Category Archives: Profiles – Actors

Rockwell, Sam

 Sam_Rockwell_at_the_2009_Tribeca_Film_Festival Name: Sam Rockwell

Born: November 5, 1968

Strengths: Charisma, Chemistry

Weaknesses: Marketability

Best Role: Moon

Rating:     rating-153609_640 5.0

Though movie fans became accustomed to seeing actors of burning talent and presence light up the screen all the way up to the 1970’s, the modern movie industry has unearthed few modern day Brandos, Clifts, Pacinos, or DeNiros. One actor who comes close, however – though many might be surprised by this assertion – is Sam Rockwell.

A maverick actor if ever there was one, Sam Rockwell has made a name for himself as a quirky comedy actor with immense presence who every now and then springs up with tour de force dramatic performances that few can equal. He has a natural instinct for comedy which affords him even broader range and he has that rare gift of bringing the house down as his boxing match in Welcome to Collinwood or his dexterous cameo in Gentlemen Broncos demonstrates. He’s shown a genuine talent for darker roles with movies like Jerry and Tom, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, and Snow Angels wherein he respectively plays a creepy hit-man’s apprentice, a man on the brink of insanity, and a terrifying abusive husband. And it’s fair to say, that in each of these films, dark or funny, Rockwell’s character defined the film.

To claim Rockwell has all the presence of the great actors won’t shock his fans who have been hooked on his off-kilter charm and indie edge since his early days of Box of Moonlight and Lawn Dogs. But to argue he has their talent might take some convincing even for his hardcore fans. However, one need look no further than Duncan Jones’ sci-fi gem Moon in order to appreciate the breadth of this man’s skill and the near perfect combination of defining presence and acting class. In that movie, Rockwell puts in a deeply touching and profoundly human performance and, in the process, manages to do what no other actor has since Al Pacino. Namely, to play two very different versions of the same character so believably that their personality transition appears seamless and that nobody doubts that they are indeed watching the same person, just at two difference points in their development. This is a monumental achievement because actors nearly always slip up in these circumstances by giving the sense of separate characters and/or a less than credible transition. But Rockwell did it with apparent ease and though Pacino had the more difficult task – in acting out the transition itself – it still must go down as one of the great acting achievements.

Of course, Rockwell has taken on other hefty roles in movies like the flawed Conviction but not many. This isn’t down to a lack of talent but instead perhaps his most interesting characteristic as an actor – his penchant for supporting roles (often in indie films) despite A-list credibility. Whereas most actors are desperate to rise to the point where they are being repeatedly offered the leads in high profile films, Rockwell appears to have steadfastly resisted, avoided, or outright refused such parts. By Duncan Jones’ own account, the director actually had to write Moon as a one-character film in order to guarantee that Rockwell wouldn’t ask for a secondary part – as he had done the first time Jones offered him a role. Why this is the case is difficult to say. Perhaps, Rockwell likes to avoid the stress of a high profile role or maybe he just doesn’t believe in himself. However, the willingness to take on the only role in a profound and beautiful piece of science fiction like Moon would indicate neither is the case.

More likely, Rockwell simply realises that Hollywood studios are by nature timid and restrictive entities that don’t afford lead roles much room for growth for fear that the audience will hold it against the film. As such, more often than not, the most interesting work comes with playing the support roles or ensemble roles that executives are less afraid to take risks with – that of the best friend, the big brother, or the apprentice. And so, Rockwell has played them all – and stolen the show from the leads as he’s done so. This self-marginalisation may frustrate his fans on one level and it has probably precluded him from “A-lister” status in Hollywood but it’s that integrity and his tendency to bring his charisma and weight to side parts that’s endeared so many of them to this talented actor’s craft in the first place. Just like the great Robert Mitchum did his in heyday, this modern day maverick is less influenced by ego or legacy and driven more by his personal sensibilities. It’s a rare thing to behold in today’s acting world and just one more reason to appreciate him.

