Before They Were Stars: Gary Cole as Dr. Jeffrey MacDonald in “Fatal Vision”

Today is the birthday of one of my favourite character actors, Gary Cole, who is known mainly for his work in comedies, but actually has a very wide range and is quite adept at doing serious drama as well. After starting out his career on stage, Cole’s breakthrough performance on screen came in 1984 when he played the infamous Dr. Jeffrey MacDonald in the Emmy-award winning mini-series, Fatal Vision. For those of you who don’t know, MacDonald was convicted of brutally murdering his pregnant wife and two daughters in 1970 and, to this day, has always claimed that a group of drug-crazed hippies broke into home and did it. It’s one of the most controversial murder cases of all time, with just as much compelling evidence to support MacDonald’s innocence as his guilt (I know I’ve changed my mind numerous times), and reading about it can be a very addictive experience. Whatever the actual truth, Fatal Vision tells the story from a pro-guilt point-of-view, which gives the Gary Cole the opportunity to do outstanding work playing a monstrous lying sociopath. Though admittedly, it’s hard not to look at his large glasses without thinking of Bill Lumbergh from Office Space.

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