It’s time I do another Top 5. This week, I’ll explore my top 5 actors. Before I begin, let me share with you the criteria by which I determined these list toppers. It starts with variety. I took each of these actors and looked at their bodies of work. If I only saw one type of character permeating the titles of their filmology, I crossed them off my list. It’s easy for actors to get type casted and remembered as “Harry Potter” but each of these has broken that mold and tackled a several very different characters. I wanted to see changeability both in the story and from movie to movie. How well do they hit their beats or moments? Can I relate to the characters they portray? But most importantly, I want to forget that they’re acting.
So without further ado and in no particular order, these are my top 5 favorite actors.
I almost feel I can leave this blank and just say his name. Tom has solidified himself as one of Hollywoods all time greats and I think very few people would disagree. From Forest Gump to Saving Mr. Banks, I’ve never watched a movie of his I didn’t love. I was most recently blown away by the final scene of Captain Phillips. (which is definitely worth an Oscar nomination but I digress) In the scene, Tom breaks down after the stress of the recent events finally catch up with him and without anyone to play off of delivers an unforgettable performance. It’s easier when acting with someone. Both players can use the other’s emotion to drive their own but to pull a 180 emotional change in a medical room by yourself – wow. He’s so personable and it shows through the screen. I remember the story my directing mentor tells about his meeting Tom. He said it felt like they knew each forever. I imagine if I ever meet him I could probably listen to him tell stories for hours.
In the vein of character variety, Johnny was the first to come to mind. His eccentric characterizations are priceless, memorable and always taking it to a new level. He attains a beautiful balance between witty comedy and hardened dramatizer. Jack Sparrow is one of my favorite characters and one that I would image isn’t a walk in the park to play. I love the contrast in films like Public Enemy and Sweeney Todd. His partnership with Helen Bonham Carter is absolutely brilliant. Their personalities are a match made in some bizarre heaven. Whether a single scene appearance or throughout, Johnny will always keep me watching and wanting more.
If I could be any actor, I would choose Viggo. Most recognized for his role as Aragorn, he’s also tacked challenging characters in The Road and Hidalgo. Some people might counter by saying his portrayals look strikingly similar and I would agree to an extent but what puts him in my top list is the passion and heart he pours into each of his roles. I’ve spent multiple days watching the behind the scenes for The Lord of the Rings and learned quite a bit about his method. As anyone who’s seen the trilogy knows, one of Aragorn’s biggest props is his sword. The props department made different variations of the same sword – some at actual size and weight and other with lighter material for the actor’s ease. Viggo refused to use anything but the full size sword and even took it to bars with him so that he never would have to fully leave character. He cultivated friendships with the other actor’s and even his horse that allowed much more relational depth. That level of dedication to a role blows my mind and I still get goosebumps when he yells, “For Frodo!”
I wrestled with this one for a while but ultimately added him to my list. What makes Daniel stand out to me is the truthfulness and realness of his characters. I first noticed this when watching Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Whether scripted or not, there were several moments where something almost accidental would happen in the scene; a water bottle would fall or a chair would knock out of place. Without second thought, Daniel does a fantastic job at incorporating small scenarios like that into his performance. I loved that film and still think Rooney Mara should have won the Oscar that year for that incredibly challenging role. Outside that movie, I’m a huge supporter of Craig’s portrayal of James Bond. It’s hard to rank any of the Bonds over the years but I’m glad he’s signed on for a few more.
Probably the most recent addition to my list is Benedict Cumberbatch. If you haven’t yet watched BBC’s Sherlock, you now know what you’re doing this weekend. Everything from the story to cinematography makes it my favorite TV show of all time. Benedict’s portrayal of Sherlock could quite possibly be the definition of perfect. It definitely put him on the world’s radar and since been picked up by several large franchises. For me, he’s the quintessential balance of all my criteria above. He adapts wonderfully to a variety of characters from Khan and Smaug to Sherlock and Julian Assange. In watching his films, I’ve noticed his eyes and how poignant they are. As Khan, all his anger and rage are channeled through his gaze. His quizzical deductions as Sherlock come to fruition in his frenetic glances. Even as the voice of Smaug, I see his passion though the dragon’s deadly eyes. It’s the small things like eyes that create a truly believable character. Those are the things that subconsciously affect our viewing experience and allow us to forget that we’re watching a movie.
So those are my top 5. I had a hard time narrowing it down with other honorable mentions including Morgan Freeman, Jimmy Stewart and Christoph Waltz (Who I just thought of as I wrote this and might have knocked one of the above off the list). Soon I’ll delve into my favorite actresses who capture the screen in a different yet equally powerful way. Always dig deep into movies – there so many nuances and subtleties that lie just below the surface waiting to be discovered.