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Crowe, Russell

 Russell_Crowe_2012 Name: Russell Crowe

Born: April 7, 1964

Strengths: Range, Presence

Weakness: None

Best Role: The Insider

Rating:    rating-153609_640 4.5

Review:

One of the few modern actors to balance superstardom with critical acclaim, Russel Crowe has made a name for himself as an edgy acting talent capable of taking on a variety of roles. Absorbing himself in his characters, he has a tendency to be a little precious when it comes to the public’s opinion of his performances but it hasn’t stopped him from taking on increasingly riskier parts.

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Foster, Ben

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Name: Ben Foster

Born: October 29, 1980

Strengths: Intensity

Weakness: None

Best Role: Alpha Dog

Rating:    rating-153609_640 4.5

Review:

Arguably the most intense actor of his generation, Ben Foster has made a name for himself in a series of outsider roles since the beginning of his career. Often taking the preparation for his parts to the extreme (e.g., in Alpha Dog, he  risked blindness when adding glaucoma drops to his eyes so that he’d appear to be under narcotic influence), his work reflects an obsession and commitment that few can match. That said, there’s also much dexterity to his craft and he’s succeeded in giving every one of his roles an extraordinary amount of depth ensuring that when we look back at this era in cinema, Foster’s name will be uttered in the same breath as that of Ryan Gosling, and Sam Rockwell.

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Weaver, Sigourney

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Name: Sigourney Weaver

Born: 8 October 1949

Strengths: Range, Depth

Weaknesses: None

Best Role: Gorillas in the Mist

Rating:   rating-153609_640 5.0

Review:

Emerging as a talent to be reckoned with off the back of her late 70’s post-Alien success, Signourney Weaver went on to establish herself as one of the strongest leading ladies in the business, the kind who could lead a film on its own to both critical and commercial success. In this manner, she represented the kind of actress that was more common from the 1940’s and 50’s, an actress whose power depended on her talent and intelligence in applying it. She has demonstrated a remarkable range, notably turning her craft to dramas, thrillers, and comedies, sometimes all in the same calendar years. Though not appearing on screen as often as other actors, she has nonetheless retained her status as a top actor and one whom both executives and fans still want to see more of.

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Russo, Rene

 Rene_Russo_2011

Name: Rene Russo

Born: February 17, 1954

Strengths: Chemistry

Weaknesses: Opportunities

Best Role: Nightcrawler

Rating:   rating-153609_640 4.5

Review:

Beginning her career as a model, Rene Russo soon got noticed in a series of small television roles before she got her chance to hold her own opposite a host of top stars in Major League. She was quick to prove it was no fluke and made a name for herself as an extremely strong co-star in a series of romantic comedies and action thrillers across the early-to-mid 1990’s. With a remarkable screen presence, likability, and sharing strong chemistry with her co-stars, she was proving to be one of Hollywood’s most reliable leading ladies when she stepped back from acting. A recent return to form in Nightcrawler, however, counts among her best work to date and hopefully indicates that we’ll be seeing more of her in the near future.

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Gyllenhaal, Jake

 Jake_Gyllenhaal_Cannes_2015_2

Name: Jake Gyllenhaal

Born: December 19, 1980

Strengths: Intensity

Weaknesses: Depth

Best Role: Nightcrawler

Rating:   rating-153609_640 4.0

Review:

Offering calm intensity and/or quirky charm, Jake Gyllenhaal has skirted the edges of genuine greatness since his breakthrough in October Sky. An ease in front of the camera has consolidated these traits but an equally quirky choice of roles has perhaps kept resounding mainstream success at arm’s length. That said, he has already carved his own niche among his generation of actors and with performances like the one he recently turned in in Nightcrawler, he should continue to develop.

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Glover, Danny

 Danny_Glover_2014

Name: Danny Glover

Born: July 22, 1946

Strengths: Likability, Presence

Weaknesses: Range

Best Role: The Color Purple

Rating:   rating-153609_640 3.5

Review:

Rugged actor loved by the camera, and capable of charismatic turns as a good or bad guy, Danny Glover made his name in a number of small but memorable support roles before establishing himself among Hollywood’s main players in the late 80’s with his performances as Lt. Roger Murtagh in the Lethal Weapon series. Though he demonstrated he could carry a movie by himself with movies such as Predator 2, he remained merely a key support player in a number of solid movies throughout the 2000’s. As such, he never really got to demonstrate the dept of acting that his early appearance in Spielberg’s The Color Purple promised. Nor did he test his range that often.

