Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

What The Cast Of L.A. Confidential Looks Like Today

Regarded as one of the last films of its kind, neo-noir "L.A. Confidential" opened in theatres in 1997 to great acclaim from critics and audiences alike. It received nine Academy Award nominations and took home two of them, including Best Supporting Actress for Kim Basinger and Best Adapted Screenplay for Brian Helgeland and Curtis Hanson. "L.A. Confidential," based on James Ellroy's book of the same name, follows three LAPD detectives with contrasting personalities as they cross paths while looking into a conspiracy set against the backdrop of 1950s Los Angeles: hot-headed Bud White (Russell Crowe), straight-laced Ed Exley (Guy Pearce), and fame-obsessed Jack Vincennes (Kevin Spacey). 

The film propelled the careers of Crowe and Pearce – relatively unknown at the time of the film's release — to greater heights. Let's take a look at what the cast had been doing before they were chosen for their respective roles, and what they've been doing in the quarter-century since the film's release.

Guy Pearce - Edmund Ed Exley

Guy Pearce had performed in a few television productions in his native Australia, and had costarred with Hugo Weaving in "The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert" as a drag queen, before he was cast as the career-driven, upstanding, goody-two-shoes police officer Ed Exley in "L.A. Confidential." Exley is motivated not by devotion to his fellow policemen, but by his loyalty to a by-the-book judicial system, which makes him the ugly duckling of the precinct.

Director Curtis Hanson wanted to cast relative unknowns in the lead roles of Exley and Bud White in an effort to avoid any preconceived notions on the part of the audience (per GQ), leading him to cast Pearce and Russell Crowe. Despite some nervousness from studio executives, Hanson was adamant about his choice. Needless to say, it worked out well for both the film and Pearce — three years later, he went on to play the amnesic Leonard Shelby in Christopher Nolan's sophomore indie hit "Memento," which remains Pearce's best known role to date.

Some of Pearce's notable subsequent performances include a cameo as a bomb squad officer in "The Hurt Locker," the supporting role of King Edward VIII in "The King's Speech," and a memorable turn as villainous mastermind Aldrich Killian in "Iron Man 3." Additionally, Pearce appeared in Ridley Scott's "Prometheus" and "Alien: Covenant," and starred in the limited series "Mildred Pierce" and "Mare of Easttown."

Russell Crowe - Wendell Bud White

Russell Crowe has had quite a successful career after playing the impulsive and emotional Bud White. After receiving a modest break as a skinhead in "Romper Stomper," Crowe was cast in "L.A. Confidential" alongside fellow Australian Guy Pearce. Crowe later revealed to GQ that the studio had gotten insecure about Crowe's casting in the film, to the point of stopping the payment of his hotel expenses, rental car bills, and per diem during the shoot. The going had gotten tough for Crowe, who at the time had "nothing much," but nevertheless chose to keep showing up on set each day for fear that failing to do so would give the studio a reason to dismiss him.

Crowe's endurance would eventually earn him plaudits for his portrayal in the film, bagging him a lead role in Michael Mann's "The Insider," in which Crowe played a 50-year-old man despite actually being in his 30s at the time. Crowe's most well-known role to date is that of furious Roman general Maximus in Ridley Scott's historical epic "Gladiator," for which he won an Academy Award for Best Actor. The film cultivated a strong actor-director rapport between Crowe and Scott, who went on to collaborate on four more films.

A handful of the many hits (and some misses) the actor has delivered in the 25 years since "L.A. Confidential" include "A Beautiful Mind," "Cinderella Man," "American Gangster," "Robin Hood," "The Nice Guys," and "The Mummy." In 2022, he entered the Marvel Cinematic Universe as Zeus in "Thor: Love and Thunder."

