With The Great Gatsby just out and The Wolf of Wall Street on the way, it got me thinking about the career of the lead in both; one Leonardo DiCaprio.
Talk about an impressive CV. Since the early ’90s, he’s dazzled us with a wide range of performances across numerous genres. His filmography reads like a cinephiles ‘best films of the last 20 years’ collection.
And as such I’d like to respectfully nod to his performances that have not only stood out but also stood the test of time. Therefore let’s commence with the first in a series of ‘cinematic living legend’ posts, paying tribute to my favourite roles and performances from actors that just keep on getting better and better.
Kid – The Quick and the Dead (1995)
Young, cocky, but with undeniable screen presence in Sam Raimi’s western, little Leo comfortably held the screen alongside big names: Gene Hackman, Russell Crowe and Sharon Stone.
Jim Carroll – The Basketball Diaries (1995)
His first performance that truly blew me away. When this came out I was 13 and loved basketball. Admittedly the gradual descent into drugs and sleeping rough on the streets was something to which I couldn’t as readily relate.
Frank Abagnale Jr – Catch Me If You Can (2002)
With Gangs out quite soon after, this was an impressive year for Leo. This time going toe-to-toe with Tom Hanks with Spielberg at the helm. Bit of a dream partnership resulting in a fantastic performance and movie.
Amsterdam Vallon – Gangs of New York (2002)
Whilst DiCaprio’s star was flying high by this point, it was never going to be easy going up against a true heavyweight of cinema in Daniel Day Lewis. Nonetheless, his performance as Amsterdam was highly watchable.
Howard Hughes – The Aviator (2004)
A consummate and wholly engrossing performance at the top of his game. He got Hughes’s mannerisms and tics spot on. Watch this original footage of Hughes then compare it to Leo’s similar scene – a master at work.
Billy Costigan Jr – The Departed (2006)
This marked his third collaboration with Scorsese and – for the pair of them – their most profitable partnership to date. An impressively raw and aggressive performance befitting a cop mentally unravelling whilst undercover as a gangster.
Danny Archer – Blood Diamond (2006)
Often overlooked, yet well received critically and commercially, Ed Zwick’s diamond smuggling war film not only showed DiCaprio in a more mature light with a commanding performance, but was an engaging action tale too.
Teddy Daniels – Shutter Island (2010)
Based on a Dennis Lehane novel, this psycho-thriller saw Scorsese direct Leo again and come up trumps. I’ve heard this described as a B-movie with an A-list director and star. Unfair and unjust – it’s genuinely spooky and thrilling.
Cobb – Inception (2010)
Another bumper year following Shutter Island, helping DiCaprio tick another ‘greatest living director I’ve worked with’ off his list in Christopher Nolan. Quite a restrained, nuanced and tender performance, possibly a career best.
Calvin Candie – Django Unchained (2012)
Sadistic, charming, brutal with a god complex – the first time Leo has really had the chance to play a villain and he lapped it up. Tarantino at the helm was no doubt a draw, but his performance, whilst unsettling, was truly mesmerising.
Hello my film-loving friends. Today I wish to share with you my list of a thinking man’s top actresses. Ladies that have a certain allure in terms of intelligence, physical beauty, acting prowess and – to avoid using an overused French phrase – an indefinable something.
With each actress I’ve also mentioned the films that first made me fall in love with them. Now you may disagree and say some of these ladies are just a pretty face and nothing else – that’s fine. Hopefully I can state my case and change your mind.
Natalie Portman –Garden State, Closer, V for Vendetta
It’s no secret I hold this actress in high regard and I’ve previously discussed her top performances in another posting. So I’ll just say she makes my top spot by being a perfect blend of intelligence, beauty and vulnerability – a winning combination.
Eva Green – The Dreamers, Casino Royale, Dark Shadows
Hypnotic, alluring, sensual – she got her debut in Bernardo Bertolucci’s The Dreamers. The Director described her as ‘So beautiful, it’s indecent‘. It’s not the world’s best film in terms of plot, but if you want to truly appreciate the appeal of this actress I highly recommend it.
Anne Hathaway – Love and Other Drugs
In this film I’ve mentioned she plays a character who has early stages of Parkinson’s disease. Some of her scenes – particularly in the third act – are heartbreaking and put her firmly in third place. Even without Catwoman in The Dark Knight she’d still be here, she’s that good in this film. If you’ve not seen it here’s a nice little clip.
Amanda Seyfried – Chloe, Alpha Dog, Dear John, Jennifer’s Body
An actress with the biggest, most beautiful eyes in Hollywood. You have to love the internet, a quick search turned up a site dedicated to her eyes! That aside, she’s been in an interesting and varied bunch of films that slowly but surely convinced me of her inclusion. Out of them all I recommend you see Chloe.
Amber Heard – The Rum Diary
She’s the kind of actress that exudes an old-school Hollywood charm and mystique. But who am I to say these things you ask? Well if you don’t believe me listen to Johnny Depp – he compared her to Veronica Lake and other old Hollywood beauties, she clearly had quite an impact.
Jennifer Lawrence – Winter’s Bone, Silver Linings Playbook
I heard a story once that Ms Lawrence was walking down the corridor in a Hollywood studio when a bearded guy in a cap stopped her saying ‘Are you the Jennifer Lawrence?’ Turns out this was Steven Spielberg. He’d seen Winter’s Bone and been captivated by her performance, as many of us were seeing her for the first time.
Jessica Brown Findlay – Albatross,
Black Mirror, Misfits, Labyrinth
If you only know Miss Findlay from Downton Abbey then you’ve missed a trick. I loved her in Albatross, where she plays a bit of a sexy troublemaker, seducing her best friend’s dad. She gives the character warmth, depth and vulnerability – with a sharp, sassy nature to boot.
Marion Cotillard – Public Enemies, Inception, Dark Knight Rises
She won an Oscar for playing Edith Piaf in La Vie En Rose and I’m excited to see her forthcoming film Rust and Bone, where she plays a killer whale trainer. She was fantastic in Inception – intense, vulnerable and mesmerising. Watch the ‘waiting for a train’ scene.
Mila Kunis – Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Friends with Benefits, Ted
I struggle with Kunis. She’s still Meg from Family Guy – a problem when she’s clearly stunning and likes to play quite fiesty, yet down-to-earth characters. The perfect girl-next-door, if you happen to live in Hollywood. There’s a rumour she might play Anastasia Steele in the forthcoming Fifty Shades film, an enticing prospect.
Felicity Jones – Cemetery Junction, Albatross, Like Crazy Ah Ms Jones, great up-and-coming actress. She comes across as really sweet and genuine. Like Crazy cleaned up at the Sundance film festival in 2011 with her performance getting compared to Carey Mulligan’s in An Education. Emotional and heartfelt, watch the trailer.
So there’s my list. As ever I was ruthless with the cut – there’s probably a lot more that could have made my top 10 but there you go. I hope you enjoy this selection, until next time.
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!
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.