Even in supporting roles, Ben Foster has been hard to ignore, cornering the market on crazy-intense parts such as the manic addict in 'Alpha Dog.' He scored some (unrealized) Oscar buzz for his role as Charlie Prince, the dandified but dangerous cowboy in '3:10 to Yuma.'

While his character's snakeskin jacket was memorable, the actor's ability to draw focus from such intimidating leads as Russell Crowe and Christian Bale was the real showstopper. In otherwise forgettable films like 'Hostage,' and '30 Days of Night,' Foster's few scenes seem to come from a different (and far better) movie altogether.

Now the 29-year-old steps into the well-earned spotlight in a much less showy but just as riveting role, that of Staff Sergeant Will Montgomery in the indie drama 'The Messenger.' Will returns home from a devastating tour in Iraq and is assigned the task of notifying next of kin that their loved ones have been killed in the line of duty. He's partnered with a senior officer (Woody Harrelson) who's an old hand at this thankless duty. Even in supporting roles, Ben Foster has been hard to ignore, cornering the market on crazy-intense parts such as the manic addict in 'Alpha Dog.' He scored some (unrealized) Oscar buzz for his role as Charlie Prince, the dandified but dangerous cowboy in '3:10 to Yuma.'

While his character's snakeskin jacket was memorable, the actor's ability to draw focus from such intimidating leads as Russell Crowe and Christian Bale was the real showstopper. In otherwise forgettable films like 'Hostage,' and '30 Days of Night,' Foster's few scenes seem to come from a different (and far better) movie altogether.

Now the 29-year-old steps into the well-earned spotlight in a much less showy but just as riveting role, that of Staff Sergeant Will Montgomery in the indie drama 'The Messenger.' Will returns home from a devastating tour in Iraq and is assigned the task of notifying next of kin that their loved ones have been killed in the line of duty. He's partnered with a senior officer (Woody Harrelson) who's an old hand at this thankless duty.

We follow the pair, who become unlikely friends, on six notification missions and watch Will struggle with the military's strict policy that discourages them from offering any kind of comfort along with the grim news. When he meets a war widow who takes the news with stunningly good grace, he finds himself (against regulations) drawn to her and her little boy.



For his first major lead role, Foster has earned nearly universal acclaim. Roger Ebert raved that in this role, Foster "reinvents himself," while New York Magazine said, "This is a breakthrough role for Foster, whose face is tight but whose emotions bleed through." And The New Yorker's David Denby wrote, "This twenty-nine-year-old actor, with his melancholy blue eyes and long jaw, may be one of the great spellbinders of his generation."

But the highest praise came from the New York Times: "With this performance Mr. Foster, having shown intriguing promise in 'Alpha Dog 'and '3:10 to Yuma,' places himself in the first rank of young American screen actors."

With praise like that, can awards glory be far behind? The lead actor Oscar category is notoriously the toughest nut to crack, especially for any actor under age 30. Only a few -- including Matt Damon, Edward Norton, Heath Ledger and Adrien Brody -- have managed it. But Brody (who shared an early role in 'Liberty Heights' with Foster), proved it can be done: He became the youngest actor ever to win the trophy for his lead role in 'The Pianist.'

Foster's already been nominated for the Breakthrough Award at this year's Gotham Awards for 'The Messenger. Past recognition includes a 2002 Daytime Emmy Award for the children's special, 'Bang Bang You're Dead;' and nominations from the Screen Actors Guild and the Saturn Awards for his supporting role in '3:10 to Yuma.'

For his role in 'Alpha Dog,' he he won the "Breakthrough Performance - Male" at the 2006 Young Hollywood Awards. Foster also has one ensemble win and one nomination for his role as Claire's conflicted boyfriend, Russell, on 'Six Feet Under.' Foster's other credits include 'X-Men: The Last Stand' and 'Pandorum,' and -- proving he can also tackle comedy -- a hilarious two-episode guest spot as a rabidly vindictive convict on 'My Name is Earl.'
CATEGORIES Oscars, Hot Topic