James Cromwell - Captain Dudley Smith

A classic example of the "mentor-turned-evil" trope, Captain Dudley Smith comes across as the well-meaning boss of the three protagonists, Exley, White, and Vincennes. He occasionally blurs the boundary between justice and injustice, ostensibly for the sake of the "greater good." He even rejects Exley's request to be promoted to detective, reasoning that Exley "doesn't have the stomach" for the job. Later in the film, when Vincennes learns something about Smith that he shouldn't have, Smith murders Vincennes, revealing himself as the main antagonist. Fortunately, Vincennes is smart enough to warn fellow officer Exley about Smith's treachery through Smith himself, uttering "Rollo Tomasi" as his final words to Smith. Later, when Smith queries Exley about "Rollo Tomasi," the mere mention of the name is enough for Exley to deduce that it was Smith who killed Vincennes, and perhaps even his own father.

After being defeated at the hands of Exley and White during the film's riveting climax, Oscar-nominated actor James Cromwell went on to star in "The Green Mile," "Secretariat," and "Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom," to name a few. He also portrayed former president George H.W. Bush in Oliver Stone's George W. Bush biopic "W," a film that explored the complex father-son relationship between the two presidents. But he might best be known for the central but near-silent role he played shortly before "L.A. Confidential," as the kindly but stoic Farmer Hogget in 1995's "Babe."

In addition to acting in movies, Cromwell has been a proponent of several activist and advocacy causes, especially those related to animal rights. Being a vegan himself, Cromwell has been a vocal opponent of animal abuse and cruelty, and he has been arrested on multiple occasions for his public protests (via The Los Angeles Times). Most recently, the actor protested the price increase for plant-based milk by supergluing his hands to a display case at a Starbucks in Manhattan (via NPR).

Kim Basinger - Lynn Bracken

Throughout the 1980s and the beginning of the '90s, actress and model Kim Basinger had become a well-known sex symbol, to the point where she found herself being typecast in roles based on that reputation. After sharing the screen with Sean Connery's James Bond in "Never Say Never Again" and with Michael Keaton's Batman in the 1989 smash, Basinger gradually stepped away from the spotlight and decided to take a hiatus in 1995. When director Curtis Hanson approached the actress to play femme fatale Lynn Bracken, a Veronica Lake-lookalike sex worker, Basinger was initially hesitant, especially since she was recovering from bankruptcy following a lawsuit for pulling out of the independent film "Boxing Helena" (per GQ).

After some convincing on Hanson's part, Basinger took on the role and won her only Academy Award to date for Best Supporting Actress. Even so, bagging an Oscar didn't have the effect on her career one would think, as Basinger continued to struggle with being perceived more as a sex symbol than an esteemed actress. After starring in the critically and financially disastrous passion project "I Dream in Africa," Basinger reteamed with Curtis Hanson to play Eminem's mother in "8 Mile," after which she once again found herself being typecast –- this time in wife/mother roles. Since then, Basinger has only appeared in a small handful of films, including "The Nice Guys" (where she reunited with "L.A. Confidential" co-star Russell Crowe), "Fifty Shades Darker," and its sequel "Fifty Shades Freed."

Basinger, who has battled social anxiety her whole life, chose to leave the spotlight in order to prioritize her relationship with her daughter, model Ireland Basinger-Baldwin, with whom she still has a close relationship (via Us Magazine). It's commendable that Basinger chose to put her mental health and her daughter's needs first, given that the actress has witnessed the "dark side" of Hollywood and its treatment of aging actresses.

Danny DeVito - Sid Hudgens

Before being cast in "L.A. Confidential," Danny DeVito had already given a number of standout performances. He first came to public attention in 1975's "One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest" opposite Jack Nicholson. For his role on the TV sitcom "Taxi," DeVito won both a Golden Globe award and an Emmy. DeVito also battled Batman as the Penguin in Tim Burton's "Batman Returns," after which the actor had collaborated with Burton on four more films. DeVito also took on more producing and directing work behind the scenes, producing classic movies like "Pulp Fiction" and "Erin Brokovich," as well as directing and acting in "Matilda" and "Hoffa."

