Hal Holbrook received his first Oscar nomination for portraying Ron Franz in Into The Wild.
Hal Holbrook is a good character actor, and most certainly deserved to be nominated, and probably win for All The President's Men. Holbrook never was nominated though until Into The Wild. He plays Ron Franz an old widower who crosses path with McCandless (Emile Hirsch), and offers some advice while taking a strong liking to him.
It is a small and rather simple roll that Holbrook has here, he shows up is required to do his piece than leaves the film. I will say firstly that Holbrook is the most interesting of the side characters that McCandless happens to come across. Franz is a nice, and wise, but also somewhat sad, and lonely old man, Holbrook easily establishes this characterization, as well as creates a good deal of sympathy for Franz without ever pleading for it.
Holbrook manages to convey the degree of sadness in the character without every becoming overbearing. More importantly though Holbrook realizes a joy in meeting McCandless quietly in his performance. He never yells out his love toward Christ at any point, instead Holbrook keeps it mostly inside Franz but realizes fully.
In Holbrook's short amount of screen time his most important scenes come in two speeches to Christ. One being a little speech that is effectively handled, trying to help Chris gain a greater understanding of himself. The other being when he asks if he can adopt Chris. It is a nice quiet scene like all of Holbrook's scenes, and shows his honest love for Chris as well as earnest want to stop his loneliness. It is a moving moment and a fine end of this fine performance. Although I can't say this performance ever truly amazed me, but it does stand as the best in the film.