Great Actors

In no particular order, I present a few of the Greats. The list may grow. And lists of Great Actresses and Great Directors will follow.
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Bruno Ganz
Actor, Downfall
Bruno Ganz debuted at the theatre in 1961 and gained there a good reputation as a solid, young actor. In 1970 he founded with Peter Stein the theatre company "Schaubuehne" of Berlin. His debut at the movies was early and unsuccessful during the decade of 1960. His talent as a reflexive actor with tendencies towards introspection was widely known after Summer Guests.
“ Born 1941, Zürich-Seebach, Switzerland.

In 1987, Bruno Ganz was the beautiful angel Damiel in 'Der Himmel über Berlin' (Wenders), watching people, but never judging them, from the top of the Gedächtniskirche; seventeen years later, he played Adolf Hitler - a demon, if you will - hiding underneath the bombed-out streets of Berlin in 'Der Untergang' (2004, Hirschbiegel). Not every actor has such poetry in his filmography. But then again, Ganz was always special. I especially treasure him as Jonathan Zimmermann, the doomed framemaker manipulated by Dennis Hopper's Tom Ripley in 'Der Amerikanische Freund' (1977, Wenders), a film I can watch a hundred times without ever tiring of it. His portrayal of Hitler is a model for actors, I suppose. It shows that a lack of empathy can be overcome. If you can play Hitler in the bunker, a man who doesn't even deserve his own pity, who can't you play? So far, Ganz has never failed to move me. There is a sense of warmth and wisdom that always shines through in his eyes and his shy little smile, even to the point that it makes his Hitler uncomfortably human. Ganz is not a showy actor, but his modesty never drowns out his power. He is always 'there', quietly observing, thinking before he speaks. Attributes of a true film actor, who can bring complex characters to life with an almost literary sense of detail. And an actor who can make a bad film watchable by appearing in a single scene. That's the Bruno Ganz magic. ” - danrabbit
Gene Hackman
Actor, Unforgiven
Eugene Allen Hackman was born in San Bernardino, California, the son of Anna Lyda Elizabeth (Gray) and Eugene Ezra Hackman, who operated a newspaper printing press. He is of Pennsylvania Dutch (German), English, and Scottish ancestry, partly by way of Canada, where his mother was born. After several moves...
“ Born 1930, San Bernardino, California.

Gene Hackman unfortunately retired from acting, after making a run-of-the-mill comedy called 'Welcome to Mooseport' (Petrie, 2004), co-starring with Ray Romano. But who can deny Hackman a little peace and quiet in his autum years? Has he not given us enough mature work? At age forty-five, Hackman had already done Buck Barrow in 'Bonnie and Clyde' (1967, Penn), Popeye Doyle in 'The French Connection' (1971, Friedkin) and 'The French Connection II' (1975, Frankenheimer), Max Millan in 'Scarecrow' (1973, Schatzenberg), Harry Caul in 'The Conversation' (1974, Coppola) and Harry Moseby in 'Night Moves' (1975, Penn). All deeply flawed men, some of them hot-headed, others perversely controlled, each of them riveting. It was his Golden Age, as it was for many character stars. However, Hackman was disappointed with the limited success of his more adventurous projects, and he increasingly sought parts in 'safe' pictures. He became dependable support in big Hollywood movies, but every now and then there was something odd like his George Dupler in 'All Night Long' (1981, Tramont) or his Jack McCann in 'Eureka' (1983, Roeg). And Hackman was always reliable in performances that called for a powerful presence, such as his FBI Agent Rupert Anderson in 'Mississippi Burning' (1988, Parker) or his Sheriff Little Bill Daggett in 'Unforgiven' (1992, Eastwood). Who else could you go to when you needed an ambiguous figure of authority in a Western or a War flick? He even had the right name to go with the image. Hackman ended his career as one of our favourite macho figures, but not an abstract one, like Clint Eastwood; his nervous grin and his tense eyes revealed that this guy was a little more complicated, a little more like us. In that respect, Hackman is closer to Lee Marvin. And like Marvin, he's a class act. ” - danrabbit
Anthony Hopkins
Actor, Hannibal
Anthony Hopkins was born on December 31, 1937, in Margam, Wales, to Muriel Anne (Yeats) and Richard Arthur Hopkins, a baker. His parents were both of half Welsh and half English descent. Influenced by Richard Burton, he decided to study at College of Music and Drama and graduated in 1957. In 1965, he moved to London and joined the National Theatre...
