Nomadland’s David Strathairn Is an Underrated Fox


Nomadland is a film filled with stunning panoramic vistas of the American West. But one of the most ruggedly beautiful sights—in addition to Frances McDormand wandering the Badlands at dusk—is David Strathairn in khaki shorts and hiking shoes. The best picture nominee reveals many aching truths about our society, including that 72-year-old Strathairn is an underrated fox.

David Strathairn has the gravitas of Edward R. Murrow—whom he portrayed in 2005’s Good Night, and Good Luck (a role that earned him an Oscar nomination)—and the humility of his nonprofessional Nomadland costars. As Dave, a fellow nomad, he effortlessly communicates grace, intrigue, and a deep well of basic decency with a single glance (like the one he shoots Fern when she comes to his hospital bedside with his favorite snacks in tow). With his wild white hair and artful stubble, Strathairn even manages to make Dave’s well-loved wardrobe kinda hot: His rust-color hoodie, which makes repeated appearances in Nomadland, calls to mind one of Dylan McKay’s bajas.

Strathairn infuses Nomadland with tenderness and a subtle hint of romance. As Vox critic Emily VanDerWerff tweeted: “I would become a nomad if I got to have a will-they/won’t-they with David Strathairn.” I, too, would gladly work alongside Strathairn at a landmark burger joint, go on a maybe date with him to an alligator farm, and detour to his son’s home for Thanksgiving. Quoth comedian Michelle Collins: “Not enough attention is given to the hottest living 72-year-old, David Strathairn.”

“What is David Strathairn in again?” is a common (if rude) question. The answer is: Everything, and he has been for decades. A “character actor” with the dashing good looks of a leading man (do not fight me), Strathairn’s credits include phone “phreak”/techie Whistler opposite River Phoenix in Sneakers, general manager Ira Lowenstein in A League of Their Own, a husband in The River Wild, a CIA honcho in two Bourne movies, and secretary of state William H. Seward in Lincoln. (Indeed, David Strathairn can hold his own alongside Daniel Day-Lewis.) “Has anyone been as consistently excellent in such a wide variety of movies as David Strathairn?” writer Joshua Hunt recently observed. “His career is just absolutely wild.” The only note I have for Strathairn is that it’s a little challenging to spell his name correctly on the first try.

Up next in his IMDB credits: the film adaptation of the blockbuster best seller Where the Crawdads Sing. But because he’s not precious about his talents, Strathairn routinely does (prestige) TV, playing Temple’s mentor Dr. Carlock in Temple Grandin—for which he won an Emmy—in addition to roles on Billions, The Blacklist, The Sopranos, and Syfy’s Alphas. And yet, Strathairn seems to be as modest as Nomadland’s Dave. Earlier this year, Strathairn dismissed the Oscar buzz he was garnering for the role (buzz which, sadly, did not result in another nomination): “I don’t know where they get their thinking, but they’re going to put the character of Dave up for that notoriety?” he shrugged to Variety. “All it is, is go over there and sit in that van and say hi when somebody says hi to you.” I require no Academy validation. The award for Hottest Supporting Actor in a Faded Hoodie goes to: David Strathairn.

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