If you missed my numbers 10-6 for top ten working actors please click here.
5. Al Pacino – Pacino is quotable (“Say hello to my little friend!”), memorbale (“It was you Fredo!”) and always fun to watch (“Whoooo-aaaahhhhhhhh!”). So much so that I think we can sometimes take his great talents for granted. Just remember this is the dramatic genious behind his characters in the Godfather 1 and Godfather 2, Serpico, Dog Day Afternoon, Glengarry Glen Ross and Angels in America. His portrayal of a brutal drug lord in Scarface is one of the most quoted and imitated roles in pop culture history. From Insomnia to Scent of a Woman and the Insider to Donnie Brasco, you always can expect a solid performance from Pacino.
4. Gary Oldman – Oldman should have an Academy Award by now and if you don’t know who he is it simply could be because you don’t recognize him. Oldman, more than any actor in the past twenty years has been un-recognizable from one picture to the next. Some of his highlights include but are not limited to, his portrayal of Sid Vicious of “The Sex Pistols” in the depressing Sid and Nancy, a loosely based portrayal of Irish mobster Mickey featherstone in State of Grace, a rastifarian drug dealer in True Romance and most recently in the Harry Potter movies. Other highlights include roles in JFK, Romeo is Bleeding and The Contender.
3. Daniel Day-Lewis – While I feel Leonardo DiCaprio was miscast in Gangs of New York, Day-Lewis surely was not. His character, Bill the Butcher, is one of the greatest villians in recent history and while the movie is a miss, it’s worth watching again for Day-Lewis alone. How lucky we would be if Day-Lewis made films more frequently but for such a brief career we have been blessed with a lifetime of classic characters and moments. With The Unbearable Lightness of Being and My Left Foot, Day-Lewis planted his flag as one of the great talents working today. He has followed these films with dominating performances in The Last of the Mohicans, The Age of Innocence, In the Name of the Father and Gangs of New York.
2. Sean Penn – For someone who does not love acting, as Penn freely admits, he has put together an all-time classic career. Who can forget Penn’s character in Fastimes at Ridgmont High, Jeff Spicoli, ordering a pizza to his classroom? But this would be one of the last times we would laugh in a Sean Penn film. He has since put together a sizzling resumes of dramas including Taps, At Close Range, Falcon and the Snowman, State of Grace, Carlito’s Way, Dead Man Walking, The Thin Red Line, Sweet and Lowdown, Before Night Falls, I am Sam, Mystic River and 21 Grams.
1. Robert DeNiro – DeNiro has screen presence in a way few ever have or ever will. While DeNiro’s script choices appear to increasingly be based on money, there is no denying his body of work. DeNiro’s collection of characters and films is simply stunning! You can click the following link to view a blog post I wrote on DeNiro’s film career.
Those who barely missed being on the list: Gene Hackman (a true professional), Johnny Depp (fearless), Robert DuVall (a rock), Phillip Seymour Hoffman (has gone from a solid 2nd or 3rd man to dominating films), Harvey Keitel (daring), Kevin Bacon (underrated but alway solid), Ben Kingsley (in Gandhi? Moma mia, so good!).
Special Mention: Comedians Robin Williams (Goodwill Hunting to Mrs. Doubtfire), Steve Martin (The Jerk to The Spanish Prisoner) and Jim Carrey (Liar Liar to Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) have all done both great comedic and dramatic work. They say to make someone laugh is the hardest thing to do in acting, so these three actors and comedians in general deserve their own unique category.
The next generation: Javier Bardem (powerfully subtle), Leonardo DiCaprio (sometimes miscast but sometimes brilliant too), Billy Crudupp (can dissapear from one role to the next like few can) and Edward Norton (makes his characters seem much larger then they actually are).