Benicio Del Toro has appeared in many a great movie down the years, yet for all his standout performances to date one all-too-brief appearance in arguably the best film of the 1990s remains his most memorable.
Fred Fenster didn’t feature for long in The Usual Suspects but Del Toro’s appearance as the wise-cracking, borderline incomprehensible crook remains a favourite of film fans the world over.
And the best thing about it is there is so much more to the character, and the story behind Del Toro’s performance, than meets the eye – here are seven things for starters.
The character of Fenster was genuinely named after the German word for window.
Bryan Singer and Christopher McQuarrie had envisaged Fenster as an older character and had an actor, Alien’s Harry Dean Stanton, in mind. They initially felt he would work well alongside the younger McManus (Stephen Baldwin) but soon had a change of heart.
In fact, Benicio Del Toro didn’t even originally audition for the role of Fenster but instead read for McManus. It was Kevin Spacey who suggested they try him out in the part.
Fenster’s intended ethnicity is a source of much debate. The actor himself has previously claimed that Fenster was a half-German, half-Chinese man who grew up in Harlem.
Del Toro’s near-unintelligible delivery of his dialogue was a wholly intentional choice. Believing that his character was only written into the film to die and set an example to others, he felt no one would really care what he said and convinced Singer to let him mumble his way through the part.
The choice didn’t go down that well with McQuarrie initially but eventually every embraced the approach. The other actors were encouraged to ad-lib around Del Toro’s lines to show they often didn’t know what the hell he was on about – as the above example demonstrates.
The iconic line-up scene from The Usual Suspects was originally intended to be very serious.
However, the actors could not stop laughing throughout, thanks in no small part to Del Toro who reportedly suffered from flatulence during filming. Despite this, Singer ended up preferring the lighter tone and left the funniest version of the scene in the movie.