The docs have performed their last astonishing surgery, threaded their remaining sutures, made out passionately in the supply closet for the final time: NBC’s “ER” is officially no more. Over 15 seasons, cast members have come, gone, and (sometimes) come again. A few went on to successful film careers, while others had originally retreated to network TV because their big screen livelihoods gave out like so many overworked hearts on the operating table. With the series finale still fresh in our memories, let’s take a look at the five cast members with the most memorable film careers (and a few who narrowly missed the list).
Many have made the jump from TV to movies, but few have done it more successfully. What’s his secret? Well, he was on his way to A-list status even before leaving the show after five seasons as Dr. Doug Ross (“Batman & Robin” may have sucked, but he was still the Caped Crusader). Clooney’s first post-“ER” role was in the best movie ever made about the Gulf War (“Three Kings”) and he went to play goofballs (“O Brother, Where Art Thou?”), professional thieves (the “Ocean’s Eleven” series) and international spies (“Syriana”). In other words, he picked great roles and took chances. And wrote his own material. And directed a critical hit. And is really, really good-looking. Sure, there have been a few missteps over the years (“Spy Kids”?!), but he also won an Oscar and a Golden Globe. And, uh, he’s freaking George Clooney!
She was only on “ER” for one full season, but that’s all she needed. Bello nabbed meaty roles in “The Cooler” and “A History of Violence,” and received Globe nominations for both. Also, “Coyote Ugly” kinda rocked and she was hilarious as a shameless PR flack for the alcohol industry in “Thank You For Smoking.” I’ll just forgive her for that third “Mummy” flick last year because, hey, we all need to get paid, right?
She’s the only current cast member with anything approaching a film career. And quite a career it has been, especially her impressive list of biographical roles, from Betty Shabazz (“Malcom X”) to Tina Turner (“What’s Love Got to Do with It”) to Biggie Smalls’ mom (“Notorious”).
You can’t fault the guy for wanting to get away from County General Hospital after 11 seasons, even if he didn’t have much of a big screen movie career ahead of him (which is probably why he kept coming back). However, Wyle’s established a nice little niche for himself as a nerdy Indiana Jones in the successful “Librarian” trilogy on TNT. Plus, he gets bonus points for appearing in “Donnie Darko.”
Eriq La Salle
La Salle deserves inclusion on this list simply for his splendid turn as entitled jerk and Soul Glo enthusiast Darryl in 1988’s “Coming to America.” I also loved everything about freaky-as-hell “Jacob’s Ladder,” in which La Salle played a haunted Vietnam vet alongside Tim Robbins. But that all took place before he become a Chicago M.D. Since leaving his scrubs behind, La Salle’s been in the straight-to-DVD stinker “Inside Out” and his directorial debut “Crazy as Hell.” Last month he took a page from Wyle’s book and ventured into the glamorous world of made-for-TV movie with “Relative Stranger” on the Hallmark Channel. Eriq, things are looking up, if a little sappy.
Pre-“ER” Honorable Mention
Anthony Edwards: He played one of the most memorable, loveable losers of the 1980s as Gilbert in “Revenge of the Nerds.” Then came his career-defining role as Goose, Tom Cruise’s wingman on the ground and in the air in “Top Gun.” I just re-watched his fighter jet death scene and, yeah, I still get chills.
Biggest Post-“ER” Underachiever
Julianna Margulies: What happened to you, Julianna? You had so much potential! One minute you’re snogging with Clooney, and the next minute…? You have brains, you have beauty, and yet you never got that big breaking role. Blame your agent or blame Hollywood, which only seems to have room for a handful of post-35-year-old actresses at a time. Playing a sailor in “Ghost Ship” or flight attendant in “Snakes on Plane” might be enough to get you a mention on this list, but it doesn’t say much about your film career.
Who in "ER" history do you think has the most memorable movie career? Who deserves to have one but doesn't?