-see.

3. Zooey Deschannel

Zooey, oh Zooey, The dreamy Miss Deschannel is currently enjoying the biggest success of her career as the producer and star of the lovable sitcom NEW GIRL. She like most, has had supporting roles in some great efforts over the last few years – (500) DAYS OF SUMMER – as well as few disasters – THE HAPPENING. The talented stunner, with her beautiful Bambi-like stare, was first brought to public attention in festive comedy ELF, which came after supporting roles in ALMOST FAMOUS, THE GOOD GIRL and ALL THE REAL GIRLS. Her comic timing is second to none, so those tired of seeing yawn-some comedies (romantic or otherwise) featuring the usual (Hudson, Lopez, etc) need look no further than our Zooey. Also, check her out the hilarious and heart-warming all-star comedy OUR IDIOT BROTHER co-staring Paul Rudd, Elizabeth Banks and Steve Coogan. What a shame her biopic of Janis Joplin has been sidelined.

2. Thomas Jane

An actor who’s dabbled with a few lead parts but been seriously unlucky. It’s also worth pointing out he was an integral part of Paul Thomas Anderson’s masterclass duo BOOGIE NIGHTS and MAGNOLIA. He’s a self confessed comic-book and video-game geek, and currently developing his own projects in both genres. Jane even directed cult indie thriller DARK COUNTRY in 2009. He’s perhaps best known as Marvel’s vengeful anti-hero Frank Castle in the underrated THE PUNISHER (snubbed for the sequel, but recently reprised the role in the awesome short DIRTY LAUNDRY), as well as Lawrence Kasdan’s dire interpretation of Stephen King’s novel DREAMCATCHER. Jane returned to King’s work however, collaborating with Frank Darabont on the gut-wrenching modern classic THE MIST, which boasts an ending so bleak it needs to be seen to be believed. He also led Alexander Payne’s terrific TV series HUNG. My pick to show just how good an actor he is has to the be criminally under-seen crime biopic STANDER. A truly awesome film from Bronwen Hughes with Jane as South African cop-turned-crook Andre Stander. Get it seen people!

1. Timothy Olyphant

I’m not one for mocking peoples family names, but I firmly believe Timothy Olyphant would have been a mega star had his name not sounded like it belonged to a spotty spectacle-wearing chemistry Poindexter. I’ve often marveled over this actor during the course of his career, especially for his lovable rogues. His ruthless-yet-heroic role in the greatest television show in history, DEADWOOD, cemented my love of him. His Seth Bullock was the heart and soul of the superb (and sweary) series, while an also amazing Ian McShane took most of the plaudits (and awards). His cocksure personality and handsome leading man looks have popped up in the likes of SCREAM 2, THE GIRL NEXT DOOR, THE CRAZIES and DIE HARD 4.0, yet disappointing video-game adaptation HITMAN feels his only significant lead on the big-screen. Thank heavens we get to see him as the cool-as-hell Raylan Givens on acclaimed show JUSTIFIED. He oozes charisma, with a ‘couldn’t give a fuck’ attitude against a backdrop of the lawless pricks of Harlan County. The ultimate overlooked and undervalued superstar!

There you have some of our heroes. Do you agree or have we missed any of your favourites? As always we’d love to know so drop us a comment or email.