Top 10 Actors on Film - Male Celebrities of 2012 - Part 1
When I think of a "favorite" actor, more than likely, it's because I thoroughly enjoyed his performance in at least 5 or 6 movies. I'm not going to give a complete run down of every movie these actors have ever done and how much the films have grossed, but I will mention a few. I figured it would just be cool to tell a little bit about them and their path to stardom.
This list is not actually in chronological order. It's just in the order of how they came to mind as I thought of writing this particular hub. I could have done a top 20 list, but I imagine that would be a bit too long! So, maybe I'll do a part 2 real soon. I Hope you enjoy.
A little update on funny man, Eddie Murphy below.
Al Pacino - He is always the first to pop in my head when it comes to actors I really appreciate. He was born in East Harlem, New York City and grew up in South Bronx. Having flunked all of his classes except English, Pacino dropped out of high school at the age of 17 to pursue acting. He had formal training and started out in local theater. He finally made his Broadway debut in 1969; he won a Tony Award for his performance in Does A Tiger Wear a Necktie.
In 1972, Francis Ford Coppola cast him in The Godfather, after seeing him play a heroin addict in the 1971 film, The Panic in Needle Park. Robert Redford, Warren Beatty and Robert DeNiro had auditioned for the part, and the studio execs were against him choosing Pacino. After being nominated for an Academy Award for his performance as Michael Corleone, Pacino boycotted the ceremony. He was insulted at being nominated for Supporting Actor as he had more screen time in The Godfather than Marlon Brando, who won the Oscar for Best Actor that year.
Pacino was nominated several times for Best Actor, winning the Academy Award for the first time in 1992 for his portrayal of a blind U.S. Army Lieutenant in Scent of a Woman. I think Al Pacino is great in every role he plays, but one of my favorite movies of his is Frankie and Johnny, a love story also starring Michelle Pfeiffer. He plays an ex-convict/cook looking for love in New York City. His character is irresistable.
Robert DeNiro - A true New Yorker at heart, just like myself. He was born and raised in Greenwich Village, New York City. He is of mixed descent - Italian, Irish, English, German, French and Dutch. He was a very shy boy, but not on stage. Acting was comforting to him. To this day, he is one who does not like to give interviews. DeNiro dropped out of school at age 16 to pursue acting. In 1963, at 20 years old, he landed his first movie role in a Brian De Palma film, The Wedding Party. However, this film was not released until 1969.
He won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his portrayal of the young Vito Corleone in 1974's The Godfather Part II. DeNiro spent 4 months learning to speak the Sicilian dialect for this role. Being a method actor, DeNiro has been very committed to his roles. He gained 60 pounds and learned to box for his role as Jake LaMotta in Raging Bull, for which he won Best Actor in 1980. He was first choice for the role of Harry in Home Alone in 1990, but the role went to his friend, Joe Pesci. I can't even picture DeNiro playing that part! Can you?
DeNiro loves to visit Italy where his great-grandparents emigrated from. In September 2004, he was supposed to have been granted Italian citizenship at the Venice Film Festival. DeNiro was denied because the Sons of Italy claimed he was damaging the image of Italians and Italian Americans by often portraying them in criminal roles. He was later granted the citizenship in 2006.
This man has starred in dozens of great films, including Goodfellas, The Untouchables, Awakenings, Meet the Parents and This Boy's Life, just to name a few. One of my most enjoyed DeNiro films is actually The Score, where he plays a thief along with another one of my favorites, Edward Norton (who will be on my second list).
Samuel L. Jackson - He is absolutely one of my favorite character actors. Jackson was born in Washington, D.C. and grew up in Chattanooga, Tennessee with his mother and grandmother. He only saw his father two times before his death. He attended Morehouse College in Georgia with the intent to study marine biology. While in school, he became involved in the black-power movement and was expelled after staging a "lock-in" of several board members for two days. He was protesting the the absence of blacks on the board of trustees at the college. He later returned to Morehouse and co-founded the "Just Us Theater" in 1972 before earning his degree in drama. Oh well, I guess marine biology was totally out of the question!