Albert Finney
Actor, Big Fish
Albert Finney came from the theatre, where he was especially successful in plays of William Shakespeare, to the movies. There he became a leading figure of the young Free Cinema. His debut in cinema was in 1960 with The Entertainer of Tony Richardson who had directed him also in theatre plays various times before. His typical roles when he was young were projects like Arthur Seaton in Saturday Night and Sunday Morning.
Michel Bouquet
Michel Bouquet is an actor born in the 14th arrondissement of Paris on the 6 November 1925. His father, Georges Bouquet, was a World War One veteran and a wine-maker. His mother Marie was a milliner. He had three older brothers: Georges, Bernard and Serge. Michel's father was always a shadowy figure in his life: having been deeply affected by the war...
Michel Piccoli
Born in a musician's family, he spent the first fifteen years of his career appearing both on stage and on screen, mostly in supporting roles. His breakthrough came after Jean-Luc Godard's Contempt and about 100 films, ranging from art-house movies to commercial mainstream, followed. He won the...
Klaus Maria Brandauer
Gave his debut as an actor in 1962. Member of the 'Wiener Burgtheater' in Vienna since 1972. Played at the 'Salzburger Festspiele' since 1975. Directed plays since 1977. Debuted as a movie actor in 1972.
Jim Broadbent
One of England's most versatile character actors, Jim Broadbent was born on May 24, 1949, in Lincolnshire, the youngest son of furniture maker Roy Laverick Broadbent and sculptress Doreen "Dee" (Findlay) Broadbent. Jim attended a Quaker boarding school in Reading before successfully applying for a place at an art school...
Tom Wilkinson
Popular British character actor Tom Wilkinson was born in Leeds, West Yorkshire, England, and comes from a long line of urban farmers. He is the son of Marjorie (Percival) and Thomas Wilkinson. Economic hardships forced his family to move to Canada for a few years when Wilkinson was a child; after he had returned to England...
John Hurt
Actor, Alien
This transatlantic talent was born John Vincent Hurt on January 22, 1940 in Shirebrook, a coal mining village near the busy market town of Chesterfield, in Derbyshire, England. He is the son of Phyllis (Massey), an engineer and one-time actress, and Arnould Herbert Hurt, an Anglican clergyman and mathematician...
Richard Burton
Probably more frequently remembered for his turbulent personal life and multiple marriages, Richard Burton was nonetheless regarded as one of the great British actors of the post-WWII period. Burton was born Richard Walter Jenkins in Pontrhydyfen, Wales, to Edith Maude (Thomas) and Richard Walter Jenkins...
Jim Carrey
Jim Carrey, Canadian-born and a U.S. citizen since 2004, is an actor and producer famous for his rubbery body movements and flexible facial expressions. The two-time Golden Globe-winner rose to fame as a cast member of the Fox sketch comedy In Living Color but leading roles in Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, Dumb and Dumber and The Mask established him as a bankable comedy actor...
“ Born 1962, Newmarket, Canada.

Some people may be surprised to see Jim Carrey sandwiched between Richard Burton and Al Pacino. Let me assure you, he's not meant to be the token comedian on this list. I truly believe him to be a great actor and a great artist, for the simple reason that he is obsessed with finding new ways to surprise us. Carrey's art can be deceptive. Mannered to the extreme, his characters often seem loud caricatures, spoofing the grand emotions that Hollywood movies and soap operas have been selling us with a straight face for as long as we can remember - until Carrey opens up the cliché and says or does something that really breaks your heart. Most of the time, doing rather than saying. He may, by his own admission, not be Buster Keaton, but he possesses a physical grace that is unmatched by most of today's actors. As with Keaton, Hollywood is unresolved about what to do with the clown. Although Carrey is adventurous rather than rebellious, it seems that the studios have put increasingly little on his plate. Let's keep our fingers crossed that 'Mr. Popper's Penguins' (2011, Waters) is not a sign of things to come. Just waste Rob Schneider on movies like that. We need Carrey to play Lloyd Christmas in 'Dumb and Dumber' (1994, Farrelly Brothers); the titular character in 'The Cable Guy' (1996, Stiller); Truman Burbank in 'The Truman Show' (1998, Weir); Andy Kaufman in 'Man on the Moon' (1999, Forman); Joel Barish in 'Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind' (2004, Gondry); and Steven Russell in 'I Love You Phillip Morris' (2009, Ficarra and Requa). This man has genius in spades. ” - danrabbit
Al Pacino
One of the greatest actors in all of film history, Al Pacino established himself during one of film's greatest decades, the 1970s, and has become an enduring and iconic figure in the world of American movies. Alfredo James Pacino was born on April 25, 1940, in the Bronx, New York, to an Italian-American family...
