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Digesting the lowest rung of pop culture so you don't have to!
In the early 2000s, after the smash success of Remember the Titans, I really expected Kip Pardue to break out and hit it big in Hollywood. His portrayal of laid-back surfer/golden boy Ronnie “Sunshine” Bass was incredibly charming, and Pardue oozed charisma in the role. Before becoming an actor, Pardue attended Yale University, where he played football. He was also a model, doing professional work for Armani, Polo, and Abercrombie & Fitch. His acting career began with a supporting role in the lesbian-themed comedy But I’m a Cheerleader (which I had seen only after Remember the Titans) as a gay teen, and he was good in that role as well.
Film roles began to pick up almost immediately for Pardue, and in late spring 2001, he starred in what should have been his first real step to stardom, opposite Sylvester Stallone and Burt Reynolds in the would-be blockbuster Driven. Unfortunately, despite positive notices for Pardue, the film received an overwhelmingly negative response and subsequently tanked, becoming one of the biggest busts of the year. Due largely to the film’s well-publicized failure, Pardue’s once promising career seemed dead in the water before it even had a chance to take off.
Even after Driven bombed, Pardue continued to get film work, notably including a small role in 2002’s controversial dark comedy The Rules of Attraction. Pardue memorably played Victor, a globe-trotting, hedonistic college student who wins the affection of Shannyn Sossamon’s innocent, virginal Lauren. Unfortunately, the controversy surrounding the film didn’t translate into high box office numbers, and Rules of Attraction flopped as well. Pardue’s role in the film, however, is an absolute highlight, especially the following montage:
After Rules of Attraction, Pardue had a role in 2003’s Catherine Hardwicke-directed Thirteen, which gained both controversy and critical attention, but again failed to propel his career. After a few direct-to-video productions, Pardue then starred in 2005’s Undiscovered, opposite singer Ashlee Simpson. Undiscovered is notable in that it is the film with the largest second week drop off in ticket sales, at slightly over 86%. Ultimately, Undiscovered grossed just over one million dollars against a budget of nine million, making it yet another flop for Pardue. It was also his last theatrically-released film to date (what an ignominious end to a once-promising film career).
From 2005 to 2011, Pardue starred in a string of low-budget horror and comedy films, including the direct-to-video sequel Hostel: Part III. He worked on a low-budget comedy film with ex-SNL star Chris Parnell in 2010, and also did guest turns on both ER (where he had a recurring role in 2006-7) and House, M.D. But nothing he worked on was really substantial enough to cast in bigger projects. Then, in the spring of 2013, Pardue showed up on a sixth season episode of critically acclaimed AMC drama Mad Men, seemingly out of nowhere. Though his appearance was only one episode, it was nonetheless good to know he was at least getting some quality acting work.
I always thought it was a shame that Kip Pardue never broke out into the mainstream. Even now I think sometimes about how he lit up the screen way back when in Remember the Titans. He tried to work his way up to the A-list by starring in a failed summer blockbuster alongside Stallone, and who could really blame him for that? Pardue seemed unafraid to take on more controversial film roles, especially so in the case of The Rules of Attraction and Thirteen. Though it has been nearly ten years since he starred in a theatrically-released film, I hope Kip Pardue gets more high profile work, and I hope his guest spot on Mad Men leads to something more permanent for him.