Last year, I wrote some posts about overrated and underrated actors and actresses. My opinions were just that of course, my own opinions. However, those posts were well-received, and did generate some debate. I promised to add more, but became consumed with posting photos, and compiling A-Z challenges, so I didn’t get around to it. Some of the choices that follow are bound to be controversial. I know in advance that I am in danger of naming some names that are currently unassailable, cinematic icons to many viewers.
But anyway, here goes nothing…
In another post, I nominated ‘Blade Runner’ as my (current) best film of all time. So, you might be surprised to find Harrison Ford on this list. But I never liked that film because of him, although it might be his best role to date. Like many other stars, including many that I really like, Ford tends to play himself, whatever the role. The problem is that he is not that interesting. Whether being an action hero in ‘Star Wars’ or the ‘Indiana Jones’ films, or the solid policeman John Book in ‘Witness’, Harrison is always Harrison, just wearing different clothes. In his romantic dramas, he still comes across as a caring cop, or someone from the Secret Service. He has certainly avoided typecasting over the decades, but it made little difference. He was and always will be Harrison Ford, whether in a film, or walking down a street.
Tom Hanks is loved by millions. He has played everything from a tough army officer in ‘Saving Private Ryan’, to a clownish cop in love with his dog, in ‘Turner and Hooch’. He has grown up in the industry, going on to play serious roles in later life, in films such as ‘The Road To Perdition’, ‘Captain Phillips’, and ‘Sully’. His name can sell a film, endorse a franchise, and make millions of people get a warm glow inside. He is the new James Stewart, the all-American down-home boy who symbolises all that is good. Many of the films he has starred in have been excellent, and I confess to liking most of them a great deal. But other than ‘Big’ (1988), I never liked any of those films because of Hanks’ acting talent. I liked them for other things in them, and for the other cast members. Who doesn’t love ‘Turner and Hooch’? But it’s the dog we love, not the humans around it. Who do I remember most, in ‘Saving Private Ryan’? Barry Pepper, as Jackson the left-handed sniper. Giovanni Ribisi, as the medic Doc Wade. Joerg Stadler, as the German prisoner who returns to kill Stanley Mellish. That’s who, and because they were acting. Tom Hanks was being Tom Hanks, playing an army officer. Sorry Tom, it has never worked for me.
This post is not just about Americans though. Britain has its fair share of duds, playing to packed houses, loved and admired by legions of fans. But like those mentioned above, it becomes debatable whether or not they are good actors, or just bankable stars. Roger Moore died this year. Best known to most people for his numerous outings as James Bond, he was known to me from my childhood as ‘Ivanhoe’, the chivalrous knight in a long-running TV series. He later went on to star alongside Tony Curtis in ‘The Persuaders’, after becoming known nationally for his other TV character, ‘The Saint’. He starred in more than forty films, and almost all of them were awful, unable to be saved by his wooden presence, and trademark raised eyebrow. He started his career as a male model, featured on knitting patterns.
He should have stayed there.
Being voted ‘The World’s Sexiest Man’, or being in the list of the ‘Top 50 Best Dressed Men’ might be something to aspire to. Also being undeniably good-looking and attractive to women doesn’t hurt. But in my book, that’s not enough to make you a great actor, not even an average one. That the British star Henry Cavill seems to have been able to use those social credentials to achieve some status as an actor is beyond my comprehension. I won’t even list the lamentable catalogue of films that have launched him into star status, but suffice to say that I have watched only one of them, ‘The Cold Light Of Day’, where he is forgettable, in a below-par film, opposite Bruce Willis. Sorry Henry, your credentials just don’t add up.
Just one more to close this particular post, but there will be more to come, I’m sure.
I will close with another controversial submission. Leonardo DiCaprio showed great promise as a child actor. He starred in two of my favourite modern American dramas, ‘What’s Eating Gilbert Grape?’, and ‘This Boy’s Life’. He seems like a nice man, and has apparently avoided the personality defects that have afflicted so many actors who started as children. However, I just don’t get him. Take ‘Gangs of New York’ as an example. He was totally unsuited to the role, and playing opposite acting heavyweights like Daniel Day Lewis, Jim Broadbent, and Brendan Gleeson, his shortcomings left me feeling embarrassed to watch his scenes. Adored by Scorsese, he was launched into films that he just didn’t sit right in, like ‘The Departed’, where he was once again acted off the screen by Jack Nicholson (who will feature later) and -almost unbelievably- by Mark Wahlbergh too.
In ‘The Aviator’, he completely failed to convince me that he was Howard Hughes, even though the film was stylish, and very good to look at. I have yet to see ‘The Revenant’, for which he won a Golden Globe. But when I do get around to watching it, that will be because Tom Hardy is in it. And he is a very good actor indeed. Sorry, Leo (and sorry Cindy…) but you are on my list.
Feel free to agree (or disagree 🙂 ) in the comments below.