Ralph Fiennes
Actor Ralph Nathaniel Twisleton-Wykeham-Fiennes was born on December 22, 1962 in Suffolk, England, to Jennifer Anne Mary Alleyne (Lash), a novelist, and Mark Fiennes, a photographer. He is the eldest of six children. Four of his siblings are also in the arts: Martha Fiennes, a director; Magnus Fiennes...
“ Born 1946, Niel, Belgium.

Jan Decleir may not have the instant name recognition of the other Great Actors on this list, but he is remarkable, for he is probably the only Dutch-speaking actor that belongs on it. There are a lot of terrific stage actors in Holland and Belgium, but terrific film actors are rather more scarce. None of them have truly mastered the art of communicating a world of emotions through a single look or gesture. Decleir has, and therefore he is claimed by both countries. He was in two Academy Award winning Dutch films: 'Antonia' (1995, Gorris), in which he played Boer Bas, and 'Karakter' (1997, Van Diem), in which he played Arend B. Dreverhaven, one of the seminal characters of Dutch literature. Those two films got him noticed. It is said that Decleir was asked to play James Bond's opponent in 'The World Is Not Enough' (1999, Apted), but that he turned it down in order to complete a tour of Shakespeare adaptations. He could be 'bigger', more well-known. But he follows his own star. ” - danrabbit
Bruce Dern
Actor, Nebraska
Bruce Dern was born in Chicago, Illinois, to Jean (MacLeish) and John Dern, an attorney and utility chief. His paternal grandfather, George Henry Dern, served as Governor of Utah (1925-1933) and then U.S. Secretary of War (1933-1936). His ancestry includes German, English, Scottish, and Dutch. Bruce Dern had established himself as the movies' premier heavy...
Robert Duvall
Veteran actor and director Robert Selden Duvall was born on January 5, 1931, in San Diego, CA, to Mildred Virginia (Hart), an amateur actress, and William Howard Duvall, a career military officer who later became an admiral. Duvall majored in drama at Principia College (Elsah, IL), then served a two-year hitch in the army after graduating in 1953...
Robert Downey Jr.
Robert Downey Jr. has evolved into one of the most respected actors in Hollywood. With an amazing list of credits to his name, he has managed to stay new and fresh even after over four decades in the business. Downey was born April 4, 1965 in Manhattan, New York, the son of writer, director and filmographer Robert Downey Sr. and actress Elsie Downey (née Elsie Ann Ford)...
Colin Firth
Colin Andrew Firth was born into an academic family in Grayshott, Hampshire, England. His mother, Shirley Jean (Rolles), was a comparative religion lecturer at the Open University, and his father, David Norman Lewis Firth, lectured on history at Winchester University College (formerly King Alfred's College) in Winchester...
Michael Gambon
Sir Michael Gambon was born in Cabra, Dublin, Ireland, to Mary (Hoare), a seamstress, and Edward Gambon, an engineer. After joining the National Theatre, under the Artistic Directorship of Sir Laurence Olivier, Gambon went on to appear in a number of leading roles in plays written by Alan Ayckbourn...
Laurence Olivier
Actor, Rebecca
Laurence Olivier could speak William Shakespeare's lines as naturally as if he were "actually thinking them", said English playwright Charles Bennett, who met Olivier in 1927. Laurence Kerr Olivier was born in Dorking, Surrey, England, to Agnes Louise (Crookenden) and Gerard Kerr Olivier, a High Anglican priest. His surname came from a great-great-grandfather who was of French Huguenot origin...
