An A-Z of Actors: S

Back to this alphabet series, with ‘S’. As usual, I will try to avoid the most obvious choices, and leave room for you to add your favourites in the comments.

Londoner Timothy Spall got his big break on a popular television series in Britain, in 1983. Before that, he had trained at The National Youth Theatre, and enjoyed a stage career including his time with The Royal Shakespeare Company, and a first film role in ‘Quadrophenia’ (1979). He went on to work with director Mike Leigh on ‘Life Is Sweet’ (1991), ‘Secrets and Lies’ (1996, and ‘Topsy Turvy’ (1999). Films outside Britain included ‘Vanilla Sky’ (2001), ‘The Last Samurai’ (2003), and ‘Appaloosa’ (2008). He has portrayed the character of Peter Pettigrew in the ‘Harry Potter’ films, and in 2014 received various awards and nominations for the lead role in the film ‘Mr Turner’, a biopic of the famous English painter. Since then, he has appeared in nine more films, as well as continuing to work on television both as an actor, and as a presenter of documentary programmes. Something of a British institution by now, and still only 61 years old.

Polish-born German actress, Hanna Schygulla, captivated me with her sultry looks in the film ‘The Bitter Tears of Petra Von Kant’ in 1972, and seven years later, she was gorgeous in ‘The Marriage of Maria Braun’ too. She could act as well, so got her entry into this section without hesitation. I soon started to try to find more films to watch her in, and discovered ‘Rio Das Mortes’ (1970), another collaboration with Fassbinder. Work with another famous German film-maker, Wim Wenders, led me to ‘The Wrong Move’ (1975), and I was fast becoming one of the biggest fans of an actress very few people outside of Germany seemed to have heard of. Then in 1983, she won the award for Best Actress at Cannes, with her role in ‘The Story of Piera’, alongside Isabelle Huppert and Marcello Mastroianni. After that, her career was hit and miss, appearing in many English-language films, as well as continuing to appear on German television, and in European films. She is still working, aged 74.

Harry Dean Stanton died last year, and that was a loss to acting, undoubtedly. But he left a legacy of sixty years of work behind him, including so many memorable character parts, and leading roles. He had served during WW2, and lived to the great age of 91. His film career reads like a list of some of the best films ever over a forty-year period, and I doubt there are many readers of this blog who would not know his name, or recognise his distinctive features. From his first uncredited role in a western in 1957, he went on to appear in ‘Pork Chop Hill’ (1959), and ‘How The West Was Won’ (1962). Parts in ‘Cool Hand Luke’ (1967), and ‘Kelly’s Heroes’ (1970) followed, but Harry still had to wait for a breakout role to give him a memorable leading man performance. That came in 1984, with Wim Wender’s haunting ‘Paris, Texas’, followed by Alex Cox’s film ‘Repo Man’, in the same year. The list goes on, with ‘Pretty In Pink’ (1986), ‘The Straight Story’ (1999), ‘The Green Mile’ (1999), and ‘Inland Empire’ (2006). With a successful television career running alongside his film roles, his body of work was enormous.

English actor Rufus Sewell has enjoyed a successful career in the theatre, as well as on television, and in films. Still just fifty years old, we can no doubt expect more from him in the years to come. He has performed in many historical and period dramas, including the adaptation of ‘Middlemarch’ on TV, and as Charles II in a BBC series, whilst continuing to impress audiences with his stage roles too. Recent TV roles include Lord Melbourne in the BBC serial ‘Victoria’, and a German SS officer in the streamed series ‘The Man In The High Castle’. Film roles include ‘Cold Comfort Farm’ (1995), ‘Dark City’ (1998), ‘A Knight’s Tale’ (2001), and ‘The Illusionist’ (2006). He is still working in every area of acting, and his latest film is due for release.

Tilda Swinton is a British actress known for her androgynous looks, and award-winning roles. Her early collaborations with the avant-garde film maker Derek Jarman got her noticed in films like ‘Caravaggio’ (1986), and ‘The Last Of England’ (1988). She went on to appear in many of Jarman’s experimental films, before embarking on a more mainstream career with the film ‘Female Perversions’ in 1996. Since then, she has worked with many of the leading modern directors, in an assortment of roles, and won numerous awards in the process. Well-known films she has appeared in include ‘Vanilla Sky’ (2001), ‘Constantine’ (2005), ‘Michael Clayton’ (2007), and ‘The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button’ (2008). She is still very busy, and has two films awaiting release.

57 thoughts on “An A-Z of Actors: S

  1. Everyone called wonderful actors! My favorite actors are Susan Sarandon, Meryl Streep, Tilda Swinton and Dame Maggie Smith ( wonderful in Downton Abbey ).

    I’m lucky enough to add a few Germans and Austrians! πŸ™‚

    Andrea Sawatzki ( She is an actrress and an author. )
    Peter Sattmann
    Matthias Schweighoefer
    Till Schweiger
    Robert Stadlober

    Have we already thought of Barbra Streisand? A wonderful actress.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Great post πŸ™‚ I am a huge fan of Harry Dean Stanton, Timothy Spall and Tilda Swinton. Speaking of Timothy Spall, did you ever see Mike Leigh’s Mr. Turner? It is a great film in my opinion and speaking of which, I did a blog entry a two months ago regarding my favorite Mike Leigh films. Here is the link below and keep up the great work as always πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’ve never heard of Timothy Spall, am somewhat familiar with Harry Dean Stanton and Tilda Swinton, and know Rufus Sewell due to “She Creature,” a mermaid horror film in which Carla Gugino also stars.

