We all have those early crushes. While Bill “President Whitmore” Pullman wasn’t my first, he certainly stands as a foundational early love. I was at the age where I truly discovered boys (fifth grade) when Pullman had a hell of a three-pete: While You Were Sleeping, Casper and Independence Day each rocked my ten-year-old world.
Bill Pullman hit the ground running in the middle of the 1980s, making his screen debut in a pair comedies Ruthless People and Spaceballs. His feature film debut didn’t come till a bit later in life (IMDb has Pullman turning 32 in 1985), and he had a whole other life in his years before Hollywood. Initially a theater actor, this has seemingly been Pullman’s first love, and he isn’t shy about returning to the stage when he feels like it. He continues to work steadily, with recent roles on television in The Sinner and on the big screen in The Battle of the Sexes and The Ballad of Lefty Brown.
Okay, Independence Day came first in the grand scheme of things. Is it a surprise that even ten year old Kim liked a man in a suit? I mean, look at that polished look of togetherness… with just a hint of the rebellious fighter pilot he’s hiding underneath. As a elementary school student who wasn’t thrilled with Bill Clinton (I’m fully aware of how nerdy I am, thank you!) President Whitmore stood as the President I wish we had. How many of our politicians do we think could give that speech at the end of movie and unite the world against the invading extraterrestrial force? Not many, I tell you. Plus, I say again, have you seen the suit?
In Independence Day, Pullman plays one of the character types which is often his bread-and-butter. He’s damn good at being a “good guy”. He’s responsible and does the adult thing; however, there’s always a glimmer underneath the surface of something more complicated. This will also come into play a bit later… In Independence Day, this comes through his absolutely adorable chemistry with Connie (Margaret Colin) and the resulting (love?) triangle with Jeff Goldblum’s David.
We’ve discussed While You Were Sleeping a few times on the podcast and I know opinions are a bit all over the map. In the movie, sexy Pullman (as opposed to Sweet Baby Angel Pullman Jr…) plays Jack, the slightly hardened, furniture making brother of Peter Gallagher’s suave lawyer in a coma. Ultimately, he’s the far more likable brother once Lucy (Sandra Bullock) gets to know the much more “meh” Peter.
This movie shows the other side of Pullman’s romantic appeal. Okay, he doesn’t wear a suit, but he does know how to wear a tool belt and we all know what they say about tool belts (sex and mending things… all in a row. Thanks, Coupling). In fact, it is this persona which often seems the best fit for Pullman, who shines in the part. He’s a stunning romantic lead of the “Awe schucks” variety. In fact, Pullman occasionally finds himself cast as the other man in movies like Sleepless in Seattle (I’d forgotten how tired we were in the 90s). Anywhoo…
Jack in this movie is, Jack. As mentioned above, my brand is not typically the denim wearing furniture builder. However, in Pullman’s hands the character becomes so much more sexily complex. I said last column, baggage can be disturbingly sexy. In this case, he’s slugging his way through an internal rebellion between continuing on his current path which sees him helping his father run their family business, and his personal desire to open up his own furniture company. All at once, this strikes a chord with Lucy who is fighting against her own safe existence to live the rich, fulfilled and passport stamp filled life her father wanted for her. Jack is going to give her that stamp in her passport… they make each other better!
Anywhoo…can we talk about the man’s pattern of aging? IMDb quotes Pullman as turning 65 in December, and… the beard. How many times have I talked about a man in a beard who wasn’t Captain America. Not a lot! In recent episodes, we’ve referred to Jeff Goldblum as Daddy and Steve Carrell has even entered that territory. I’d like to add one more name for Daddy consideration. Bearded Bill Pullman.
Feast your eyes…
I mean, that Independence Day shit… sequel… should never have happened. However, it gave us bearded, suit-wearing Pullman. And can you believe it, this is the only part of the movie I seem to remember! I know I watched it. Nostalgia is hot, I get it. However, parts of my childhood are still aging like a fine wine, which makes it a bit easier to acknowledge that one of my earliest crushes as a sprightly young man is now at Medicare age… but, I digress.
If you’ve been living under a rock, it completely conceivable that you might have missed Bill Pullman’s work. With a more than 30 year career in Hollywood currently under his belt, he shows no signs of slowing down. Here’s to 22 fantasy years together, and here’s to many more.
He’s not Bill Paxton, damnit!