“ Born 1907, Dorking, Surrey, died 1989, Steyning, West Sussex.

As a young actor, Laurence Olivier wanted nothing else than to be the next Ronald Colman, a suave matinee idol. But then he got bitten by the Shakespeare bug. Olivier went on to be universally acclaimed as one of the all-time great stage actors, while he received little recognition for his film work. He has been called the Edmund Kean of the 20th Century, yet when it comes to movies, it seems he can hardly measure up to Gary Cooper. Of course, this is unfair. Cooper was a great naturalist who had a special rapport with the camera; Olivier was a master of mimicry and transformation in the theatre, who had to learn how to act before a camera, how to show just enough of himself to keep us engaged. Olivier's initial unsuitability for film acting could be - and was - used as an argument for downplaying the medium: film was probably 'beneath' so great a talent. But the man himself was eager to learn. At times, the lessons were painful. Olivier came to Hollywood carrying all the air of the new British Prince of Players, only to be cut down to size by William Wyler, who directed Olivier as Heathcliff in 'Wuthering Heights' (1939). Wyler bullied Olivier into a real film performance, and Olivier was ever grateful to his cruel master. He even made the medium his own by directing three Shakespeare films, which are, of course, compulsory viewing: 'Henry V' (1944) illustrated in lurid Eastman Colour, 'Hamlet' (1948) as a brooding film noir, and 'Richard III' (1955) as a more conventional type of vehicle. No, Olivier is never as electric or as full of life before the camera as some of the other Great Actors in this list. But he had a secret weapon: his talent. Even by doing practically nothing he could be the most enchanting person in the picture, as witness his quiet Detective Newhouse in 'Bunny Lake Is Missing' (1965, Preminger). When asked to be grand and theatrical, he rose to the occasion; he threatens to reveal himself as the fraudulous and adulterous vaudevillian Archie Rice in 'The Entertainer' (1960, Richardson), but how is that possible when playing a man who's constantly dramatizing his own life? When Archie hears that his son has died in the Suez Conflict, he breaks into a pathetic rendition of a gospel song - it is both Olivier's ugliest and most beautiful moment in film. After all that, he was happy to be the fattest ham in town, playing baroque Nazi villains and 19th Century stage Jews in postmodern Hollywood blockbusters. Still, Sir Larry remains fascinating. ” - danrabbit
Cary Grant
Once told by an interviewer, "Everybody would like to be Cary Grant", Grant is said to have replied, "So would I." Cary Grant was born Archibald Alexander Leach on January 18, 1904 in Horfield, Bristol, England, to Elsie Maria (Kingdon) and Elias James Leach, who worked in a factory. His early years in Bristol would have been an ordinary lower-middle-class childhood...
James Stewart
James Maitland Stewart was born on May 20, 1908 in Indiana, Pennsylvania, to Elizabeth Ruth (Johnson) and Alexander Maitland Stewart, who owned a hardware store. He was of Scottish, Ulster-Scots, and some English, descent. Stewart was educated at a local prep school, Mercersburg Academy, where he was a keen athlete (football and track), musician (singing and accordion playing), and sometime actor...
“ Born 1908, Indiana, Pennsylvania, died 1997, Los Angeles, California.

It happens with a lot of movie stars. There have been so many James Stewart impressions - even today, there are a lot circulating on youtube - that it's easy to remember the mannerisms and forget about the incredible actor. One of my favourite shots in the history of cinema features Stewart. It is a shot in Capra's 'It's a Wonderful Life' (1946), in which Stewart's George Bailey is informed on a train platform that his brother is getting married, leaving him with the prospect of taking over the family business and remaining in dreary Bedford Falls for the rest of his days. Though technically masterful, it is a simple shot, really; Capra keeps his focus on Stewart, who stops dead in his tracks upon learning the news, and we can read on his face that his world has just fallen apart. Then, Capra slowly pans with Stewart as he walks down the platform, pondering whether he should feel happy for his brother or sorry for himself, as he rejoins his family. You don't see such complex character work in a single shot every day. Capra and Stewart did it, and there is more to be savoured. In fact, the rewards of discovering James Stewart's work are endless. Need I add that he was also one of the funniest men in pictures? Witness the way he takes the ladies umbrella as Sheriff Tom Destry in 'Destry Rides Again' (1939, Marshall). Here was a guy who really understood the way the camera registers us, and used it to his advantage. But Stewart was never a fake. The way in which he dared to reveal his own vulnerabilities as, say, Howard Kemp in 'The Naked Spur' (1953, Mann) or Scottie Ferguson in 'Vertigo' (1958, Hitchcock) is still breathtaking. He stretches the limits of what we perceive as a 'Classic Hollywood' performance and makes it deeply personal. Surely one of the Greats. ” - danrabbit
Alec Guinness
Alec Guinness was an English actor. He is known for his six collaborations with David Lean: Herbert Pocket in Great Expectations (1946), Fagin in Oliver Twist (1948), Col. Nicholson in The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957, for which he won the Academy Award for Best Actor), Prince Faisal in Lawrence of Arabia (1962)...
