This image released by A24 Films shows Tracy Letts, left, and Laurie Metcalf in a scene from "Lady Bird." (Merie Wallace/A24 via AP)

This image released by A24 Films shows Tracy Letts, left, and Laurie Metcalf in a scene from "Lady Bird." (Merie Wallace/A24 via AP)

Merie Wallace/AP

One of the most welcome character actors of the movie year is actually a 55-year-old playwright from Tulsa. Tracy Letts has popped up on screen here and there over the years, but suddenly the writer behind Killer Joe and the Pulitzer-winning August: Osage County seems to be everywhere, usually as an affable guy who would scarcely stand a chance of survival in one of Letts' plays.

He's the melancholy dad of a temperamental teen in Lady Bird. He's Fritz Beebe, the no-nonsense chairman of the Washington Post board, in The Post. He's a husband rediscovering love for his wife (Debra Winger) in The Lovers. He's never less than good, and in Lady Bird he's great.

Letts is hardly the only great playwright to dabble in acting. The late Sam Shepard comes to mind. But it's fun to see Letts having a breakout screen year at age 55. Could the cover of Us Weekly be far behind?

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