Jackson began his acting career in theater, performing in several Off-Broadway plays. Early in his career he worked as a stand-in for Bill Cosby on the The Cosby Show for three years. Morgan Freeman was his mentor. He was convinced that Jackson could be a very successful actor. To date, this man has been in over 100 films! By 2006, his films had grossed more box office dollars than any other actor in film. Originally, it was Harrison Ford who held this record, but after the success of The Incredibles, Jackson surpassed him. Although he has never received an Oscar, his work is highly critically acclaimed. At the 1991 Cannes Film Festival, a special Supporting Actor award was created just for him because of his portrayal of a heroin addict in Spike Lee's Jungle Fever. Coincidentally, Jackson was actually a recovering addict and had just completed rehab a couple of weeks before filming.
Quentin Tarantino wrote the role of Jules Winnfield in Pulp Fiction specifically for Jackson. By that time, he had already appeared in 29 films. He was nominated for Best Supporting Actor for that role, even though he had just as much screen time as John Travolta, who was nominated for Best Actor at the Academy Awards.
My personal best of Samuel L. Jackson's is Unbreakable. He co-stars as Bruce Willis' nemesis in this superhero thriller by M. Night Shyamalan.
Denzel Washington - Voted America's Favorite Movie Star in 2006 and 2007 in the Harris Polls, he is undoubtedly one of mine. Denzel was raised in Mount Vernon, New York. At age 14, his parents split and he was sent to Oakland Military Academy in Windsor, New York. He says this was the best thing for him at that time in his life, otherwise he would have been a victim of the "streets" as most of his friends had become. He originally studied biology in college with hopes of being a doctor, but went on to get his degree in journalism and drama at Fordham University in New York. Denzel also received and honorary doctorate from Fordham University in 1991, an honorary degree from Morehouse College in Atlanta, GA in 2007 and in 2011, an honorary degree from the University of Pennsylvania. He met his wife on the set of his first TV film, Wilma. They have been married for over 20 years and have 4 children.
What he enjoys most about making movies is creating the magic and bringing his characters to life. He says he doesn't really enjoy talking about his films before they come out, because it takes away from the magic if everyone knows what they're all about. Throughout his career, Denzel has collaborated with Spike Lee 4 times. He was nominated for the Best Actor Oscar for portraying Malcom X in the 1992 Spike Lee film. Denzel had already won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his role in Glory in 1989. He was the second African-American (in 36 years) to win the Best Actor Oscar since Sidney Portier. He won the Oscar for his role in Training Day, in which he plays a crooked detective. This role was a big change for Denzel as he usually plays the "good guy" and frequently portrays real people. His son, John David, talked him into doing Training Day. Having turned down a part in the dark/evil hit, Se7en (which went to Brad Pitt), Denzel had never done such a dark movie before.
Denzel has had a very extensive film career; most of his movies have done very well at the box office. You almost know that you won't be disappointed when you see one of his films. My personal best of Denzel's is the 2003 hit, Out of Time. He plays a police officer who must solve a murder, while being the prime suspect. He is literally out of time in this movie, and it was exciting to watch. He co-stars with Sanaa Lathan and Eva Mendes in this one.
John Travolta - You've got to love this guy. I grew up watching him on Welcome Back Kotter as Vinny Barbarino and thought he was the best! Travolta was raised in Englewood, New Jersey; the last of six children. He started acting at a young age in local theater before enrolling in voice, dance and acting classes in New York. At 16, he dropped out of school to further pursue his career. Travolta had several roles in television before landing the part of Vinnie Barbarino in 1975. He studied disco dancing for 9 months to perfect the role of Tony Manero in Saturday Night Fever and skyrocketed to fame with its success in 1977. He was nominated for the Best Actor Oscar for this role at age 24. At that time, he was the one of the youngest actors to be nominated for the Best Actor Oscar.
Travolta's career took a back seat during the '80s. He turned down two major roles which proved to be career changers for Richard Gere - American Gigolo and An Officer and a Gentleman - go figure. (He also turned down the part of Billy Flynn in the hit Chicago for which Gere won the Golden Globe.) In 1989, he resurfaced with the hit Look Who's talking. He hadn't had a more successful film since 1978's Grease. But, not until 1994's Pulp Fiction did Travolta really become recognized again in Hollywood. Fortunately for him, Michael Madsen, who was originally to star in Pulp Fiction, was unable to, due to a prior movie commitment. Quentin Tarantino had actually written the role specifically for Madsen.