    Top choices in call caps. Films listed in no particular order.

    Leelee Sobieski (“Joan of Arc” / “Joy Ride”)
    Jean Simmons (“The Robe” / “The Big Country” / “Sparticus”)
    SHARON STONE (“Total Recall” / “Basic Instinct” / “The Specialist” / “The Quick and the Dead” / “Diabolique” / “Cold Creek Manor” / “Casino”)

    Jason Statham (“The Transporter” series / the two “Crank” films)
    Roy Scheider (“Jaws” / “The French Connection” / “All That Jazz”)
    Arnold Schwarzenegger (“The Terminator” series / “Predator” / “True Lies”)
    Tom Selleck (westerns: “Quigley Down Under” / “Crossfire Trail” / “Last Stand at Saber River”)
    Tom Skerritt (“Alien” / “Poison Ivy” / “A River Runs Through It”)
    Kurtwood Smith (‘RoboCop” / “Oscar”)
    Sylvester Stallone (“Rocky” series / “Rambo” series / “Cliffhanger” / “The Specialist”)
    Patrick Swayze (“Road House” / “Ghost”)
    Donald Sutherland (“Invasion of the Body Snatchers” / “Don’t Look Now” / “The Italian Job”)
    George C. Scott (“Patton” / “Anatomy of a Murder” / “Dr. Strangelove…”)
    WILLIAM SHATNER (“Star Trek” series / “Loaded Weapon I”)
    SIR PATRICK STEWART (“Star Trek: TNG” series / “The X-Men” series / “Lifeforce”)
    JAMES STEWART (Hitchcock films / Anthony Mann westerns / “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance” / “Shenandoah” / “The Shootist” / “Anatomy of a Murder” / “The Flight of the Phoenix”)

    Even if Sharon Stone never made another film besides “Basic Instinct,” she’d be my top choice. She was simply brilliant in that film. I will have to say, though, that she generally plays cold characters. Jean Simmons, on the other hand, played warm characters. I almost chose her for the number one spot.

    I came up with a three-way tie for my actor of choice. I am a great admirer of both William Shatner and Sir Patrick Stewart, and not just for their “Star Trek” films. And then there’s James Stewart. If I had to choose just one of these three actors, I’d have to go with James Stewart. William Shatner is uniqueβ€”there is no one like him. Sir Patrick Stewart is a towering Shakespearean actor. Unlike them, James Stewart is an affable “every man” whose acting is measured, but always perfect for the role. I could have named more James Stewart films, as there are so many. To my knowledge, he never made a bad film, or even a mediocre one. My favorite Stewart film is, and remains, “The Flight of the Phoenix.”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. A well-constructed and thoughtful list, David. And a double-S with Sharon too! I agree that she is a better actress then she is given credit for, especially in ‘Casino’. It doesn’t hurt that she is very nice to look at too. I don’t really think of Jason Statham as an actor. Even though he is in some watchable films, and I do like his ‘cockney style’, he generally plays every part in the same old way.
      Jean Simmons impressed me as a youngster, in ‘Spartacus’.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Hey Pete, There are so many–S is a good letter. I’m going to try to go with your theme of the less obvious. Sissy Spacek. She’s had so many fantastic performances but two of my favorite are: Badlands and In the Bedroom. Then, Roy Scheider: All that Jazz and Jaws.
    Harry Dean Stanton–great actor. I first remember him in Cisco Pike. Tilda Swinton–love her in The Deep End and We Need to Talk About Kevin.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. My two ‘s’tandouts are the incomparable Meryl Streep and the incredibly versatile and truthful Michael Sheen – both already mentioned so I’m afraid I’m not being original here.
    Great series Pete, I’m reading when I can if not commenting.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I love letters like this that don’t make me think too hard in the morning! πŸ™‚ So, I’m adding: Dean Stockwell, James Stewart, Simone Signoret, Peter Sellers, Rod Steiger and Roy Schneider.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Hi..I am back (again). Pretty much right after my hiatus I went to an amazing and fun animecon (if you are interested I wrote two posts about in on my blog), but unfortunately I got hit by a nast flu bug that prevented me from blogging. So, I’m really sorry for being out of the loop again and missing some of your posts. But..I’m back now (hopefully that’s the last time I say this lol), and plan to stay πŸ™‚
    This is a nice list of actors that you have put together. Tilda Swilton and Rufus Sewel certainly are on my favorite actors list as well. There are quite a few others though (the S just has way too many good ones πŸ™‚ Kiefer Sutherland is one: I loved him as special agent Jack Bauer in 24, a role that seemd to have been written especially for him. Then there is Sylvester Stallone who in my opinion is a highly underrated actor. One only has to look at his performances in Cop Land and Creed to see that the guy can definitely act.
    And then there is the late Roy Scheider who has had so many memorable performances as well. This is a fun series..too bad I missed out on most of it. Again, really sorry about that, but I plan on not missing any more posts in the upcoming months πŸ˜€

    Liked by 1 person

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