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They Were Soldiers Once...And Young: 19 Now Familiar Faces In Early Military Roles

By Joanna Robinson | Seriously Random Lists | May 31, 2013 | Comments ()


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The "Hey It's That Guy!" game is a favorite among those of us who obsessively rewatch. There's a particular kind of joy you feel when you watch something you've seen a dozen times only to find that this time there are three more faces you recognize. This isn't a new concept. It's well-worn territory on this site, in fact. But as I was rewatching some of my favorite war movies this past holiday weekend I realized that of all the instances where this flash of recognition occurs, it's the most jarring in a war setting. When you see a familiar baby face peaking out from under a helmet it means more than if they were playing a random fry cook or a substitute teacher. Here are the tender faces of our troops. Not all innocent, to be sure. But vulnerable. Every single one of them. That initial shocking frisson of recognition turns to fear and dread because these faces, faces we've come to love, are at risk. So, a week late, in honor of Memorial Day, they were soldiers once.

Jon Hamm - We Were Soldiers
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John C. Reilly And John Leguizamo- Casualties Of War
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Ryan Hurst - Saving Private Ryan
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Johnny Depp - Platoon
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Clark Gregg - We Were Soldiers
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Bryan Cranston - Saving Private Ryan
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John Krasinski - Jarhead
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Ty Burrell - Black Hawk Down
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Nikolaj Coster-Waldau - Black Hawk Down
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Joseph Morgan - Master And Commander
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Jim Gaffigan - Three Kings
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Dean Norris - Starship Troopers
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Tom Hardy - Black Hawk Down
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Nathan Fillion - Saving Private Ryan
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...and, of course, the motherlode...

Jamie Bamber - "Band Of Brothers"
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Simon Pegg - "Band Of Brothers"
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Michael Fassbender - "Band Of Brothers"
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James McAvoy - "Band Of Brothers"
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  • Let's not forget Tom Hardy's Butt in band of Brothers. In the last episode - #10 - Points. He dies.
    (Yeah, I knew that...) :-)

    And I didn't see anyone else mention Scott Grimes from BoB. He played Will Scarlet in Russell Crowe's Robin Hood.

  • XBradTC

    Nick Searcy- Tigerland.

  • JustSayin

    I was certain Jack Black In "Mars Attacks!" would be here, but alas.

  • annie

    Walking Dead's Jon Bernthal and Justified's Jacob Pitts were both in The Pacific (which I never finished).

  • DeltaJuliet

    I'm pretty sure I shouted out "Shane!" when the hubby and I were watching it last month.
    FTR, I didn't finish it either. I think I have one episode left. The series is great but I find it very emotionally draining. After what happened in 9, I couldn't keep going.

  • AvaLehra

    Band of Brothers, FTW. Everyone and their mother brother was in that.

  • apsutter

    Holy hell Jim Gaffigan!! Not only was he skinny but he actually looked FIT! I have a hard time imagining him lifting weights and working on his core.

  • We're just going to ignore Vin Diesel in Saving Private Ryan, I'm guessing.

    http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_BTrV...

  • Wrestling Fan

    does Dean Norris really count? he has been a That Guy since forever.

  • Anthony

    Mel Gibson in Attack Force Z

  • LexieW

    Now i need to go re-watch Band of Brothers. Again. This year.

  • toblerone

    I watch it at least once a year, if not more. Same for Generation Kill but I hated The Pacfic and will never watch it again.

  • Kevin McKidd (Tommy from Trainspotting, Lucius Vorenus from Rome, and criminally wasted on Grey's Anatomy) was in the delightfully cheesy, awesomely awful Dog Soldiers. https://encrypted-tbn3.gstatic...

  • annie

    Most memorable scene: when some dude ran away from a werewolf so fast that he imapled himself on a tree branch.

  • Scorptilicus

    As was Game of Thrones' Liam Cunningham.

