One of the most notable roles post-“A Knight’s Tale” for the then-young star, Paul Bettany, was appearing as the friend to Russell Crowe’s real-life mathematician, John Nash. Ron Howard’s “A Beautiful Mind” saw Crowe as the aforementioned genius and paranoid schizophrenic, whose world is wrought with delusions that test his day-to-day life. One element, in particular, is his good buddy Charles (Bettany), who Nash regularly confides in … only for us to discover, later in the film, that he is totally imaginary.
While it was a testament to the impressive writing from Akiva Goldsman, the truth to Charles’s origins was also fortified by Bettany’s ability to flesh out a character that, to others in the film, is entirely non-existent. It’s a twist that’s rarely held in the same conversation with other cinematic greats, but one that should still be considered thanks to Bettany’s efforts. The dream roommate to Nash oozes chemistry with Crowe, making the truth all the more distressing. IT also showed a spark that would be reunited once more when the pair set sail two years later.