9. Leon Vitali As Lord Bullingdon - Barry Lyndon
The blue-blooded Lord Bullingdon started as one of many small supporting roles in Barry Lyndon, but Kubrick was so impressed with Leon Vitali’s performance that he wrote more material for him. After following the roguish social climber Redmond Barry throughout the first half of this epic period piece, Bullingdon takes up the mantle as the audience surrogate when Barry marries his wealthy mother.
Even though it’s never explicitly stated, you can tell that Bullingdon most likely looks down on commoners like Barry. His erect posture and clipped cadence give off the impression of noble birth, and the young aristocrat could come off as stuffy and unlikeable in the wrong hands. But Vitali’s empathetic performance makes it easy for the audience to attach themselves to Bullingdon, and we can’t help but root for him as he defies the slimy, abusive Barry.
Their conflict escalates into a tense, climactic duel, and Vitali’s paralyzed terror fills the scene with dread. Bullingdon tries so hard to put on a brave face in the name of honor, but his closed-off, anxious body language indicates a scared young boy who’s never gotten his hands dirty. Even though Vitali chose to work behind the scenes as Kubrick’s assistant for the rest of his film career, there’s no doubt he could have risen to stardom.