  • Fabius_Maximus

    Michael Shannon in Pearl Harbor. (I'm ashamed that I know that.)

  • Kobie

    Why is General Zod doing the duckface?

  • BiblioGlow

    Because he is in Pearl Harbor. You don't remember how much that movie sucked because you blocked it from your memory. But Josh Hartnett does.

  • Frank Berrodin

    HAHAHAHAHAHAH Jim Gaffigan

  • BWeaves

    Why are all these actors white? Even with dirt on their faces, I could read by the light of their skin at midnight on a moonless night.

    I know there are famous black actors in similar roles, and RDJ in Tropic Thunder does not count.

    And where are the women? No women in uniform?

  • XBradTC

    How about Courtney B. Vance AND
    Don Cheadle in Hamburger Hill?

  • DeltaJuliet

    The female FBI agent from The Following was also in The Pacific. She played Basilione's love interest.

  • PDamian

    Courtney B. Vance and Don Cheadle both appeared in Hamburger Hill, a 1987 movie about Vietnam, long before they became famous. Bonus points: Steven Weber and Dylan McDermott also appeared in that film.

  • Fabius_Maximus

    Famous black actors: The Tuskegee Airmen.

  • Blake

    Why are there no "famous black actors" or other minorities?

    That's because they are the ones usually be shot at.

    A few exceptions:

    Keith David - Platoon
    Larry Fishburne - A.N.
    Dorian Harewood - Full Metal Jacket
    The entire cast of Glory except Ferris Bueller.

  • Sara_Tonin00

    Glory was a who's who of working black actors at the time - I'm not sure there are any surprises (unless one was so young the first time around watching it that you didn't know any actors).

    but because the armed forces were pretty segregated up until Vietnam, we're not seeing a lot of black faces in any WW1 or WW2 movie that didn't specifically deal with a black squadron.

  • toblerone

    "I'm not sure there are any surprises"

    This guy for 1:

    It wasn't until 4 years later he became FRANK F*CKING PEMBERTON!

    Damn I still miss Homicide.

  • Ugh. RIP, Homicide.

  • Sara_Tonin00

    Ha, maybe since I've seen Glory in the last 15 years it's not a surprise to me that Andre Braugher is in it?

  • toblerone

    Same, I saw it post Homicide.

  • Scorptilicus

    Fishburne came to mind immediately.

    Funny enough, I'd almost thought Cary Elwes for Glory, but The Princess Bride had already been released, so he had some fame, didn't he?

  • kirbyjay

    How about Fishburne in Apocalyse Now? He was about 16.
    Also, every actor in the universe was in Black Hawk Down so it doesn't count
    I just had an idea for a SRL. Is there a scene in a favorite movie that makes you queasy where you cover your eyes or fast forward through it?
    The scene in Black Hawk Down where they're operating on the guy and trying to weave a vein through his leg.
    The scene in 3 Kings where they torture Marky Mark
    The scene in Reservoir Dogs where they cut off the cops ear.

  • Ender's Ghost

    Matt Damon in "Courage Under Fire". He wasn't yet a household name when that came out, but he was by the time he appeared in "Saving Private Ryan".

  • DataAngel

    Black Hawk Down also has Orlando Bloom, Hugh Dancy, and Eric Bana.

  • Jason Isaacs, Ewan McGregor...what's hilarious is that it's like 50 British dudes playing American soldiers. They all sound vaguely southern.

  • E Robb

    The Band of Brothers cast is also chock full of young British actors, for some reason.

  • Mrs. Julien

    Are there equivalent films with women? A cast of thousands, oh look, it's her, kind of movie.

  • This is not really what you're asking, but the rando one-off pre-breakthrough-role female guest stars on Veronica Mars were fucking mindblowing:

    Jessica Chastain
    Melissa Leo
    Jane Lynch
    Diana Agron
    Leighton Meester

    Not to mention recurring roles for Amanda Seyfried, Ari Graynor, and Krysten Ritter.

