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Why Governor Wilburn From Ratched Looks So Familiar

The odds are good that you, like the rest of America, are deep in the throes of Ratched fever. Developed for television by newcomer Evan Romansky alongside Ryan Murphy (the creator of American Horror Story), this series explores the early days of Mildred Ratched, the infamous, lobotomy-wielding nurse from One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. Between getting stoked on learning about Mildred's backstory, or frothing at the mouth for hints toward how the series might tie into Ken Kesey's novel (and/or the film it inspired), it's possible that viewers of Ratched might miss out on some choice details, leaving them with more questions than answers. Most notably, who is that chameleonic actor with the very fine mustache, playing the role of Governor George Milburn?

The answer is Vincent D'Onofrio, a critically acclaimed performer who — with acting credits stretching back almost forty years — there's a good chance that you recognize. Or, at the very least, you probably recall seeing his decomposing skin sack, as it was once worn over the carapace of a 15-foot space cockroach. But we're getting ahead of ourselves.

Vincent D'Onofrio bugged the MIB

Out of Vincent D'Onofrio's many recognizable roles, one of the most jarring is also the one where he's at his least recognizable, in the 1997 sci fi comedy Men In Black. Here, the actor pulled double duty, starting the movie as Edgar, a rural laborer with an abusive streak and a Heston-esque love for his shotgun. After roughly thirty seconds of screen time with a symmetrical, un-decomposed face, he lends his likeness to a giant space bug in need of a more nonchalant countenance.

And that, canonically speaking, is how Vincent D'Onofrio wound up under six and a half hours worth of makeup and prosthetics, according to director Barry Sonnenfeld in the Men in Black making-of documentary. The process, which D'Onofrio described as "very hot, very weird, and painful," involved things like stretching out the skin under his eyelids, and gluing them to his cheeks. When all was said and done, the makeup effects, designed by Star Wars and Videodrome alum Rick Baker, won the film an Academy Award for Best Makeup, and D'Onofrio landed a Saturn Award for Best Supporting Actor.

Describing the process of becoming an alien bug at a panel in 2011, the actor said it was harrowing challenge, since he wanted to approach the role in a fresh, original way. "I started with bug documentaries," he said, "and I got so bored." Instead, he focused on developing a stilted walk, by locking off his knees and ankles with sports braces, wood, and duct tape, and created an inhuman voice by combining impressions of John Houston and George C. Scott. And that, kids, is how you make an extraterrestrial bug giant.

Years later, though, D'Onofrio would go on to play an even more significant comic book-inspired role.

Vincent D'Onofrio put the fear into Daredevil

In 2015, Netflix and Marvel Studios released Daredevil, the first in their series of small screen superhero adaptations, and the cornerstone of their highly anticipated Defenders franchise. Critics applauded the show's bleak, violent fight choreography, its writing, and its grim atmosphere. One aspect of the program that was almost universally lauded, as well, was its antagonist — Wilson Fisk, the Kingpin, as played by Vincent D'Onofrio.

Fisk has been a staple of the Marvel Universe since his introduction in The Amazing Spider-Man #50 back in 1967, but he came to be most associated with smashing up Daredevil, mentally and physically, during Frank Miller's time writing the stories. While D'Onofrio wasn't the first actor to take on the character — Michael Clark Duncan played the Kingpin in 2003's Daredevil flick — D'Onofrio brought a terrifying undercurrent of cold calculation and unpredictable rage to his Kingpin. His dramatic loss of screen time in the show's second season was a point of contention in many reviews, and it likely wasn't a coincidence that when Daredevil returned for a third season, Fisk took center stage, sometimes receiving more time than the eponymous Man Without Fear.

Now that Marvel may soon regain the rights to their Netflix characters, fans have speculated as to whether D'Onofrio's lauded turn as the Kingpin might make its way to the MCU proper. The actor himself, for that matter, has expressed on Twitter that he'd find it "astonishing" to see Spider-Man and Daredevil team up to take him down. 

Vincent D'Onofrio's other Marvel role ... well, sort of

Well before Vincent D'Onofrio was the Kingpin, though, there was a brief, shining moment long ago, when the actor took a crack at another Marvel heavy-hitter — in an unofficial way. 

See, back in the time before Elisabeth Shue took on the role of Jennifer Parker in 1989's Back to the Future Part II, she went on her own, lesser-known adventure, which involved babysitting ... and lo, a movie title wrote itself. 1987's Adventures in Babysitting depicts Shue's character, Chris, experiencing a slew of mishaps while trying to look out for her young wards, one of whom is obsessed with the Mighty Thor. While this goes on, the kid in question encounters a mechanic in a blonde wig, played by D'Onofrio, and somehow mistakes him for the defender of Asgard. Heck, with the innocence of a child, the argument could even be made that the sourpuss mechanic actually was Thor — he did, after all, have his own helmet at home, and would explain why he was tooling around the shop with a sledgehammer.

This "marvelous coincidence has not gone unremembered by D'Onofrio himself, as seen when he tagged Thor: Ragnarok director Taika Waititi on Twitter in 2018. With any luck, maybe this eighties Thor might make a comeback in Thor: Love and Thunder. Maybe he'll even get his five bucks back.