As he turns 40, a look at Patrick Wilson's best performances

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Getty Images
Published Jul. 1, 2013

Happy 40th birthday on Wednesday to actor Patrick Wilson, who never forgets where he came from, which is right here in St. Petersburg.

Wilson revisits his roots when his busy schedule permits, often with his wife, author and actor Dagmara Dominczyk, and two sons in tow. Over the years, the Emmy and Golden Globe nominee has lent his celebrity to local charities and his Tony-nominated singing voice to the Wilson Van, a fundraising rock band alongside brothers Mark and Paul. Father John, a WTVT anchorman, and music teaching mother Mary K. raised their boys well, and talented.

The level-headed truth of Wilson's charmed life leads to interesting performances, revealing character flaws that innate good looks and confidence otherwise disguise. Wilson at 40 is just hitting his stride, so it's an appropriate time to look back on his first decade in movies and television.

Check out these defining performances, or wait for this summer's double shot of Wilson in theaters: The Conjuring (July 19) and Insidious 2 (Sept. 13). Then tweet him birthday wishes @patrickwilson73.

Angels in America (2003): Tony Kushner's stage play about AIDS in the '80s became an HBO landmark and Wilson's movie breakthrough, earning Emmy and Golden Globe nominations for best supporting actor. Wilson played Joe Pitt, a gay man closeted for religious and political reasons, whose marriage disintegrates as his values strengthen. Director Mike Nichols plucked Wilson from Broadway's The Full Monty.

The Phantom of the Opera (2004): Not Wilson's movie theater debut — The Alamo beat it by eight months — but this one bears repeated viewing for his fans. It's a more natural transition for him from Broadway to Hollywood, singing the role of Raoul, whose romancing of Christine (Emmy Rossum) drives the Phantom (Gerard Butler) insane with jealousy. The only musical on Wilson's filmography so far, which is a shame.

Hard Candy (2005): True story: I'm in a crowded French Quarter dive on a Saturday night when the bartender shoves in this DVD. Until the shocking end, there's nothing less than rapt attention to this sordid thriller about an online predator (Wilson) and his not-so-innocent prey (Ellen Page). On a party night in New Orleans? That's how creepy-good this movie is.

Little Children (2006): Wilson becomes a certifiably sexy leading man thanks to his torrid scenes with Kate Winslet. Yet his character is pitifully immature, a suburban adulterer and underachiever allowing Wilson to use his golden-boy exterior to full ironic effect.

Lakeview Terrace (2008): What could be a throwaway thriller is boosted by Neil LaBute's screenplay and trio of performances better than the B-movie premise deserves. An interracial couple (Wilson, Kerry Washington) move next door to a racist LAPD officer (Samuel L. Jackson) trying to intimidate them out of the neighborhood.

Watchmen (2009): Every emerging actor gets at least one splashy, special effects-driven fantasy on his resume these days; Wilson's is this ambitious take on a graphic novel. He gained 25 pounds to play Nite Owl II, a resurrected superhero overcoming impotency through saving the world from nuclear holocaust. Makes you wonder if a better fitting cape is in Wilson's future.

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Barry Munday (2010): Wilson's funniest performance on the list, as a self-deluded ladies man whose one-night stand with a wallflower (Judy Greer) leads to a paternity suit.

Insidious (2010): A movie that works like Halloween Horror Nights at a theme park. Wilson and Rose Byrne play parents struggling to bring back their comatose son from a paranormal realm. Director James Wan keeps the shocks simple, fairly bloodless and creepy, and Wilson opened up a new avenue for roles, in tidy supernatural shockers.

Young Adult (2011): Former high school jock (Wilson), now married with a newborn daughter, is the fatal attraction of his prom sweetheart (Charlize Theron), now an unhinged writer wanting him back. Looking less physically fit than usual, Wilson sells his small town character too trusting to realize he's being seduced by a sociopath.

Girls, episode "One Man's Trash" (2013): Wilson is being touted for an Emmy nomination as Lena Dunham's older-man fling on her HBO series. Meeting coffee house cute, mating by convenience and splitting by generational truth, Wilson and Dunham were as emotively in synch as they are physically different, creating sexual tension rare for even cable television.

Steve Persall can be reached at or (727) 893-8365. Follow @StevePersall on Twitter.