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Why Jake's Dad From I'm Thinking Of Ending Things Looks So Familiar

This content was paid for by Netflix and created by Looper.

One look at I'm Thinking of Ending Things' dazzling trailer, the latest film from writer/director Charlie Kaufman, and you'll be counting down the days till its September 6 release. Inspired by the book of the same name, the trailer definitely raises more questions than answers. Why does the dog keep shaking? Why is an ice cream stand open in the middle of a blizzard? And why does Jake's Dad look so familiar? 

No, you're not losing your mind — he should trigger a trip or two down memory lane. A little sleuthing will tell you all you need to know about the accomplished actor behind the character of Jake's Dad: David Thewlis. With more than 90 films to his name, and credits in some of the world's biggest franchises, you've most likely seen David Thewlis before, even if you can't put your finger on just where. Here's why Jake's Dad from I'm Thinking Of Ending Things looks so familiar.


An actor like David Thewlis can make even tough roles look completely effortless, but sometimes making movies is no walk in the park. This was the case in Thewlis' breakout role as Johnny in Mike Leigh's (Vera Drake, Mr. Turner) 1993 arthouse hit, Naked. To help him get into character, director Leigh apparently dragged Thewlis to a morgue to observe a corpse up close and personal. Challenging directorial decisions were apparently the norm for the entire filming process. 

This doesn't mean that the role was a bad experience. Thewlis told The Guardian, "I did have one panic attack where I thought, 'This is it.' It was a crazy time. It overtakes you. But I felt so alive. My brain was on fire." 

It's been said that art is suffering, but maybe that's because it gets results. Naked cleaned up at Cannes in 1993, winning Best Director for Mike Leigh and Best Actor for David Thewlis, in what was just his eighth theatrical credit. 

So what was this role that took him to the brink? Thewlis plays Johnny, a gifted but unstable conspiracy theorist, who teeters around the underbelly of London, yelling about philosophy and getting into all sorts of R-rated mischief. Critics of the day couldn't get enough, and if you're in the mood to see a wild and brilliant early performance in Thewlis' endlessly impressive career, Naked still packs a punch today.

The Omen

New parents like to imagine what kind of people their kids will grow up to be. Maybe they'll be doctors or famous athletes, or perhaps they'll usher in a new era of hell on Earth. Okay, that last one's probably not so common, but maybe that's why the parents never see it coming in evil child Antichrist movies like 2006's The Omen.

In this remake of the 1976 classic Omen film, David Thewlis stars as Keith, the photographer who begins to understand, through a series of omens appearing in his photographs, that the child Damien might just be the devil incarnate.

How does he figure it out? Well, Keith begins to observe strange shadowy images in pictures he takes, floating over the heads of the people he photographs. Things tend to end poorly for the folks over whom these eerie images appear, and Keith begins to notice that these dark events all seem to tie back to creepy adopted child Damien. We won't spoil the ending, but Thewlis definitely has to race to discover the truth, hopefully before it's too late.

Harry Potter and Wonder Woman

We all carry around secrets, don't we? Maybe you cheated on a test in junior high. Perhaps you once did a little shoplifting when times were tough. And you might even be a secret lycanthrope that terrorizes the countryside during every full moon! Secrets like these are part of the fabric of human life. Maybe that's why David Thewlis' role in Harry Potter is so dang relatable.

If you were a filmgoer in the 2010s, chances are you saw at least a couple of entries in the Harry Potter series. Here, Thewlis was a standout, playing the complex and highly sympathetic Remus Lupin, the beloved Hogwarts teacher and closeted werewolf. Thewlis brought fans to tears in 2004's The Prisoner of Azkaban and remained a favorite all the way to the finale, 2011's Death Hallows Part 2.

Secrets also abound with Thewlis' character in 2017's Wonder Woman — and if you still haven't seen it, we won't spill the beans here. Just know that when Sir Patrick Morgan says he wants to reach an armistice with Germany to end World War I, there's a little more going on than meets the eye. 

It's no secret, though, that Wonder Woman and the Harry Potter series were box office dynamite. With a combined global haul of nearly $9 billion, David Thewlis has clearly had his hand in some of the biggest cinematic successes of the past generation. Not too shabby for an actor whose characters always seem to have something to hide.


Once you've seen the Coen Brothers' Fargo from 1996, you'll never look at a woodchipper the same way. The movie found humor in the midwestern culture and unique speech patterns of middle class Minnesota, and combined this with a pitch black crime story that's not for the faint of heart. The result is an atmosphere that you won't find in any other film, which is why FX brought back this setting for the TV series of the same name in 2014 — which is easily one of the best TV shows of the last decade.

Like True Detective, FX's Fargo is an anthology series that tells a new story with a new cast every single season. For season 3 they pulled in David Thewlis to play the menacing antagonist V. M. Varga, and the actor earned a Golden Globe nod for Best Supporting Actor for his work.

The Varga character is flamboyant and frightening. Wealthy through his role as the head of a regional crime network, Varga nonetheless wears a cheap suit, lives in the back of a semi trailer, and has rotten teeth most likely resulting from out-of-control bulimia. Varga is a giant in the local economy, and can even make commands regarding life and death. Played to intimidating perfection by the 6'2" Thewlis, it's proof that the actor can dominate the small screen just as well as the silver screen.

Big Mouth

Adolescence is a time of pimples, braces, and difficult hormonal awakenings. Sometimes the memories are so awkward that you just want to forget about them. But Big Mouth won't let you. This animated coming-of-age series on Netflix shines a light on the cringiest of youthful private experiences, with the hope that you'll become a little more comfortable with yourself in the process.

Starting in season 2, David Thewlis joined the cast, lending his voice to role of The Shame Wizard. Thewlis's character highlights the worst adolescent anxieties that we've all experienced at one time or another, but like so many of Thewlis' characters, there's a little more going on underneath the surface. 

The Shame Wizard himself suffers from social isolation and childhood trauma. As his personal story emerges, he transforms from a person of total menace and cruelty to a sad but relatable man that we all recognize a little bit in ourselves. Like so many aspects of Big Mouth, The Shame Wizard is much deeper than he appears on the surface, which is why a heavy-hitter like Thewlis turned out to be unsurprisingly perfect for the role.


If you're excited about I'm Thinking of Ending Things, chances are you're a fan of writer/director Charlie Kaufman's other work. Past classics include the sweet and trippy Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, and the sad and mind-blowing Synecdoche, New York. However, if you're a fan of David Thewlis also, you'll know that I'm Thinking of Ending Things isn't the first time the creative pair has worked together. Nope, that collaboration would be 2015's stop-motion animated Anomalisa, starring Thewlis in the lead role as Michael Stone.

Stone is a customer service guru who has a successful career as an author, but he lives a depressed existence wherein he perceives all people as completely identical. That's right, everyone around him, including his wife and son, have the same face and the same voice. That's why Michael becomes completely enamored when a woman named Lisa comes into his life, with a unique face and a voice all her own.

This is definitely one of those movies where the less you know the better, so we won't spoil any more of the surprises that follow. But suffice it to say, if you're a fan of Anomalisa, you're probably more than a little excited for I'm Thinking of Ending Things, where Kaufman and Thewlis tackle a story that's a little more humorous...and sinister.