Plenty of actors find themselves typecast in Hollywood (as cops, gangsters, etc.), but few are as highly specialized as Canadian performer Christopher Hart. A still-active stage magician by trade, Hart played a number of disembodied and/or possessed hands in films and television in the 1990s. Whenever a movie script called for a hand to crawl around on its own, Hart was the man for the job. His signature role, one he played three times, was that of Thing in The Addams Family, and this successful franchise led Hart to assignments like Idle Hands, the TV movie Quicksilver Highway, and even an episode of Angel. Hart’s singularly weird screen career is discussed and analyzed in an episode of No Small Parts, a YouTube series about character actors hosted by Brandon Hardesty. This mini-documentary should give viewers a whole new appreciation for what Hart was able to accomplish onscreen without using his face, his voice, or even his entire arm.
Hardesty begins his tribute to Hart by comparing the performer to great puppeteers like Jim Henson, Frank Oz, and Kevin Clash. Only Hart had to do his job without the benefit of a cute piece of felt attached to his forearm. Considering the limitations of the role, it’s amazing how expressive Hart managed to be as Thing, truly establishing the character as a full-fledged member of the Addams clan, probably the closest thing the family has to a loyal collie. In an archival interview, Hart says that his astonishing manual dexterity came from years of working as a sleight-of-hand magician. As a character actor himself, Hardesty can truly appreciate the many hours of grueling, precise work that went into the creation of Thing. Being parked under a table with your arm sticking through a hole in order to manipulate pieces on a chessboard is hardly glamorous. Eventually, Hollywood ran out of disembodied hand roles for Hart, but Hardesty hopes the actor still gets “nice, fat residual checks every December.”