So here we are back again for the second part of our Top 25 Favourite Actors. Here, we are counting down 15-6. As you probably noticed from part one (you missed it?!? check it out here) this is based on our favourite actors and performances, so many of the widely considered “top” actors are missing, and, well, just wait until you see who made No 1 🙂
So let’s crack on with our countdown…
No 15. Kurt Russell
Dan: Kurt Russell has charisma in spades and has been one of my favourite actors to watch ever since I saw him play Jack Burton in Big Trouble in Little China all those years ago. He perfected the anti-hero with Snake Plissken in Escape From L.A & Escape From New York, and was a staple of the wise cracking action films of the 80s & 90s. I don’t actually think I’ve watched a film with Russell in and not been entertained by his performances. Even in the films that were not as critically successful he still gave it his all and doesn’t leave anything behind. This man has played Elvis Presley in the TV movie Elvis and then a gun-toting Elvis Presley impersonator in 3,000 Miles to Graceland. Only two people have achieved this special feat, the other his a touch higher on this list. Russell has a very special collaborative relationship with the legend that is John Carpenter, and a lot of his best work has come from working with him. I’d be here all day listing his filmography, do yourself a favour and get a taste for 90s action cinema by going through his film catalogue.
Favourite Role: Jack Burton, Big Trouble in Little China (Dir. John Carpenter, 1986)
“Just remember what ol’ Jack Burton does when the earth quakes, and the poison arrows fall from the sky, and the pillars of Heaven shake. Yeah, Jack Burton just looks that big ol’ storm right square in the eye and he says, “Give me your best shot, pal. I can take it.”
Jack Burton is a wise cracking, cocky, egotistical man who thinks he can do everything. In reality despite having the heart and the good intentions, his abilities are somewhat lacking. Wang, his friend and sidekick, is clearly the better of the two but you just can’t help to gravitate towards the cocksure charisma of Burton, played so brilliantly by Russell.
14. Matt Damon
Welshy: An actor, who like many of the men in this section and further on, have had very well received ups and some very harsh, critically panned downs. Matt Damon shone in roles such as Jason Bourne and Linus Caldwell. He was outstanding in The Departed. Damon has the unique ability to be absorbed into a role which then inspires an intensity, that allows him to hold the audience. This is never more true, than in films like Bourne and The Departed.
There are a number of other amazing films to his name but these are the ones that I think truly highlight why I love him. His ability to make you believe in his character without overacting or playing it up or going to extreme methods of personal change.
Favourite Role: Linus Caldwell -Ocean’s 11, 12 and 13 (Stephen Soderbergh 2001-2007)
Given that Damon is generally leading man, hero and heart-throb, to see him in then in the childlike role of Linus, is so sharp on the part of the director and Damon himself. His nervous and untrained oafishness is at odds with that of the refined Clooney and the smooth Pitt. In fact it’s at odds with the majority of the cast, most of whom, in reality, don’t touch his level of fame. They are schooling him in the art of Con and it’s just fresh and unusual. This guy who can take a German assassin down with a pen and be a rough and tumble Boston genius isfighting for respect from his peers.
13. Mel Gibson
Dan: Much like Kurt Russell earlier on this list, I was fed a diet of Mel Gibson films as a youngster which led to a love of his work. However that is not without good reason. There are two roles that are immediately synonymous with Gibson, Max Rockatansky and Martin Riggs. From roaming the wastelands as a haunted man in the Mad Max trilogy to playing one half of the best, perfect, buddy cop duo in the Lethal Weapon films Gibson has proven to be an immensely likeable performer. Outside of these two series his performances in Braveheart, The Patriot and We Were Soldiers are incredibly hearty, and as the excellent bad guy Stonebanks in Expendables 3 he might have found a path to becoming a brilliant villain.
Favourite Role: Martin Riggs, Lethal Weapon 1-4 (Dir. Richard Donner, 1987-1998)
“When I was 19, I did a guy in Laos from a thousand yards out. It was a rifle shot in high wind. Maybe eight or even ten guys in the world could have made that shot. It’s the only thing I was ever good at. Well, see ya tomorrow”
Riggs has a history of loss and torment as we meet him in the first film, and continues to go through the motions in the subsequent sequels. However balancing out the dark cloud that follows him around is his brotherhood with Roger Murtaugh. The emotional journey of Riggs is one of the biggest arcs in the series of films and is played so well by Gibson. He Starts off as a man with nothing and a little will to live, but finishes as a man with his own family and his life back. The constant struggles he suffers and slight reprieves he gains endears the audience to his character as we want him to find a way out of the darkness he finds himself enveloped in. However it’s not just the sympathy we have for his character that invests us in his life, it’s the positive things we see him do on his path back to happiness. The playful banter and pranks he plays on Murtaugh and Leo are part and parcel of his character and demonstrates he isn’t completely lost yet.