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Burton, Richard

 Richard_Burton_-_The_Robe

Name: Richard Burton

Born: November 10, 1925

Strength: Voice

Weakness: Depth

Best Role: The Spy Who Came in From the Cold

Rating:   rating-153609_640 3.5

Profile:

Making his name in a series of “swords and sandals” epics, Richard Burton rose to superstardom during the production of 20th Century Fox’s Cleopatra where he co-starred opposite his on-again/off-again wife Elizabeth Taylor. Possessing a strong screen presence and a remarkable voice, but lacking in depth, his career was marked by his stardom rather than his noteworthy performances, of which there were a few.

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Mirren, Helen

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Name: Helen Mirren

Born: July 26, 1945

Strengths: Range, Depth

Weaknesses: None

Best Role: The Madness of King George

Rating:   rating-153609_640 5.0

Review:

Demonstrating an intelligent screen presence, Helen Mirren has impressed in a variety of roles across several decades and two continents. Though her early appearances were marked by the use of her feminine qualities, from the 1980’s onward, her talent was increasingly recognised as she played key roles in a series of outstanding movies. In the latter stages of her career, she has become generally regarded as one of Britain’s top actors not to mention a strong box-office draw on both sides of the Atlantic.

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Goodman, John

 John_Goodman_by_David_Shankbone

Name: John Goodman

Born: June 20, 1952

Strengths: Comedy, Range

Weaknesses: Marketability

Best Role: The Big Lebowski

Rating:   rating-153609_640 4.5

Review:

One of America’s most popular actors, John Goodman has remained a solid support player for nearly three decades thanks largely to the manner in which his physical presence contrasts with that of a typical leading man’s. Nonetheless, he has proved a priceless commodity to have among a movie’s cast and, more often than not, has matched or even upstaged the lead actors he is supposedly supporting. Making his name initially as a comedian, he has also proven to be an excellent dramatic actor with a surprising range. That said, his most triumphant role came as the hysterlically funny Walter in the Coen Bros. comedy masterpiece The Big Lebowski.

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Henriksen, Lance

 Lance_Henriksen_cropped

Name: Lance Henriksen

Born: May 5th, 1940

Strengths: Voice, Intensity

Weaknesses: Marketability

Best Role: Near Dark

Rating:   rating-153609_640 4.5

Review:

Long time supporting actor, Lance Henriksen has nonetheless been responsible for several memorable performances thanks to a combination of quite intensity and a distinctively deep voice. After starring as the benevolent android in James Cameron’s Aliens, he shared equal billing in Kathryn Bigelow’s ensemble vampire masterpiece Near Dark but despite a striking performance, it was another ten years before he made the breakthrough his career had warranted, And despite it coming as the lead Frank Black in the pre-Golden Age television show, Millennium, that show went on to be a cult favourite as much as its lead actor has.

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Marvin, Lee

 Lee_marvin_1971

Name: Lee Marvin

Born: February 19, 1924

Strengths: Presence

Weaknesses: Range

Best Role: Point Blank

Rating:   rating-153609_640 3.5

Review:

Legendary Hollywood hard man Lee Marvin began his career mostly playing bad guys due to his imposing presence and his knack for cutting a mean demeanor that translated very well onto screen. Some near iconic performances in The Big Heat and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance eventually led to properly iconic performances in films like The Dirty Dozen and The Professionals. However, his crowning achievement came when he assumed the role of Walker in John Boorman’s Point Blank (1967) wherein he gave a performance of pure intensity and vengeful drive. A similarly powerful turn in Samuel Fuller’s The Big Red One cemented his reputation as more than just an intimidating screen presence and an actor of genuine talent. Known for having alcoholic tendencies, he often held up shooting schedules when failing to turn up on set or by showing up drunk. That said, on several occasions, he used his reputation as a drunk to buy some extra time for directors who were running behind on schedule for other reasons.

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