I first saw Timothy Olyphant in the movie GO. A Christmas film about rent money, drugs, & people behaving very badly, it is a slick simple gem. In the movie Olyphant plays a hot drug dealer. The main character leaves her friend (Katie Holmes) with him as collateral at one point. You watch the friend (Katie Holmes) go from nervous as she hangs out with the mean shirtless drug dealer, to kinda tempted by his hotness, to scared again. Doing anything with him would definitely be a Big Mistake. Yet you itch to see that big mistake happen. Katie runs into him later on and she’s almost twitchy with desire to hop his bones. You drool to see what happens next.
The next time the big O popped up on my radar was in an episode of SEX IN THE CITY. He was the younger guy kind of boyfriend who has no TP in his disgusting apartment, who drags Carrie out in the wee after hours to the amoral fetes hosted by his younger generation, and who makes out with her at a party with a pierced tongue. (Hot!)
Olyphant was almost unrecognizable when he starred for the first time in DEADWOOD a year or so later. He arrives in a town where the a miasma of lawlessness is so thick you’d think he’d get infected from just one whiff. And it does seem to affect him. As sheriff he’s willing to get a little crazy & very mean if he has to in order to make Deadwood into a better town. And of course he has to.
He walks an ethical razor’s edge and the result is inevitable: he starts having sex with a widow recently recovering from a laudanum addiction. They are both making a very Big Mistake. There’s this one scene where she sends her daughter downstairs with the nanny to the boarding house kitchen to have dinner so she can get it on with the sheriff. They rip her clothes off down to her corset and get to it. They are going at it so hard plaster chunks fall off the ceiling. We see the shot of the plaster chunk falling into her daughter’s soup below. Not good. The affair must end, and one of them pays a price–guess who? You see the knife twist into them both pretty hard, but the law man isn’t really made for love and marriage.
The whole show was as lawless as the town, using a Shakespearean stilted English to convey gun slinger sensibilities. It didn’t last long, and after it was cancelled, I really didn’t think that we’d see Olyphant again. Boy was I wrong!
Although he’s had some movie roles that I refuse to acknowledge, (The villain in Die Hard? Yeesh.) soon enough he found a cozy new home on the television show JUSTIFIED. There he plays a U.S. Marshall with a twitchy trigger finger. He makes many a Big Mistake in this show–one of them involves getting back together with his ex, Winona. While they are a very pretty couple, their relationship is doomed if only because his approach to his job ensures that he keeps tracking nasty murderous men back to his hotel room. There’s not enough room in his life for Winona and the bad guys — so guess which has to go?
What is Olyphant’s magic? In pictures he’s a good looking guy, but it’s not until he’s acting that he gets interesting. He’s always smoothly controlled, but add a little perversity into the mix and he becomes catnip for women. Take your pick: crazy, shrewd, mean or droll—when Olyphant pitches his character ever-so-slightly in any of these directions his sexiness factor goes way up.
Check out Season four of Justified on DVD. It promises more of that excellent repartee between Olyphant and his next-doomed-significant-other. The show has taken a turn towards Terantino-land–but the added shot of blood seems to suit Olyphant.