In 1997, Travolta starred in the movie Face/Off with Nicholas Cage. This is my all time favorite Travolta movie. I just love the "double" acting in this film. He plays the part of an FBI agent; Cage plays the terrorist. Their faces are switched, and at this point, Travolta has to play the terrorist role as well - while still being his original character. Cage's double performance is also great. Good stuff and interestingly fun to watch. The story may not have been the best, but the acting was superb. See it for that, alone.
Tom Hanks - It's hard to believe that this man was once labeled unpopular amongst his peers. He was born in Concord, California and moved around a lot after his parents divorced. He and two other siblings remained with their father, while his youngest sibling stayed with his mother. He did some acting in high school and studied theater at Chabot College in Hayward, California. Tom always loved the theater and frequently attended plays alone. He dropped out of college while interning at the Great Lakes Theater Festival in Cleveland, Ohio. In 1979, he moved to New York to pursue his career.
In 1981, Tom landed a co-starring role on television's Bossom Buddies and was highly recognized as someone who would do well in movies. He went on to do several movies, starting with the lead role in Splash, which was directed by Ron Howard. He was originally considered for a supporting role, but was cast as the lead instead. This was a real career booster for Tom. He did experience some box-office failures until 1992, when he co-starred in A League of Their Own. Tom eventually went into more serious roles; winning a Best Actor Oscar for his role as a gay lawyer with AIDS in Philadelphia in 1993.
That Thing You Do was Tom Hanks' first shot at directing in 1996. He co-starred in it as well. He played a music producer for a company called Playtone, which became the name of his production company. A string of hits followed this endeavor, and as of 2010, he was ranked the highest all time box-office star. 17 of his films have grossed over 100 million dollars.
My personal best of Tom Hanks' is Forrest Gump. I wouldn't be surprised if it is everyone's favorite! You have to just love that character - so innocent. I loved the film, too. It's one of those I can watch over and over and never grow tired of it.
Christian Bale - He is one of those actors who totally gets into character - mentally and physically. I admire him for that. He started acting as a young boy and was cast in the lead role of Empire of the Sun, directed by Steven Spielberg, at the age of 13. I watched this movie in a film class years ago, but I did not remember that Bale was the star. My first memory of Bale is of him playing a serial killer in Amercian Psycho in 1999. Leonardo DiCaprio was originally cast in the role, but had to decline, opting to star in The Beach. Bale spent many months exercising and tanning for this role, and kept his distance from the crew in order to remain committed to the dark character. The movie caused some controversy due to its sexual content, but nonetheless, Bale's performance was praised.
In 2004, Bale played the lead in the Machinist - an extraordinary performance. He lost 63 pounds to play the role of a machinist/killer with chronic insomnia. He regained the weight plus muscle in six months in order to play Batman in Batman Begins in 2005.
My personal best of Christian Bale's performances is his portrayal of Dicky Eklund in The Fighter in 2010. The entire ensemble was brilliantly cast. Bale won the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for this, and it was well deserved. He embodied this character completely. I didn't even realize it was him at first! This is definitely on my list of all time favorite performances.
Will Smith - He might actually be my true number 1 pick, because I have enjoyed his performance in every role. I think he is an absolute natural. I believe he is the only rapper turned actor who has really perfected his craft. Others have tried, but will never have what Will Smith has!
Will Smith was born and raised in West Philadelphia. He was always a very smart student, but said he had no intention on going to college. I guess he knew where his career was going - early! He is, however, a huge advocate of education and stresses it with his own children.
Before his rise to movie stardom, Will Smith was a rapper in the '80s - when rap was light and fun. In 1988, he, along with his childhood friend, Jeffrey "DJ Jazzy Jeff" Townes (deejay and producer) and human beat box, Clarence "Ready Rock C" Holmes were the first rap artists to win a Grammy. Will made millions of dollars making records but, in 1990, by the time he signed on with NBC to star in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, he was nearly bankrupt. The show was a hit and ran for 6 seasons. Needless to say, his career totally blossomed from there. Will set a goal for himself to become the greatest movie star in the world. He studied the box-office successes over the years and the ingredients for these successes. In 1993, he had his first major role in Six Degrees of Separation in which he plays a young man who poses as Sidney Portier's son to con a rich family. It was the first time seeing a more serious side of Will and he proved to have some real acting chops. In 1996, Will gained his true box-office status with the major success of Independence Day. It was at one point the 2nd highest grossed film of all time. The rest is history - one blockbuster after another for this guy.