Dave: Couldn’t let a Mel Gibson section go with out posting this from Braveheart:
“fight and you may die. Run, and you’ll live… at least a while. And dying in your beds, many years from now, would you be willin’ to trade ALL the days, from this day to that, for one chance, just one chance, to come back here and tell our enemies that they may take our lives, but they’ll never take… OUR FREEDOM!”
The film this quote comes from is completely historically inaccurate, that matters not to my countrymen, and if I am honest, me. I wish I didn’t love it as much as I do, I just can’t help it, and hey, it won The Academy Award for Best Picture in 1995 and The Academy are never wrong right?
12. Kevin Bacon
Dave: What can you say about Kevin Bacon, he is so great that he is the focus of a game. 6 Degrees of Kevin Bacon has whiled away many hours on long car journeys and even provided me and Dan with endless go to round for our film quiz. What we have here though is a thoroughly brilliant and sometimes fearless actor. He has a very diverse resume which began (roughly) with the arrow though the throat in Friday The 13th and the kid who just wanted to dance in Footloose, who among you can’t relate to that? (the dancing, not the arrow)
He is probably best known for his supporting roles (forget those awful EE ads)in such films as Apollo 13, A Few Good Men, JFK and Frost/Nixon, he makes a despicable bad guy in films like Sleepers, Super and even X-Men: First Class. He is so much more though, check out his fearless turn as a convicted child molester in The Woodsman or his desperate father in the visceral Death Sentence and his role Clint Eastwood’s ensemble crime drama Mystic River.
Hey, like everyone else he has had his missteps along the way, the utterly dreadful R.I.P.D and we say waaaay too much of him in Wild Things, but the good most definitely out weigh the bad.
Favourite Role: Captain Jack Ross, A Few Good Men, (Rob Reiner, 1992)
“Don’t you dare lump me in with Jessup and Kendrick just because we wear the same uniform. I’m your friend and I’m telling you, I don’t think your clients belong in jail but I don’t get to make that decision! I represent the government of the United States without passion or prejudice and my client has a case!”
Of all the roles, this is my favourite. He is the prosecutor to Tom Cruise’s defence lawyer in the brilliant court room drama. This is usually an adversarial relationship but here, the characters are good friends. While Cruise has the showy role, Bacon is perfect foil for him in the court room scenes and from their first interaction you believe that Cruise and Bacon have known each other for years. This doesn’t stop him from bring the intensity required to the court room scenes. He is a brilliant actor and no better example of it than in A Few Good Men.
Favourite Role: Sean Nokes, Sleepers (Barry Levinson 1996)
Sean Nokes….. this, in my opinion, was Bacon’s career piece. He was so engaging and masterful in this role, I still to this day just see the Sean Nokes character. That is all I will say for number 12
11. Mark Wahlberg
Dave: Mark Wahlberg is my 2nd favourite actor of all time. If ever you needed reminding of the fact that this is a favourite list and not a greatest list, then it would be the fact that this guy is at number 11.
Actor, producer and business man, he started out however as model/rapper. The latter in the loosest sense of the word, fronting the *cough* brilliant Marky Mark and The Funky Bunch. Brought up in a big family in the Dorchester area of Boston, he was in and out of trouble with the law in the younger days and even spent a short time in prison.
As I mentioned he came to fame as a musician first following on the coat tails of his older brother, fellow actor and NKOTB member Donnie.
His transition in to films came with a few supporting roles in The Substitute, Renaissance Man and The Basketball Diaries, his first starring role was in James Foley’s Fear along side Reese Witherspoon.
As an actor he has made the most of what he has and that is an everyman quality that makes him a very accessible leading man. It would have been easy for him to relax into an action hero mold and cut out quite a niche for himself, but he has managed to put together a very diverse CV. Paul Thomas Anderson’s Boogie Nights and David O’Russell’s Three Kings and I Heart Hukabees are highlights as well as working with under rated director James Gray twice in The Yards and We Own The Night, but his most noted turn was in Martin Scorsese’s The Departed which earned him his first Academy Award nomination.