Dustin Hoffman
Dustin Lee Hoffman was born in Los Angeles, California, to Lillian (Gold) and Harry Hoffman, who was a furniture salesman and prop supervisor for Columbia Pictures. He was raised in a Jewish family (from Ukraine, Russia-Poland, and Romania). Hoffman graduated from Los Angeles High School in 1955, and went to Santa Monica City College...
Robert De Niro
Actor, Goodfellas
Robert De Niro thought of as one of the greatest actors of all time, was born in Manhattan, New York City, to artists Virginia (Admiral) and Robert De Niro Sr. His paternal grandfather was of Italian descent, and his other ancestry is Irish, German, Dutch, English and French. He was trained at the Stella Adler Conservatory and the American Workshop...
“ Once upon a time, before he started making routine cop flicks and zany comedies, Robert De Niro was the Most Dangerous Actor in the World. He was discovered by Brian De Palma, but he really exploded onto the screen in 'Mean Streets' (1973, Scorsese), as the needy Johnny Boy Civello. De Niro was a Method Man, like most of his great American contemporaries. One of his fortes is the use of improv, which triggers something 'real' within himself. De Niro's most clearly improvised moments are very often also his most scary ones - like the way he bullies Liza Minnelli into an abortion as Jimmy Doyle in 'New York, New York' (1977, Scorsese). Improv seems to reveals a narow, hostile side of De Niro, while with his friendly rival Al Pacino, it reveals an expansive side that is probably more appealing. Gradually, we have become used to seeing De Niro as a New York mobster, threatening us with his soft voice and his weird smile. Now that he has softened with age - he credits his children with the urge to board more family-oriented pictures - the danger has gone, leaving little more than a wealth of technique. He is still a great working professional, taking the job seriously and fully committing to his character, but something is missing. Most of the time, De Niro is now a ghost in his own pictures. But the ghosts of his past characters still haunt us: as the young Don Vito Corleone in 'The Godfather, Part II' (1974, Coppola); the psychotic Travis Bickle in 'Taxi Driver' (1976, Scorsese); the survivor Mike Vronsky in 'The Deer Hunter' (1978, Cimino); the primal fighter Jake LaMotta in 'Raging Bull' (1980, Scorsese); the deluded seeker of fame-and-fortune Rupert Pupkin in 'The King of Comedy' (1983, Scorsese); the vengeful gangster Noodles Aaronson in 'Once Upon a Time in America' (1984, Leone); and, of course, everyone's favourite Al Capone in 'The Untouchables' (1987, De Palma). Any actor with such an amazing legacy has earned the right to fizzle out. ” - danrabbit
Philip Seymour Hoffman
Actor, Capote
Film and stage actor and theater director Philip Seymour Hoffman was born in the Rochester, New York, suburb of Fairport on July 23, 1967. He was the son of Marilyn (Loucks), a lawyer and judge, and Gordon Stowell Hoffman, a Xerox employee, and was mostly of German, Irish, English and Dutch ancestry...
Ian Holm
Sir Ian Holm is an Academy Award-nominated British film and stage actor who was a star of the Royal Shakespeare Company, and played more than 100 roles in films and on television. He was born Ian Holm Cuthbert on September 12, 1931, in Goodmayes, Essex, UK, to Scottish parents who worked at the Essex mental asylum...
