I do like an intense character and performance when I’m watching a film. Someone who literally rivets and welds you to the screen, look away at your peril. Some people probably like their films bright and breezy. I don’t mind those too, but there’s something about intensity that leaves a lasting impression. You remember those performances.
As such I thought I’d offer a couple of lists of actors and actresses that have had me mesmerised, entranced and – at times – a little frightened. I’ve most likely left off a lot of vintage performances and characters, but this is MY list so I’m allowed. Let me know your thoughts. Who would you have liked to have seen included?
In these lists I’ve put links to clips from some performances you might not have seen before, or maybe just want to revisit. Remember though, best not watch alone though, these lot are intense!
- Daniel Day Lewis (Bill ‘the Butcher’ Cutting, Gangs of New York; Daniel Plainview, There will be Blood)
- Heath Ledger (The Joker, The Dark Knight)
- Tom Hardy (Charles Bronson, Bronson)
- Christian Bale (Patrick Bateman, American Psycho; Batman, The Batman Trilogy)
- Kevin Spacey (John Doe, Seven)
- Christopher Walken (Vicenzo Carcotti, True Romance; Frank White, King of New York)
- Javier Bardem (Anton Chigurh, No Country for Old Men)
- Christopher Waltz (Col. Hans Landa, Inglourious Basterds)
- Vincent Cassel (Jacques Mesrine, Mesrine)
- Liam Neeson (Bryan Mills, Taken)
- Jeremy Renner (Sergeant William James, The Hurt Locker; Jem Coughlin, The Town)
- Gary Oldman (Drexel, True Romance)
- Helena Bonham Carter (Red Queen, Alice in Wonderland; Bellatrix Lestrange, Harry Potter)
- Cate Blanchett (Galadriel, Lord of the Rings)
- Marion Cotillard (Mal, Inception)
- Angelina Jolie (Lisa Rowe, Girl, Interrupted)
- Melanie Laurent (Shosanna Dreyfus, Inglourious Basterds)
- Charlize Theron (Aileen Wuornos, Monster)
- Famke Janssen (Xena Onotopp, Goldeneye; Jean Grey, Xmen: The Last Stand)
- Noomi Rapace (Lisbeth Salander, Girl with the Dragon Tattoo)
So, there’s my list. You’ll notice there’s more men than women, I’m not sure why. I think, perhaps, there’s a tendency – particularly in Hollywood – for studios to shy away from films with intense, female leads. I wonder if they are more of a risk commercially? I don’t think that’s the case. I think it’s more to do with a lack of decent scripts for women, ones that don’t play to stereotypes.
One thing I’ve noticed is how top actors portray intensity – for me – it’s in the eyes. I think it’s what separates great actors and actresses from the rest. If you allow yourself to be drawn into their gaze, there’s so much depth there. Depending on the character they’re playing, it can be equally exciting, captivating and terrifying. Watch Pacino in The Godfather, making the decision to kill with his eyes. A lesson in intensity.
Right, I need to go watch some comedy now to level out. It’s all got too much. I’ll finish with artwork of Marion Cotillard, not because it’s intense, but because it’s simply beautiful – and that’s all the reason you need.