After playing morally bankrupt news publisher Sid Hudgens and getting beaten up by Russell Crowe's character in "L.A. Confidential," DeVito continued to appear in well-received films. Since 2006, he's played Frank Reynolds on the critically acclaimed TV sitcom "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia." DeVito made a few cameo appearances on shows like "Friends" and in movies like "Austin Powers in Goldmember," after which he returned to directing short films in the 2010s. Most recently, the actor joined the ensemble cast of "Jumanji: The Next Level."

DeVito has developed something of a cult following in recent years, especially among Millennials and Gen Z audiences who view the actor in an endearing light -– circulating memes about him (via Teen Vogue) and petitioning to have him play Wolverine in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

David Strathairn - Pierce Patchett

Bud White's first encounter with Lynn is also marked by a run-in with Susan Lefferts, a woman with a bruised eye and a bandaged nose, seated beside a mysterious man who insists that White mind his own business. This man turns out to be Pierce Patchett, a wealthy man with several illegitimate businesses and deep connections within the political establishment of the city. Patchett is later revealed to be working with Captain Dudley Smith in taking over the vacuum in Los Angeles' drug trafficking empire left by Mickey Cohen's arrest.

Patchett was played by David Strathairn, who had previously performed on stage before making his film debut in 1979's "Return of the Secaucus 7." That movie was directed by Strathairn's Williams College classmate John Sayles, with whom he also worked on five additional indie films (per Turner Classic Movies). Post "L.A. Confidential," Strathairn received an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor for his portrayal of journalist Edward R. Murrow in George Clooney's "Good Night, and Good Luck." 

Strathairn is immediately recognized by action-film aficionados for playing CIA director Noah Vosen in "The Bourne Ultimatum" and "The Bourne Legacy." More recently, he took a prominent role on the short-lived Syfy series "Alphas" as Dr. Lee Rosen. He was also one of the few actors on screen amidst the cast of real-life nomads in Chloe Zhao's Oscar-winning film "Nomadland."

Ron Rifkin - District Attorney Ellis Loew

One of the most exhilarating scenes in "L.A. Confidential" finds White and Exley barging into District Attorney Ellis Loew's office, Exley demanding that Captain Dudley Smith be wiretapped and investigated. After Loew refuses to take the two officers seriously, short-tempered Bud White brings out his Bad Cop and hangs Loew from the window in an effort to shake the answers out of him. Finally, Loew admits that Smith and Pierce Patchett had blackmail evidence against him, which forced him to change his testimony and turn a blind eye to their takeover of Mickey Cohen's drug organization.

After playing Ellis Loew, screen and stage actor Ron Rifkin won a Tony Award for his performance in the Broadway revival of "Cabaret," along with acting in other plays such as "Wrong Mountain," "Broken Glass," and "Proposals." His film credits include minor roles in "JFK," "The Negotiator," "Boiler Room," and most recently "True Memoirs of an International Assassin." On television, Loew played Arvin Sloane on "Alias" and made guest appearances on "The Bob Newhart Show," "The Good Wife," "Limitless," "Gotham," "ER," and "Law & Order." Interestingly, his recurring character on "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" is named Marvin Stan Exley, sharing a last name with Guy Pearce's character in "L.A. Confidential."

Graham Beckel - Dick Stensland

In "L.A. Confidential," detective Dick Stensland's murder serves as a major impetus for his partner Bud White to dive into what would ultimately turn out to be a widespread conspiracy involving the police force and Captain Dudley Smith. Though Stensland's corruption and involvement with Smith's conspiracies aren't fully revealed until later in the film, it's foreshadowed throughout. In the end, Stensland's treachery hits White hard, and he makes an unlikely alliance with Exley to take down Captain Smith.

Character actor Graham Beckel portrayed Dick Stensland, and later made minor appearances across a number of television shows and films, including "True Crime," "Brokeback Mountain," the 2003 "Battlestar Galactica" reboot, and "Nocturnal Animals," many of which primarily featured him as various police officers, detectives, and lieutenants — just like his character in "L.A. Confidential."

