Allison Janney is one of those tremendous actors who you may not be able to place straight away. She's back on the big screen this Friday in scorching, Oscar-nominated form in I, Tonya, playing the kind of mother from hell that has us running for the hills.
The darkly comic drama recounts the shocking real-life scandal that engulfed American figure skater Tonya Harding (Margot Robbie). But the headlines are understandably zeroing in on Janney's performance as the title character's acid-tongued mother, LaVona Golden. Abusive and vitriolic, it's a startling performance, one that's bound to stick with you. Here's a taster of what to expect.
Janney picked up a BAFTA for Best Supporting Actress last Sunday and an Oscar is looking increasingly likely. Still struggling to place her? We've rounded up seven of her finest roles.
1. The West Wing
Janney's most famous role came in Aaron Sorkin's long-running political drama. The series was showered in awards, more often than not for Martin Sheen's diplomatic President Bartlett. But Janney's contribution shouldn't be underestimated. She played C.J. Cregg, press secretary turned chief of staff, and the sort of richly drawn character that allows Janney to show her range, from sly comedy to explosive anger.
2. The Hours
A great actor can make a strong impression with only a limited amount of screen time. Janney is that kind of actor, appearing opposite Meryl Streep in this multi-generational drama exploring the life and influence of author Virginia Woolf (Nicole Kidman). She plays Sally, the lover of New Yorker Clarissa (played by Streep), and their famous kiss scene was referenced during Janney's recent appearance on The Graham Norton Show.
3. American Beauty
What were we saying about limited screen time? Sam Mendes' multi-Oscar-winning smash was a triumph across the board, stocked with heavyweight performers including Kevin Spacey and Annette Bening. But it's Janney's quietly heartbreaking turn as a browbeaten suburban mother who steals the show. Even with less than five minutes of screentime, she makes a remarkably vivid impression.
4. Finding Nemo
Janney has such a distinctive voice that it's no surprise she's been put to work in animated movies. One of her most memorable roles comes in Pixar's aquatic masterpiece, playing incarcerated starfish Peach who has arrived in a dentist's fish tank straight from eBay.
Anyone can build a reputation playing cranks and eccentrics, but it takes a certain skill to make ordinariness compelling. Jason Reitman's acclaimed comedy-drama deservedly drew plaudits for Ellen Page's central performance as a newly pregnant teenager, but matching her beat for beat is Janney as her wise, compassionate stepmother, Bren.
6. The Help
This racially charged drama, adapted from Kathryn Stockett's novel, is filled with memorable performances. It's anchored by the, respectively, Oscar nominated and Oscar winning duo of Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer as the eponymous help, so kudos to Janney for making such a vivid impression with less screen time. She plays Emma Stone's on-screen mother, and the scene where she stands up to Bryce Dallas Howard's racist socialite is incredibly satisfying.
Comedy ensembles don't come better than in Paul Feig's deliriously entertaining spy spoof. Melissa McCarthy was Golden Globe nominated for her endearing turn as a desk jockey turned action hero, while Jason Statham steals it sending up his own image as a pompous tough guy. Even so, Janney gets in more than a few hilariously acerbic lines of her own as a grumpy CIA chief.