Trevor Howard
Actor, Gandhi
The son of an insurance underwriter, who represented Lloyd's of London in Ceylon, Trevor Wallace Howard-Smith was born in Margate, Kent. He spent his early childhood globetrotting with his mother, frequently left in the care of strangers. After attending private school, he subsequently trained at RADA (due to his mother's insistence)...
Stacy Keach
When Stacy Keach burst into the public consciousness in John Huston's Fat City in 1972, it appeared that a great actor had been discovered. He was not unknown: Keach had earlier appeared on-screen in The The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter, End of the Road and the revisionist Western 'Doc' and had established a reputation off-Broadway as one of America's best stage actors...
Harvey Keitel
American actor and producer Harvey Keitel was born on May 13, 1939 in Brooklyn, New York City. An Oscar and Golden Globe Award nominee, he has appeared in films such as Martin Scorsese's Mean Streets and Taxi Driver, Ridley Scott's The Duellists and Thelma & Louise, Peter Yates' Mother, Jugs & Speed...
Klaus Kinski
Klaus Kinski was born Nikolaus Günther Nakszynski in Zoppot, Free City of Danzig (now Sopot, Poland), to Susanne (Lutze), a nurse, and Bruno Nakszynski, a pharmacist. He grew up in Berlin, was drafted into the German army in 1944 and captured by British forces in Holland. After the war he began acting on the stage...
“ Born 1926, Zoppot, Danzig, died 1991, Lagunitas, California.

Some actors claim to live according to the principles of outsider artists like Rimbaud or Baudelaire, hammering away at bourgeois mores and living every day as if it were the last one. Others are less squeamish about admitting they're just in it for the money. Klaus Kinski, in some crazed way, succeeded in uniting both extremes. And, even more crazy, he put both extremes to shame. Was there ever an actor who made more ludicrous exploitation flicks, co-starring with spaghetti western heroes and lesbian vampires only for the purpose of bolstering his coffers? And yet whenever he appeared, he seemed like a possessed performance artist, who couldn't help but expose the blandness of the actors and stories around him. At times, both extremes were satisfied, and Kinski was capable of startling work: most notably as Don Lope de Aguirre in 'Aguirre: Der Zorn Gottes' (1972, Herzog), Karlheinz Zimmer in 'L'Important c'est d'aimer' (1974, Zulawski), Nosferatu in 'Nosferatu: Phantom der Nacht' (1979, Herzog), Franz Woyzeck in 'Woyzeck' (1979, Herzog) and Brian Sweeney Fitzgerald in 'Fitzcarraldo' (1982, Herzog). Kinski didn't hold back his darkest impulses on screen - in fact, they were his forte. His eyes light up with murderous impulses or a heartbreaking desire for love, sometimes even simultaneously. Kinski was a Romantic and a very difficult man, and therefore easily ridiculed. But there was no-one like him in his age, and there still isn't. Next to him, all our 'wild man' actors and rock stars look pedantic and fake. ” - danrabbit
Frank Langella
Frank Langella was born in Bayonne, New Jersey, to Angelina and Frank A. Langella, a business executive. He is of Italian descent. A stage and screen actor of extreme versatility, Frank Langella won acclaim on the New York stage in "Seascape" and followed it up with the title role in the Edward Gorey production of "Dracula"...
John Malkovich
John Gavin Malkovich was born in Christopher, Illinois, to Joe Anne (Choisser), who owned a local newspaper, and Daniel Leon Malkovich, a state conservation director. His paternal grandparents were Croatian. In 1976, Malkovich joined Chicago's Steppenwolf Theatre, newly founded by his friend Gary Sinise...
Jack Nicholson
Jack Nicholson, an American actor, producer, director and screenwriter, is a three-time Academy Award winner and twelve-time nominee. Nicholson is also notable for being one of two actors - the other being Michael Caine - who have received Oscar nomination in every decade from the 1960s through the early 2000s...
“ Born 1937, New York City.

