Oscar Actors: Jenkins, Richard–Best Actor and Suporting Actor (The Shape of Water)

In the touching, and politically timely drama, “The Visitor,” Richard Jenkins gives such an astonishing performance as the liberal and kind university professor Walter Vale that with some luck (and marketing help), his work will be remembered at Oscar time.

Jenkins is one of the most in-demand character actors in Hollywood. His memorable performance alongside Ben Stiller in the brilliant comedy “Flirting with Disaster” (1996) netted him an Independent Spirit Award nomination for Best Supporting Male.

Jenkins recently wrapped production on “The Broken,” a horror film in which he stars opposite Lena Headley, and “Burn After Reading,” a comedic drama starring George Clooney and directed by the Coen Brothers. He also costars in Adam McKays’ “Step Brothers,” a comedy reteaming of Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly (Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby) scheduled for 2008 release.

Prior to his film work, the actor developed a long and distinguished regional theater career, most notably a 15-year stint at Rhode Island’s Trinity Repertory Theater, where he served as artistic director for four years.

After a small role in the Lawrence Kasdan film “Silverado” (1985), Jenkins began working regularly. Supporting parts in such films as Ken Harrisons “On Valentines Day” (1986), “Hannah And Her Sisters” (1986), “The Witches of Eastwick” (1987), and “Sea Of Love” (1989) followed.

Jenkins spent the early 1990s in made-for-TV movies, including HBOs Emmy Award winning adaptation of Randy Shilts’ bestseller about the discovery of the AIDS virus, “And the Band Played On” (1993). Later in the decade, Jenkins gained wider appreciation, especially as he indulged his talent for comedy.

His appearance as an uptight gay FBI agent who is accidentally drugged was one of the highlights of David O. Russell’s “Flirting with Disaster” (1996). Working again with Ben Stiller, Jenkins appeared as a psychiatrist in “There’s Something about Mary” (1998), which launched a relationship with directors Peter and Bobby Farrelly.

Jenkins also appeared in the Farrelly produced “Outside Providence” (1999) and “Say It Aint So” (2001), as well as in the Farrelly-directed “Me, Myself And Irene” (2000). The actor then shifted over to another pair of movie-making brothers to portray the father of Scarlet Johansson’s character in Joel and Ethan Coen’s noir “The Man Who Wasnt There” (2001).

That same year, Jenkins appeared in the first season of HBO’s “Six Feet Under,” as Nathaniel Fisher Sr., the wry funeral home director whom his family members recall as an impenetrable mystery, frugal with his praise and emotions. Most recently, Jenkins has appeared in “Intolerable Cruelty” (2003), “Cheaper By The Dozen” (2003), “I Heart Huckabees” (2004), “Shall We Dance” (2004), “North Country” (2005), “Fun With Dick And Jane” (2005) and “Rumor Has It” (2005).