Seth Green Had A Lot Of Opportunities To Make His Italian Job Character Funny

Seth Green has been in showbiz since the early '80s, but I first became aware of him in the mid '90s in a mostly forgotten movie called "Airborne." The main focus of the film is supposed to be Mitchell Goosen (Shane McDermott), an ocean loving California teen who's whole life changes when he's sent to live with relatives in Ohio — but I loved his cousin, Willey (Green). The nerdy, uncoordinated character could have easily become an offensive caricature of a dork, but Green portrayed him with nuanced relatability. His Willey was an average teenager who is plagued by insecurities and attempts to cover them up with false bravado and unfortunate fashion choices — a character anyone who struggled through adolescence could feel sorry for.

"I like playing underdogs and challenging the audience to like them," Green told Vanity Fair in 2020. Green also revealed that he enjoys "bringing a humanity to the character that makes people feel empathy for someone who is ridiculous." This applies to Green's portrayal of Lyle, the hopelessly nerdy tech guru in "The Italian Job." Although Green prides himself on his ability to pull on audiences' heart strings, he also enjoys providing them with a good laugh, and he was given plenty of room to do just that in the heist film.

The try-hard techie

Lyle's desperation to be cool is even worse than Wiley's. He's the techie in an a-list group of badass thieves and he has no chance of ever being as cool as the rest of the gang, but boy does he try. Instead of recreating another sympathetic Wiley-type character, Green decided to embrace the ridiculousness of Lyle's awkwardness and desperation to be cool. He told Vanity Fair:

"This guy was part of this elite, super cool crew. And yet it was me, so what's funny about it is him getting zero respect. From every angle I was like, this guy should have the money to do cool stuff, but just not be able to do it well. Like he reads all the same magazines, he can shop in the same high fashion stores with the money that he's made from these heists, but the jacket doesn't fit him right, or he bought this expensive bike and he doesn't know how to ride it well. And that to me is where the comedy comes in."

It's hard not to feel sorry for the hopeless nerd whose smarts doom him to associate with people he has no business hanging out with, but Green's embrace of the character's awkwardness makes it impossible not to laugh at him. According to the actor, that's exactly how the director wanted him to play the character: "Gary Gray ... wanted me to be funny anytime I could ... So any way to make that character more comedic, I was given an opportunity."