Is it Jack Nicholson's fault that he makes rebellion seems glamorous? That we aspire to 'be' him, even when he's playing flawed characters that are different from each film to the next? That we laugh with him as well as at him, when he axes the bathroom door as Jack Torrance in 'The Shining' (1980, Kubrick), intent on massacring Shelley Duvall? I suppose not. There is just something about Nicholson; for lack of a better word, he's 'cool'. Integrity and cool do not often go hand in hand, and while Nicholson is certainly adept at playing lounge lizards and charlatans, he himself is an actor sincerely devoted to his craft. You could argue that he sometimes lost his way in later years. Though Nicholson is never less than fun, I'm not a big fan of his work in 'The Departed' (2006, Scorsese), as the very Grand Guignol Irish mob boss Frank Costello, or in 'Something's Gotta Give' (2003, Myers), in which his character Harry Sanborn seems a gloating send-up of Nicholson's own image. But those questionable performances take nothing away from the Great Nicholson Canon of the late Sixties to early Eighties: his unforgettable breakthrough performance as the alcoholic small town lawyer George Hanson in 'Easy Rider' (1969, Hopper); as Bobby Dupea, the gifted musician who prefers to be a drifter, in 'Five Easy Pieces' (1970, Rafelson); as the detached intellectual David Staebler in the underrated 'The King of Marvin Gardens' (1972, Rafelson); as Navy man Billy 'Badass' Buddusky in 'The Last Detail' (1973, Ashby); as the neo-noir anti hero Jake Gittes in 'Chinatown' (1974, Polanski); as the existential anti hero David Locke in 'Professione: Reporter' (1975, Antonioni); as the anti hero to end all anti heroes, Randle P. McMurphy, in 'One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest' (1975, Forman); as the highly sexed Frank Chambers in 'The Postman Always Rings Twice' (1981, Rafelson); and as Eugene O'Neill in 'Reds' (1981, Beatty). There is life, poetry and danger to all those performances. And in 2001, he managed to sneak in another great one, as the tragic detective Jerry Black in 'The Pledge' (2001, Penn). So there is hope that he's capable of a few more. ” - danrabbit
Lee Marvin
Actor, M Squad
Prematurely white-haired character star who began as a supporting player of generally vicious demeanor, then metamorphosed into a star of both action and drama projects, Lee Marvin was born in New York City, the son of Courtenay Washington (Davidge), a fashion writer, and Lamont Waltman Marvin, an advertising executive...
James Mason
James Mason was a great English actor of British and American films. He was born in Yorkshire, and attended Marlborough and Cambridge, where he discovered acting on a lark, and abandoned a planned career as an architect. Following work in stock companies, he joined the Old Vic under the guidance of Sir Tyrone Guthrie and of Alexander Korda...
Sam Neill
Sam Neill was born in Omagh, Co. Tyrone, Northern Ireland, to army parents, an English-born mother, Priscilla Beatrice (Ingham), and a New Zealand-born father, Dermot Neill. His family moved to the South Island of New Zealand in 1954. He went to boarding schools and then attended the universities at Canterbury and Victoria...
Gary Oldman
Gary Oldman is a talented British born movie actor who played Sid Vicious in Sid & Nancy, Drexl in True Romance, and George Smiley in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. He starred in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and the remake of RoboCop. He is also an English filmmaker, musician and author. Renowned for his "big" acting style...
Peter O'Toole
A leading man of prodigious talents, Peter O'Toole was raised in Leeds, England, the son of Constance Jane Eliot (Ferguson), a Scottish nurse, and Patrick Joseph O'Toole, an Irish bookie. As a boy, he decided to become a journalist, beginning as a newspaper copy boy. Although he succeeded in becoming a reporter...
Christopher Plummer
Actor, Up
Arthur Christopher Orme Plummer was born in Toronto, Ontario. He is the only child of Isabella Mary (Abbott), a secretary to the Dean of Sciences at McGill University, and John Orme Plummer, who sold securities and stocks. He is a great-grandson of John Abbott, who was Canada's third Prime Minister (from 1891 to 1892)...
Geoffrey Rush
Geoffrey Roy Rush was born on July 6, 1951, in Toowoomba, Queensland, Australia, to Merle (Bischof), a department store sales assistant, and Roy Baden Rush, an accountant for the Royal Australian Air Force. His mother was of German descent and his father had English, Irish, and Scottish ancestry. He was raised in Brisbane, Queensland, after his parents split up...
