You’re forgiven if you don’t know the name Peter Stormare, or if you’ve heard the name, but can’t place it with a face. That’s part of why Fandor exists: To bring actors like Peter Stormare to your attention. So in this, our latest installment of “And Also Starring…,” where we highlight amazing character actors who might not make it onto the marquee, but who have made their way into our movie-loving hearts, we highlight the one and only Peter Stormare.
Stormare, a Swedish-born, Shakespearean-trained actor, broke through to U.S. audiences in the late 90s, with roles in the Coen Brothers’ Fargo and The Big Lebowski and in the mega-budget disaster flick Armageddon. In a way, these films would serve as not only the foundation of his success in the United States but also the blueprint from which many of Stormare’s future roles would draw. Often, as evidenced by his many film credits (a quick glance at IMDb will show nearly a hundred movies), Stormare is cast as some kind of “scientist” or “sleazeball,” who hails either from some never-totally-confirmed Northern European country…or Russia. Just take a gander at the names on some of his credited roles: Dino Velvet, Slovo, Mullet Cop, Alexei, “The Suspicious character,” Dr. Roth, Dr. Gianetti, Dr. Phillips, Dr. Brohnson, Dr. Solomon P. Eddie—wow, that’s a lot of PhDs.
Of course, his most famous role is that of Gaear Grimsrud in Fargo. Making up one-half of the ruthless, perverted, and strangely funny crime duo (alongside Steve Buscemi, in one of his best performances) at the heart of the Coen Brothers’ tragicomedy, Stormare steals most of the scenes he’s in. As Grimsrud, his performance ranges from hot-tempered to frighteningly dissociative — a quality best summed up in the iconic scene where he calmly feeds a body to a wood chipper, only to be interrupted by Frances McDormand’s heroic Marge Gunderson.
What many might not put together from the first (or even ninth) viewing of Stormare’s performance in Fargo is how much it borrows from one of his earlier performances — that of “Slippery Pete” in the classic Seinfeld episode, “The Frogger.” And I’m only half-kidding. Go ahead and re-watch Fargo, and then watch this scene from Seinfeld and tell me that he’s not hitting the same comedic beats with Kramer as he is with Steve Buscemi.
In a career that has spanned over twenty years (longer, if you include what he did in Sweden before landing in Hollywood) Stormare has appeared in nearly a hundred movies, dozens of television shows, and even the occasional music video, and he has lent his voice to both animated movies and video games. If you think of the character description “unhinged Eastern European dude,” you might picture Stormare’s headshot, even if you didn’t know his name before today. Even in bad movies (and Stormare has appeared in quite a few), he is always entertaining. I mean, have you tried to watch Armageddon lately (or at all)? “Disaster” doesn’t just define the movie’s genre. But one thing is clear: Stormare — as cosmonaut Lev Andropov — is having fun. And it’s fun to watch him! Of course, if you’re going to watch Stormare and Buscemi team-up, you should probably just watch Fargo again instead of putting yourself through the “space-madness” of Armageddon, but whatever.
Stormare is an actor who transcends many of the projects he’s worked on. Like most great character actors, he understands the roles he’s often cast to fill, and he gives people what they want (while at the same time satirizing our expectations for roles calling for “Crazy Russian” or “Detached Psychopath”). After all, there’s a reason why the Coen Brothers keep coming back to him, and there’s a reason why he’s at once instantly recognizable but consistently overshadowed: Peter Stormare is one of the great, largely unsung, characters actors working today.
Watch Now: Small Town Murder Songs, featuring — you guessed it — Peter Stormare.