  • Torgo

    I don't think Jane Lynch really counts - she had been in The Fugitive and is kind of a "That Girl" in her own right. Let us not forget she played Pacey's mom way back in 2001!

  • Three_nineteen

    Melissa Leo was a regular on Homicide: Life on the Street in the mid-90s. And I believe Jane Lynch's breakthrough role was in Best in Show in 2000.

  • A. Smith

    Best guess would be the women of Pearl Harbor

  • Rochelle

    I think you might have to go make that movie. I'll help you with the kickstarter campaign. The pitch will be for a movie that we can use for the next 15 years to go, "oh hey, it's her!"

  • maureenc

    A "Y: The Last Man" movie, maybe? Or a movie about the Night Witches or the WASPs during WWII?

  • toblerone

    +1. I'd totally love to see that post.

  • Pajiba_Pragmatist

    A quick Band of Brothers Google search shows the following cast members:
    Damian Lewis
    Tom Hardy
    Donnie Wahlberg
    Ron Livingston
    Michael Fassbender
    James McAvoy
    Scott Grimes
    Neal McDonough
    Eion Baily
    Jamie Bamber
    Matthew Settle
    Kirk Acevedo (Oz and Fringe now)
    James Madio (kid from Hook)
    Rick Gomez (The Assistant US Attorney from Justified)
    Michael Cudlitz (Southland)

    *David Schwimmer

    *Tom Hanks
    *Colin Hanks

    The last three are more stunt cast than unknowns

  • clancys_daddy
  • E Robb

    Stephen Graham was also in it.

  • toblerone

    Band of Brothers, The Pacific, Generation Kill and Black Hawk Down are goldmines for this post.

    Tom Hardy:

    http://25.media.tumblr.com/tum...

    Bonus: Damian Lewis (who falls number 2 on my singular same sex attraction list after Sterling Archer).

    And: Alexander Skarsgard.

  • Chris

    I'll take yuor Damian Lewis from Band of Brothers, and raise you Warriors, from 1999. (A.k.a. Peacekeepers in the US for some reason.)

    http://img.photobucket.com/alb...

  • toblerone

    Wasn't this set in the U.K and Bosnia? Pre - Captain Winters I had never seen him (Lewis) before and didn't even realize he was British until Life.

  • Chris

    I think so. I haven't seen it since back when it was new. When I first saw BofB, I thought: Hey, isn't that the british guy with PTSD. It was.

  • Veronica M. Davis

    uрt○ ­I ­l○○κеd ­at ­tһе ­сһесκ ­wһiсһ ­һad ­said ­$8828, ­I ­didոt ­bеliеνе ­...tһat...my ­m○m ­iո-law ­с○սld ­rеaliе ­maκiոg ­m○ոеy ­рart ­timе ­ fr○m ­tһеrе ­рrеtty ­○ld ­laрt○р.. ­tһеrе ­aսոt ­һas ­d○ոе ­tһis ­f○r ­○ոly ­ab○սt ­15 ­m○ոtһs ­aոd ­by ­ո○w ­рaid ­tһе ­dерt ­○ո ­tһеir ­aррartmеոt ­aոd ­b○սrt ­a ­t○р ­○f ­tһе ­raոgе ­T○y○ta. ­tһis ­is ­wһеrе ­I ­wеոt, ..Fox83.com

  • toblerone

    Plus (to break up the sausage fest):

    Dana Delany... Nurse Colleen McMurphy.

    *She is responsible for so much heart break in my life.

  • Megan

    Walter White in SPR? Really? Reaaally? Shocked I don't remember that.

  • Yep. He was the officer in charge of the secretarial pool where they figure out that most of the Ryan brothers have been killed. (and, to be fair, it was a long time before he was Walter White, so you probably didn't notice him.)

  • Jill

    And only 1 arm??? I don't remember that, either.

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