Outside of acting, he owns a burger franchise, imaginatively titled Wahlburgers and has produced several TV shows including Entourage (HBO, 2004-11), which is loosely based on his experiences in Hollywood.
Check out this SNL sketch and say hi to your mother for me okay?
Favourite Role: Bob Lee Swagger, Shooter (Antoine Fuqa, 2007)
“There’s going to be more shooting, more people are going to die. I didn’t start it, but I mean to see it through.”
Here, Walhberg plays a former military sniper who is framed for the murder of a visiting dignitary by a rogue government agency. Starting off as a loner/mountain man and transforming into a vengeful killer on the run, the film is thrilling from start to finish. This should have been Walhberg’s Jason Bounre. It did well enough, but we have heard word of a sequel.
Now this is a film that I would love to have seen go to franchise, based on the novels of Stephen Hunter, there is a vast back catalogue to choose from. This was a tough choice between Swagger and Dignham from The Departed.
10. Bruce Campbell
Dan: Hail to the King Baby! Can you tell I like charismatic actors yet? The man played the character that inspired our blog name in Spider-Man 2 so how could we not include him? In all seriousness I have thoroughly enjoyed watching Bruce Campbell work his charm. Like most others it started with the Evil Dead trilogy, but at the same time I had seen him a few times as Autolycus in Xena: Warrior Princess which I also enjoyed as a youngster. Though I have a deep-rooted love of the Ashley J. Williams and his calamitous battles with the deadites, the two roles that solidified his position in my favourites list came from later in his career. They are, former navy seal Sam Axe in the delightfully entertaining series Burn Notice and the dual role of Sebastian Haff/Elivs Presley in the ingenious Bubba Ho-Tep. It is a real shame we haven’t seen more of him in films, and I would love to see him turn rogue and do bad guy from time to time.
Favourite Role: Sebastian Haff/Elvis Presley, Bubba Ho-Tep (Dir. Don Coscarelli, 2002)
The 2nd man to have played both Elvis Presley and an impersonator, this time in the same film! As much as I love the character of Ash, the dual roles Campbell plays in this film are just that touch better. After intentionally dropping off the grid, Elvis Presley winds up in a retirement home where everybody thinks he is an Elvis impersonator. Unfortunately not only is Elvis alone and unknown, the retirement home is the new hunting ground for a soul sucking mummy. I can’t say much else but just watch it! Campbell is just fantastic in the film and I challenge you to find other actors who could do the same thing without making it utterly ridiculous.
9. Clint Eastwood
James: What can I write about Clint Eastwood?
He’s Clint Eastwood.
If you look up “film icon” in one of those metaphorical dictionary that have pictures next to definitions, you will see a picture of Clint Eastwood. He is so ingrained into the American psyche that 50 years after making his film debut, he can still make films that have a huge effect on the nation, as the $500 million box office gross of American Sniper showed in 2014.
You could argue that since 2000’s Space Cowboys (which after Unforgiven I think is the second Eastwood-directed film I ever saw) Eastwood has been the best director working today. But this is about favourite actors.
Clint Eastwood is best known as a star of Westerns, giving towering performances in dozens of roles up until 1992’s Unforgiven, a film he put off making for decades so that he would be old enough to play the lead role in his “last Western”. Of course, he gives a classic performance. Not many realise nowadays that the spaghetti Westerns of the 60s that made Eastwood’s name were actually a reaction to the overly preachy, bloated, heroic Westerns that had come before it. They were low-budget, striped down, and powerful, and Serge Leone found the perfect leading man in Eastwood.
One iconic, genre-defining role was not enough however, and in Harry Callaghan (firstly in Dirty Harry, then 4 sequels) Eastwood basically set up the trope of the loose cannon Police detective.
There is also some seriously funny comedy on his resume. There’s Kelly’s Heroes, which is almost a screwball comedy. And Every Which Way But Loose (James Fargo, 1978) is one of my favourites, and has this…
If you only know Eastwood for his Western, war, or police roles, check out some of his comedy. Add in his grizzled old man roles he has taken as he has become, well, a grizzled old man (Gran Torino, Million Dollar Baby, Trouble With The Curve), and you have one of my very favourite actors.