Will did an excellent job portraying Muhammad Ali in the 2001 hit, Ali. I think he really nailed this part. I loved him in the movie, Seven Pounds, too. My personal best of Will Smith's is The Pursuit of Happyness (2006) where he portrays the real life of Chris Gardner - a salesman struggling to make it while caring for his young son. Will becomes this character so completely. The fact that he is playing a real person (just as in Ali) allows Will to completely lose himself in this character; no "Mr. Cool Guy" - he is Chris Gardner. You see the struggle in his face and the grateful relief of it all at the end of the movie. It's just a great story.
Robert Downey, Jr. - This man has been a favorite of mine since the first movie I saw him in. He has been in the business since he was 5 years old. He started out doing minor roles in some of his father's projects. Downey was born and raised in Greenwich Village, New York and attended the Stagedoor Manor Performing Arts Training Center in upstate New York. While in England, he studied classical ballet at age 10. He later moved to California with his father in 1978 and attended Santa Monica High School until dropping out at age 17. He then moved back to New York to pursue acting.
Downey was introduced to drugs at a very young age. His father was also a drug addict and allowed him to use marijuana at 8 years old. Drugs became an emotional bond between the two of them. After some success in the late '80s to late '90s, he was arrested several times on drug charges. He was in and out of jail and rehab until 2001. It became a problem to cast Downey in anything because no company would insure him. After becoming drug free, he finally returned to the big screen in 2003, co-starring in The Singing Detective with Mel Gibson, who paid Downey's insurance bond. He and Mel had been good friends since working together in 1990 on Air America. Downey followed that with Gothika, which starred Halle Berry. Susan Levin produced this film; they married in 2005.
Although he was a great actor, Downey hadn't starred in a blockbuster film until 2008. Iron Man set it off and was followed by Tropic Thunder for which he was nominated for Best Supporting Actor Oscar. In 2010, he won the Golden Globe for Best Actor for his portrayal of Sherlock Holmes. He had no speech prepared for the win. On the morning of the Globes, his wife told him that Matt Damon would definitely win for The Informant. Well, wasn't she wrong!
Downey remains committed to his performances and I'm looking forward to his return to the screen as Tony Starks/Ironman. My personal best of Downey's is his performance in Tropic Thunder. I thought it hysterical the way he portrayed an Australian actor who undergoes a skin pigmentation procedure in order to play an African-American platoon sergeant. Funny stuff.
Eddie Murphy - He is one of my favorite stand-up comedians. Eddie was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York. His father died when he was a young boy. When his mother became very ill, he and his brother, Charlie lived in foster care for a year. His experience in foster care helped Eddie to develop his sense of humor. When his mother remarried, the family moved to Roosevelt, Long Island. By the time he was 15 years old, Eddie started doing stand-up comedy in local bars and youth centers. He finally made it to a showcase at The Comic Strip, a comedy club in New York City. The owners of the club took a liking to Eddie and decided to manage him.
At the age of 19, Eddie became a regular cast member of Saturday Night Live in the early '80s. His success on the show was followed by his first Hollywood movie, 48 Hours, co-starring with Nick Nolte in 1982. Eddie was the first actor to receive $1,000,000 for his first movie. He continued making movies throughout the '80s, during which he had to turn down a role that was specifically written for him in Ghost Busters. The '90s slowed down a bit for him. It wasn't until The Nutty Proffessor in 1996 that Eddie resurfaced as a box-office smash. This movie was complete with Eddie's extraordinary talent of playing multiple characters on screen.
I will always enjoy watching Eddie Murphy do his thing on screen and I'm looking forward to seeing his upcoming flick, A Thousand Words, in March. My personal best for Eddie Murphy is definitely The Nutty Professor, although, I did appreciate his performance in Dreamgirls. I believe he should have won the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for this one instead of Alan Arkin for his role in Little Miss Sunshine - I loved this movie, though.
Update - I saw A Thousand Words. It was typical Eddie Murphy style. It was pretty funny overall. I can't say it was Eddie at his best because I've seen him better. I know we will probably never see the "old" Eddie Murphy again on screen, so I accept him for who he is now. He is still ultra talented and I did have several laughs throughout the movie. I won't give any specifics, so not to ruin it for anyone who hasn't seen it yet.
Who's Your Favorite?
Who's Your Favorite?
Who's Your Favorite?
Who's Your Favorite?
Who's Your Favorite?
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