No Small Parts: 20 minutes or less

Fans were shocked when Jared Leto’s Joker had only about 7 minutes of screen time out of Suicide Squad‘s bloated 123, but Hollywood has a long history of assigning big names to small roles – and it’s not always a bad thing.

the-italian-distributor-of-12-years-a-slave-has-pulled-its-posters-highlighting-white-actors-like-brad-pittOkay, sometimes it’s a bad thing. Brad Pitt was in 12 Years a Slave for only a couple of minutes, just long enough to establish himself as the only nice white guy, but some countries (not naming any names, Italy) really ran with the white guy and blew his big white face up on the posters, relegating the star (and the slave), Chiwetel Ejiofor, to a small corner.

Anne Hathaway shaved her head and followed a life-threatening diet in order to play the part of Fantine in Les Miserables. She had only 15 minutes of screen time, but it was enough to win her an Oscar and shape her career.

Know who did more with even less? Darth Vader. He appeared in the original Star Wars for just about 12 minutes, but he was an instant bad guy icon. His presence is so magnetizing he truly doesn’t need much. What’s a little more head-scratching to me is Boba Fett. I still don’t even know who he is, or if that’s the correct pronoun for this person. And yet I hear about him ALL THE TIME. He’s in the top 5 favourite characters despite being a glorified boba-fett_61fdadfdextra; he manages about 18 minutes across the entire trilogy mind you, and only got that much when fans seemed to really respond. Mark Hamill got second billing in Star Wars: The Force Awakens because Hollywood is a sexist machine. He’s in that movie for about 6 seconds – sneeze and you miss him.

Beetlejuice is one of Michael Keaton’s most famous roles, and he plays the title character, but he only gets roughly 17 minutes worth of screen time, all told. How crazy is that? But it’s true: he doesn’t appear til quite late in the movie, but boy does he maximize every crazy moment he’s there.

tumblr_o354mgJCwB1rxmai6o8_400.gifJudi Dench will see your 17 minutes, Michael Keaton, and she’ll raise you: she won a best supporting actress Oscar for only 8 minutes of a role. She played Queen Elizabeth I in Shakespeare in Love and clearly made quite an impression from her modest 6% of the film. Accepting the award, she joked “I feel for eight minutes on the screen, I should only get a little bit of him.” I’m sure that was some consolation to the likes of Lynn Redgrave and Kathy Bates, who lost to her.

Anthony Hopkins only managed to double that screen time when he took on his (arguably) most famous role: Hannibal Lecter in Silence of the Lambs. In just 16 minutes he managed to creep out an entire generation, and caused chianti sales to plummet. Sean Connery was originally approached for the role and turned it out down, which means he lost out on an iconic role, an Oscar, a big day, and sequel opportunities.

There was a lot about the movie Doubt that got under my skin, but Viola Davis’s 5-8 tumblr_oh5lwdLYg81qa3emao8_400.gifminutes were consistently under there. She plays the mother of a young boy who may or may not have been molested by a priest. She goes toe to toe with Meryl Streep and doesn’t just hold her own – she steals the scene, earning a supporting actress nomination to boot.

5-8 minutes? Bah! Ned Beatty earned his best supporting actor nomination in under 6. He had one riveting scene in Network, which he shot in a single day, but it sure had us glued to our seats.

Beatrice Straight shaves about 13 seconds off Beatty’s time with her Oscar win for her work in the same movie. As William Holden’s poor, wretched wife in Network, Straight made quite an impact, stealing away the record for least screen time for an Oscar win from Gloria Grahame, who took a leisurely 9 and a half minutes to earn hers for The Band and the Beautiful.

It seems as thought it might be difficult for anyone to earn an Oscar with a sub – 5 minute role, but who knows: has anyone actually racked up Michelle Williams’ screen time in Manchester By the Sea? It’s not a whole lot more, I’m guessing. But the truth is, someone came close: Hermione Baddeley was nominated for best supporting actress for just 2 minutes and 20 seconds worth of screen time in Room at the Top, in 1960. The bar’s been set: who will be the first to duck under it successfully?






