As the razor-sharp Wolverine, the Marvel Comics' mutant with the wounded soul, Hugh Jackman is a magnetic presence in "X2: X-Men United." With a taut glare and voice that's at once sensual and menacing, the Aussie actor commands the screen.
It's difficult to grab the attention when he's around -- even if you are Academy Award-winning actress Halle Berry. Yet, Scottish actor Alan Cumming makes it look like a breeze as he teleports himself through "X2," bringing the prayer-touting mutant Nightcrawler down to earth for viewers.
With his skin covered in midnight blue, Cumming relies on his eyes, voice and gestures to do what he's made a career out of -- stealing the show from the leads. He's just one of the new breed of character actors from the other side of the Atlantic who unassumingly walk into a film and run away with the accolades.
It was, afterall, Alan Rickman's portrayal of the Sheriff of Nottingham in "Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves" that is the stuff of movie lore. Here was a performance so deliciously wicked that it's credited with saving this film by pulling attention away from Kevin Costner's wavering English accent.
And the list goes on. The hilarious Rhys Ifan put on his skivvies and stole the show from Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts in "Notting Hill"; Jason Isaacs' cold blue eyes nearly undid Mel Gibson in "The Patriot"; and Clive Owen was more than memorable as the hitman in "The Bourne Identity." The League of Obscure British Actors (www.ar.com.au/~jriddler/ba/league.html) is a Web site devoted to these guys. You'll find links to familiar names including Ewan McGregor, but also Gerard Butler ("Reign of Fire") and Tom Hollander ("Lawless Heart").
Here's a look a just a few of these scene-stealers and other films you can watch on home video.
Sean Bean: An intense gaze and inner turmoil that smolders near the surface made Bean a great villain in the blockbusters "Patriot Games" and "Goldeneye." Those same characteristics also made him heartbreakingly vulnerable in "Stormy Monday" and allowed him to play the mother of all death scenes in "Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Rings."
Cumming: No one plays slimy better than Cumming. He's the perfect tonic for the "I-don't-have-a-date blues," playing creepy unwelcomed suitors in "Circle of Friends" and "Emma." Yet he could still play cute and awkward in "Romy and Michele's High School Reunion."
John Hannah. He first came to U.S. attention as the soft-spoken gay friend in "Four Weddings and A Funeral," then took a romantic turn opposite Gwyneth Paltrow in "Sliding Doors." His gift for comedy can be seen as he bumbles his way through the two "Mummy" films.
Rickman: He was, by far, the best thing about "Die Hard" and "Robin Hood." In both, he played the charismatic bad guy with such gleeful skill it was hard not to root for him. Rickman's even better as the brooding romantic lead, playing the loving ghost in "Truly Madly Deeply." And it was Rickman, not co-star Hugh Grant, who won hearts in "Sense and Sensibility."
Tim Roth: He first garnered international recognition in Quentin Tarantino's "Reservoir Dogs" and "Pulp Fiction," but the prissy villain in "Rob Roy" brought him a bevy of award nominations. His best role remains his most unrecognizable: General Thad in "Planet of the Apes." Pretty-boy hero Mark Wahlberg didn't stand a chance against a sneering and snarling Roth.
-- Toni Ruberto