Update: Has Stahl been found? “He does this sometimes,” an eyewitness who claims he recently saw the actor told E! News. “He’ll be back.”
After not hearing from him for nearly a week, the wife of “Sin City” and “Carnivale” actor Nick Stahl has filed a missing persons report with the LAPD, mentioning that he was last seen on May 9 in Los Angeles’s Skid Row. This discouraging news comes right after other worrisome developments, including the separation between the married couple, court-ordered drug tests prior to seeing his 2-year-old daughter, and a minor offense involving the thespian skipping a cab fare.
We don’t normally do these kinds of stories — it runs into iffy, questionable territory regarding privacy, is psuedo-gossipy and the sympathy can seem forced — but this writer in particular is a huge fan of the artist who still hasn’t gotten the project/part/spotlight he deserves.
Stahl’s best work was in HBO’s criminally underrated and underseen “Carnivale,” a series cancelled before creator Daniel Knauf’s complete vision came to fruition. Expensive and likely too dense for its own good, those who stuck with it were treated to a complex, eerie dustbowl drama that moved to the beat of its own drum. The actor played main protagonist Ben Hawkins, a man with healing powers who finds himself at the center of an epic battle prior to the detonation of the atomic bomb. Fantasy can be cornball in a myriad of ways, but “Carnivale” wasn’t — it was highly serious and moved at an art-house pace, with complex characters in a world of economic depression seen through a traveling carnival and an expanding church. As the series focused on the quiet moments, Stahl was an absorbing presence, showcasing his powerful depth with little dialogue and plenty of subtle nuances. Though he wouldn’t be the lead, a chance for him to work in television again occurred with “Locke and Key” but network heads at Fox ultimately passed on Mark Romanek’s pilot.
Unfortunately, most of the films that make up his resume aren’t top quality for various reasons — there’s the much maligned “Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines,” the goofily handled murder drama “Bully,” the messy “Disturbing Behavior” — but Stahl manages to shine in every one, often times proving to be the best ingredient in an otherwise lackluster offering. Both “Bully” and ‘Disturbing’ include highly charismatic performances and severely suffer once his character departs, and while this is controversial, he probably gives the best John Connor performance in the uneven “Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines.”
The better flicks were ensemble pieces, though Stahl holds his own when paired with veteran actors such as Bruce Willis, Marisa Tomei, and Sissy Spacek. As the Yellow Bastard in “Sin City” he’s a vile, sinister creature — disgustingly evil and arguably one of the most memorable characters in the adaptation. His part in Todd Field’s “In The Bedroom” is minor, and in “The Thin Red Line” it’s even smaller, but in both roles he exudes a relatable every-man aura, enabling audience connection despite his brief presence. The former’s tragedy hits harder because he’s a charming, lovable fella; the latter works as part of Terrence Malick’s machine, in which it feels like every soldier is given respectful recognition for their duty in something as wholly inhuman as war. We hope he turns up safe, and our hearts are with him and his family during this time.