What’s your favourite tiny role? Matthew McConaughey in The Wolf of Wall Street? Tom Cruise in Tropic Thunder? Daniel Craig in The Force Awakens?

38 thoughts on “No Small Parts: 20 minutes or less

  1. stephen1001

    Nice idea for a post Jay!
    I quite enjoyed Dame Judi’s 8 minutes – McConoughey’s Wolf of Wall Street was a good one too.
    Also on my list? In X-Men, First Class, I think Hugh Jackman’s in there for 5 seconds and 1 line, but it’s the highlight of the film!

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Sean

      That’s definitely the best line Wolverine gets in the entire series. I also liked how that scene was referenced in Days of Future Past.

      And yes, I do get excited anytime Spider-Man makes an appearance!

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Sean

    Boba Fett was by far the coolest Star Wars character when I was a kid, even better than Darth Vader. That was the case even though he basically does one thing of importance in the films and his overall incompetence led to his apparent death (though his death was reversed offscreen and then the reversal was deleted from continuity when Disney took over, so I guess he is dead again). But he looked awesome, he had a jetpack, and his toy ship came preloaded with carbonite Han Solo.

    As far as my favourite tiny role other than Boba Fett, do cameos count? Because Vin Diesel’s appearance at the end of Fast & Furious 3 was about 5 seconds and to me the reaction to that is the reason we got Fasts & Furiouses 4-8 (and counting).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jay Post author

      Thanks! You’re sort of meant to not recognize him – he plays the storm trooper that Rey controls with her mind when she’s tied up – he unties her, and leaves his weapon.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Jay Post author

      Yeah, I rewatched it like a year ago and was pretty surprised. I guess I wasn’t an observant kid. Plus the Beetlejuice cartoon seems to have bled into my memory of it.


  3. Sarah Ferguson and Choppy

    I feel there are like half a dozen of these in Pulp Fiction, like the Tim Roth/Amanda Plummer characters or Harvey Keitel’s Wolf.

    And speaking of Tarantino, what’s the movie where he shows up just to do the Top Gun monologue? I remember thinking that was awesome way back in college (though I haven’t seen it since and it probably hasn’t stood the test of time).

    The Rock has a small but excellent part in Be Cool. At least, that’s how I remember it, so I could be completely wrong. Actually, speaking of the Rock, his part in The Mummy 2 was teeny tiny, and they made a whole movie (The Scorpion King) out of it.

    OK, I am ending now. But I am going to keep thinking about this.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Liz A.

    I’m not sure about the whole Boba Fett thing either. Seriously, blink and you miss it cameos. I guess he’s bigger among the extended universe stories.


  5. Wendell

    Some great “tiny” roles listed here. I’ve got a few others.

    One of the all-time greatest is Robert De Niro as Al Capone in The Untouchables. He has somewhere in the neighborhood of 10 minutes of screen-time, yet completely owns that film, save for the equally amazing work of Sean Connery.

    Bill Murray’s precious few moments in Zombieland is, to me, the greatest cameo of all-time.

    Speaking of cameos, Queen Latifah’s big screen debut was a single scene in Jungle Fever that she just killed.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jay Post author

      Those are all good ones, but yes, I love Bill Murray popping up in that movie too, it definitely belongs on the list and I can’t believe I blanked on it. Classic.


  6. Wednesday's Child

    You’ve blown my mind with the true measurement of Darth Vader’s screen time in the whole series. I’m trying to think of a good small part. How about David Bowie in Fire Walk With Me? He certainly makes an entrance in that one.


  7. reocochran

    Judi Dench played only a little while in Sense and Sensibility but made a fairly good impact. I am not sure if I can think of anyone who came into a scene and left right off top of my head. I am grateful for your coming up with this list, though! πŸ™‚ I liked Jared Leto best in his role in “Dallas Buyers Club.” He definitely deserved his Oscar! πŸ™‚



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