I’ve also missed Thunderbolt and Lightfoot, Honkeytonk Man, Escape From Alcatraz, Play Misty For Me, the list is just so long.
So I repeat. He’s Clint Eastwood.
Favourite Role: Man with No Name – A Fistful of Dollars (1964), For A Few Dollars More (1965), The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly (1966)
The Man With No Name, from Sergio Leone’s Dollars Trilogy, is basically the blueprint for an anti-hero role on the big screen. Eastwood in this role is just perfect. He is also perfect as Harry Callaghan in the Dirty Harry movies, where he basically lays down a template for the loose cannon cop. Mesmerizing whenever on-screen, The Man With No Name is an icon.
FUN WELSHY MOVIE FACT: His Father isn’t who it’s stated to be, in fact it is supposed to really be Stan Laurel, with whom his mother had an affair…its one of the urban legends of Hollywood.
8. Steve McQueen
Welshy: The King of Cool, Mr Antihero, if Eastwood is found under ‘Film Icon’ in that metaphorical dictionary of James’. Steve McQueen would be found under ‘Film Legend’. Motorcycle and race car Enthusiast, ex marine, young offender, womanizer, circus clown, recreational drug user the man was something else. You will see during this section that Steve McQueen is the my Aquaman of film. In the fact I actually have a massive crush on him. (I could talk for hours having done a micro analysis of his life for a uni module, luckily I wont)
McQueen has a long list of films to his name. The Thomas Crown Affair, Bullitt, The Towering inferno, The Getaway, The Magnificent Seven and The Great Escape to name a few.Infamous for arguing with directors, being notoriously difficult to work with and causing mayhem through his exploits and cavorting. However regardless of all of that was one of the most successful and highly paid actors in the business at that time.
Starting in bit pars and then moving to TV, helped launch McQuens Career, Wanted:Dead or Alive was the reason Hollywood came knocking at his door. McQueen got a significant break when Frank Sinatra removed Sammy Davis, Jr., from the film Never So Few after Davis supposedly made some mildly negative remarks about Sinatra in a radio interview, and Davis’ role went to McQueen. Sinatra saw something special in McQueen and ensured that the young actor got plenty of closeups in a role that earned McQueen favorable reviews. McQueen’s character, Bill Ringa, was never more comfortable than when driving at high speed—in this case in a jeep—or handling a switch blade or a tommy gun a role McQueen could play in his sleep.
Most famous for Cops and Cowboys McQueen brought a coolness and earthy realism to his roles. His good looks and ability to infer without speaking is what made him so popular with audiences. The Magnificent Seven and The Great Escape are stellar evidence of this trait. He also stretched himself in roles such as The Thomas Crown Affair and Papilon the latter being a physically demanding role.
He turned down many roles due to scheduling or disagreements with fellow actors. The major one being Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Neither McQueen’s or Newman’s agents could agree on top billing. He was offered the title role in The Bodyguard (with Diana Ross) when it was proposed in 1976, but died years before it reached pre production.
Favourite Role: Vin- The Magnificent Seven (John Sturges 1960)
I loved this film its the first thing I ever saw him in, from that moment on I was hooked. He plays Vin quiet and deep but more than a match on the draw for greasy Calvera and his bandits. I love his witty philosophy in times of great tension, the scene when they are captured and he tells his cactus story, hand to God I got chills.
7. George Clooney
James: George Clooney is an old style “film star”. He is in the tradition of James Stewart, Robert Redford or Cary Grant, a genuine leading man. Three Kings, The Perfect Storm, and O Brother, Where Art Thou? rebuilt his reputation after Batman and Robin, the Ocean’s Eleven was the perfect vehicle for him (and a host of other stars) to be cool and charming. Ever since then (apart from a couple of Ocean sequels to keep the studios happy) has been able to choose (and get made) a variety of different and interesting roles. Michael Clayton, Burn After Reading, Fantastic Mr Fox, Up In The Air, I even like Leatherheads.
But for me, Clooney’s status as an old-fashioned movie star is best shown by his performance in Gravity. He’s a charming, funny, likable astronaut. As soon as you see him on-screen, you don’t need a back story. Sandra Bullock deservedly won the Oscar for Best Actress, but I thought Clooney deserved a lot more recognition for his turn. 2014 was a good year for actors (Dallas Buyers Club and American Hustle scooped up most of the acting noms that year), but to me it showed his star quality on the big screen.