Amber Smith - Susan Lefferts

Actress and model Amber Smith played Susan Lefferts, a Rita Hayworth lookalike who only appears alive in one scene in the film -– when Bud White sees her with a bandaged nose, seated in a car with a few other men who White suspects had been physically violent with the woman. After he asks Lefferts whether she needs to be rescued from the men, White's eventual lover Lynn enters to diffuse the situation. The scene helps establish White's concern for women and intolerance for men who abuse them. Lefferts' death serves as the inciting incident of the film, triggering an investigation that leads the film's protagonists to uncover a conspiracy that's more pervasive than they could have ever imagined.

Amber Smith's resemblance to Rita Hayworth earned her another role in HBO's cable telefilm "The Rat Pack," but apart from a few minor roles in films like "American Beauty" and television shows like "Friends," Smith's filmography seems to have been more sparse than her co-stars in the years since "L.A. Confidential." She made recurring appearances on reality TV shows such as "Celebrity Rehab," "Sober House," and "Sex Rehab with Dr. Drew," where she spoke candidly about her ongoing battles with alcoholism and drug addiction.

If you or anyone you know is struggling with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

Simon Baker - Matt Reynolds

In "L.A. Confidential," Matt Reynolds is one of the numerous people who came to Los Angeles in search of fame and money in show business, but instead find themselves in sex work. Sid Hudgens hires the struggling actor to sleep with District Attorney Ellis Loew, thought to be a closeted gay man, so Hudgens could covertly photograph the two of them in their act and use it to blackmail Loew. Reynolds exhibits great hesitancy and unwillingness to complete the task, but Hudgens persuades Jack Vincennes to give Reynolds high-profile contacts in Hollywood. Ultimately, Reynolds is murdered, which triggers Vincennes' guilt and sets him on the path to uncover the conspiracy brewing within the city and its police force.

Unlike Matt Reynolds, actor Simon Baker eventually did get his big break years after his film debut in "L.A. Confidential." He's landed leading television roles on "The Mentalist" and "The Guardian," where he played Nicholas Fallin and Patrick Jane, respectively. These roles each garnered the actor several nominations for Emmys, Golden Globes, and People's Choice Awards. Baker also appeared in films such as "The Ring Two," "The Devil Wears Prada," and "Margin Call," before making his directorial debut with 2017's "Breath."

Kevin Spacey - Jack Vincennes

If Ed Exley represents the Lawful Good and Bud White embodies the Chaotic Good, Jack Vincennes is the ideal blend required to fit in with the ethically gray Los Angeles Police Department, a True Neutral. Cool and charismatic, he's the perfect poster boy for the thrills of being a detective in Hollywood –- an image he's built with the help of Hush-Hush Magazine editor Sid Hudgens. But none of the Hollywood machismo that Vincennes projects can offset the guilt that he carries after leading innocent actor Matt Reynolds to his death through a false promise. This guilt drives Vincennes to investigate a conspiracy that ultimately leads to his own death at the unexpected hands of Captain Dudley Smith.

Unlike Guy Pearce and Russell Crowe, who were relative unknowns when cast in "L.A. Confidential," Kevin Spacey had already garnered recognition and accolades for both two villainous performances in 1995 –- as John Doe in David Fincher's "Seven" and as Roger "Verbal" Kint in Bryan Singer's "The Usual Suspects," for which he won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. Spacey went on to receive his second Academy Award, this time for Best Actor, in Sam Mendes' "American Beauty." Spacey enjoyed a long and illustrious career in the years that followed, starring in movies like "Superman Returns," "Margin Call," and "Baby Driver," not to mention the notable leading role of Frank Underwood on Netflix's political drama "House of Cards."

In 2017, several allegations arose against Spacey in the wake of the #MeToo movement, with multiple men accusing Spacey of sexual harassment and assault (via USA Today). As a result, Spacey was removed from several projects he was slated to star in, such as the fifth and final season of "House of Cards," as well as his role as J. Paul Getty in Ridley Scott's "All the Money in the World" being reshot with Christopher Plummer in his place.

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).