George C. Scott
George C. Scott was an immensely talented actor, a star of screen, stage and television. He was born on October 18, 1927 in Wise, Virginia, to Helena Agnes (Slemp) and George Dewey Scott. At the age of eight, his mother died, and his father, an executive at Buick, raised him. In 1945, he joined the United States Marines and spent four years with them...
Andy Serkis
Andrew Clement G. Serkis was born April 20, 1964, in Ruislip Manor, West London, England. He has three sisters and a brother. His father, Clement Serkis, an ethnic Armenian whose original family surname was "Serkissian", was a Medical Doctor working abroad, in Iraq; the Serkis family spent a lot of time traveling around the Middle East...
Kevin Spacey
Kevin Spacey Fowler better known by his stage name Kevin Spacey, is an American actor of screen and stage, film director, producer, screenwriter and singer. He began his career as a stage actor during the 1980s before obtaining supporting roles in film and television. He gained critical acclaim in the...
Donald Sutherland
The towering presence of Canadian actor Donald Sutherland is often noticed, as are his legendary contributions to cinema. He has appeared in almost 200 different shows and films. He is also the father of renowned actor Kiefer Sutherland, among others. Donald McNichol Sutherland was born in Saint John...
Max von Sydow
Max von Sydow was born Carl Adolf von Sydow on April 10, 1929 in Lund, Skåne, Sweden, to a middle-class family. He is the son of Baroness Maria Margareta (Rappe), a teacher, and Carl Wilhelm von Sydow, an ethnologist and folklore professor. His surname traces back to his father's partial German ancestry...
Christopher Walken
Nervous-looking lead and supporting actor of the American stage and films, with sandy colored hair, pale complexion and a somewhat nervous disposition. He won an Oscar as Best Supporting Actor for his performance in The Deer Hunter, and has been seen in mostly supporting roles, often portraying psychologically unstable characters...
James Woods
James Woods is a leanly built, strangely handsome actor-producer-director with intense eyes and a sometimes untrustworthy grin, who has been impressing audiences for over three decades with his compelling performances. James Howard Woods was born on April 18th, 1947 in Vernal, Utah, the son of Martha A...
Jeffrey Wright
Quite possibly the most underrated and underexposed actor of his caliber and generation, Jeffrey Wright's undeniable talent and ability to successfully bring to life any role he undertakes is on a par with the most praised and revered A-list actors in the business. Born and raised in Washington DC, Wright graduated from the prestigious Amherst college in 1987...
Marlon Brando
Marlon Brando is widely considered the greatest movie actor of all time, rivaled only by the more theatrically oriented Laurence Olivier in terms of esteem. Unlike Olivier, who preferred the stage to the screen, Brando concentrated his talents on movies after bidding the Broadway stage adieu in 1949...
“ Born 1924, Omaha, Nebraska, died 2004, Los Angeles, California.

Marlon Brando almost wasn't on this list. It is easy to get fed-up with Brando; at his worst, he treated his medium and his profession with such contempt, that it begs the question why I should give a damn about him. They say he could perform Shakespeare's most trying soliloquys better than anyone, while literally standing on his head. That may be true, but I've never seen him do it. Most of his mid-career work consists of ham acting, and it is seldom of the fun variety, like Olivier's. With the exception of his Robert E. Lee Clayton in 'The Missouri Breaks' (1976, Penn), these are simply dull performances by an actor who no longer strives to be on the edge of things. It seems that a lot of old Method pros lose their edge beyond a certain age. Does the obligation of constantly finding new ways to unlock and expose themselves take its toll? From the late Eighties onwards, Brando struck a more ironic vein, mocking his own obesity and mumbling cheerfully through the proceedings. So, why is he on this list? Because he has to, because it seems pedantic and overly contrarian to leave him out? Probably because of Stanley Kowalski in 'A Streetcar Named Desire' (1951, Kazan), Terry Malloy in 'On the Waterfront' (1954, Kazan), Sheriff Calder in 'The Chase' (1966, Penn), Don Vito Corleone in 'The Godfather' (1972, Coppola) and 'Ultimo tango a Parigi' (1972, Bertolucci). The brilliance of these performances can not be denied. But in the end, I haven't really made my mind up about Brando. ” - danrabbit