Bruce Wayne/Batman Batman and Robin (Joel Schumacher, 1997) Danny Ocean, Ocean’s Eleven (Steven Soderbergh, 2001)
I just love Danny Ocean in this film. The con man, cool as ice, plays the audience as much as he does the mark. Clooney is brilliant here, and this was the film that cemented his comeback after Batman and Robin. He was so charming, likable, and admirable, living by a code to only go after people who deserve it. George Clooney has been better, but this is my favourite role of his.
Dave: George Clooney, I have often though of him as this generations Robert Redford. They are very similar in so many ways, both devastatingly handsome, effortlessly cool and incredibly talented, although I think Clooney is the better actor. There careers mirror each other as Clooney made his transition on to being a director. I was lucky enough to be in the same room as the man at the Leatherheads premiere and his presence and charisma is a sight to behold and as James touched on he is the closet thing we have to a classic era movie star.
He came back from an utterly disastrous turn in the Bat Suit to make himself one of Hollywood’s most diverse actors. He is a great physical comedian, which he has shown in his work with The Coens, his dark and brooding side is evident in such films as Michael Clayton and The American, then there is Danny Ocean. In a film loaded with superstars, he dominates. No man, not even James Bond can rock a tux better than Clooney in those films.
Thinking back to his turn as Doug Ross on the long running medical drama ER (NBC, 1994-2009), it was evident even then that he was always going to go on to something special.
Favourite Role: Ulysses Everett McGill, O Brother Where Art Thou? (The Coen Brothers, 2000)
“Pete, the personal rancor reflected in that remark I don’t intend to dignify with comment. But I would like to address your general attitude of hopeless negativism. Consider the lilies of the goddamn field or… hell! Take at look at Delmar here as your paradigm of hope.”
It was between this and Danny Ocean, but my love for this film just pushed it over the edge. Clooney is brilliant here as the fast talking philosopher. The Coen Brothers unique take on Homer’s Odyssey was always going to be a risk, but it is a triumph on every level. One of the main reasons is Clooney’s leading performance. His delivery and comic timing were something we hadn’t seen from him before and were a real treat. He is just a joy to watch, whether it be mugging his way through the brilliant Man of Constant Sorrow, or his fast talking rant at a shop keeper for not stocking his favoured hair jelly, or even his confrontation with John Goodman’s dodgy preacher. He is a delight from start to finish.
6. Al Pacino
Welshy: Given who is top of this list I am glad he is as high as he is. This man is a great actor being equally at home on the boards as he is on the screen. I have seen him in The Dumb Waiter by Rudyard Kipling. Hope to see him in Othello or Richard III before he passes on and would have given my balls (my actual testicles) to watch him in Do Tigers Wear a Neck Tie? in 1969
A true man of ‘The Method’. While physical transformations have become somewhat synonymous with method acting over the years, this is actually a common misconception: It’s about identifying with a character.
Pacino always carefully considers his character’s motivations, pushing himself to personally identify with them. Two outstanding examples of this are Panic in Needle Park and Dog Day Afternoon.
This man is my favourite actor of all time. He is phenomenal in roles such as The Godfather Trilogy, Heat, Dick Tracy, Cruisng and Sea of Love. He has an intensity and quality in both his ability to use language and how he holds himself in a scene. He can portray fury, comedy, absolute defeat, heart wrenching agony and sex appeal with minimal effort. I can list more fantastic films where his skills are on display and I am sure you can think of some yourselves.
What is also impressive is his willingness to protect young actors and actresses on movie sets and help develop talent. He is one of the co-presidents of The Actors Studio, still responsible for teaching the next generation of actors and writers. He cites Lee Strasberg (then president of Actors Studio and Al’s teacher) as a big inspiration.
Favourite Role: Michael Corleone – The Godfather (Francis Ford Coppola, 1972). My favourite film of all time ever. This was a role of Shakespearean proportions. It showcased Pacino’s skill as an actor moving seamlessly from nice college quiet guy to the man who killed his brother-in-law without flinching. Favourite scene is when he sits down with Carlo and you just know…….that man is dead. It shows in Pacino’s eyes just like when he kills Solozzo and McCluskey.
Well, that is the end of part 2. We thank you all for reading and will see you back for the Top 5 soon…