Jackie Earle Haley was a child star. He made a major splash in The Bad News Bears (the Walter Matthau/Tatum O’Neal version) as greasy pre-teen cool guy Kelly Leak and solidified his post-kiddie stardom with an amazing turn in the Oscar winning Breaking Away. Some may even remember him as the suave-lite sidekick to Tom Cruise in the tacky teen sex comedy Losin’ It. But after appearing in a couple of low budget horror films in the late ‘80s/early ‘90s, Haley decided to drop out of Hollywood. No longer capable of playing the pimply loners with a simultaneously schizophrenic sweet/sinister side, he moved to Texas and became a successful director of TV commercial. Another tale of youthful aspirations undermined by adult realities.
Almost 13 years passed before Sean Penn suggested he be part of the All the King’s Men remake. It was a risky move, considering Haley’s mature celebrity was shaky at best. Taking the small part of bodyguard Roderick “Sugar Boy” Ellis, the actor re-announced his desire to be part of the movie mainstream - and then came on like gangbusters. Since then, he’s done nothing but definitive work. Beginning in 2006, Haley has given three Academy-worthy performances in high profile films, acting turns which illustrate how powerful this unassuming star can be. Taking advantage of his unusual looks and complex demeanor, directors such as Todd Field and Zack Snyder have recognized that when it comes to able anti-heroes, the brilliant bad guys we clearly love to loathe, Haley is absolutely flawless.