Holding that distinct spot as my favorite television series ever – believe me, it’s high praise; I’m an avid watcher (and past watcher) of probably several hundred of them – means that I have a soft spot for that six-some gaggle of goofballs known as the Friends cast. But when it comes to their continuing efforts for careers after (and during) their tenure on NBC, some have fared better than others. I present, a study (and some very high-tech scoring techniques).
The cast listing continues with the second half. Here are my top 25 best casts in film – not by quantity alone but quantity of quality!
Going through my plethora of lists on this blog (I just can’t help myself – sue me), I discovered that one integral part of a successful film has not been covered here. So in order to honor the casts with them mostest, I give you a two-part rundown of the all-time best movie casts.
Emma Thompson, Kate Winslet, Alan Rickman, Hugh Grant,
Gemma Jones, Tom Wilkinson, Emilie Francois, Elizabeth Spriggs
33. Rachel Getting Married (2008)
Anne Hathaway, Rosemarie Dewitt, Debra Winger, Bill Irwin,
Anna Deavere Smith, Tunde Adebimpe, Carol Jean Lewis
32. The Color Purple (1985)
Whoopi Goldberg, Oprah Winfrey, Margaret Avery, Danny Glover,
Willard Pugh, Desreta Jackson, Dana Ivey, Akosua Busia
31. Steel Magnolias (1989)
Sally Field, Olympia Dukakis, Dolly Parton, Julia Roberts,
Shirley MacLaine, Darryl Hannah, Tom Skerritt
30. In America (2003)
Samantha Morton, Paddy Considine, Djimon Honsou,
Emma Bolger, Sara Bolger
29. The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (1969)
Maggie Smith, Pamela Franklin, Celia Johnson, Diane Grayson,
Jane Carr, Shirley Steedman
28. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Rings (2001)
Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen, Viggo Mortensen, Sean Astin,
Orlando Bloom, Sean Bean, John Rhys-Davies, Christopher Lee
Dominic Monaghan, Billy Boyd, Liv Tyler, Cate Blanchett
27. Sneakers (1992)
Robert Redford, Sidney Poitier, Dan Aykroyd, Mary McDonnell,
David Strathairn, River Phoenix, James Earl Jones
26. Casablanca (1942)
Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, Claude Rains, Peter Lorre,
Paul Henreid, Joy Page, Dooley Wilson
Check back soon for Part 2!
Oh, the comedy subset of Meryl’s filmography. Oh, how I outwardly pretend her high-brow, sob-inducing dramatic performances are the pinnacle of her career and inwardly adore when she utilizes her fantastic comedic timing. I’ve got to say – when preparing to tackle this oft-maligned blip on Streep’s past work, I was a little, shall we say, nervous. I mean, her co-stars probably make for the most random trio of actors you could assemble for this silly little bit of move – Streep with Ed Begley Jr. and Roseanne Barr?? Yeah, not exactly the first grouping that comes to mind when you think of casting a successful comedic romp (though it sort of make sense considering Roseanne’s rising popularity at the time and Meryl’s incoming burst of funny-woman roles). In She-Devil, Streep plays Mary Fisher, over-the-top, breathy-voiced romance novelist and part-time husband stealer. Fisher lives in a giant Barbie’s Dream House wannabe and making a living peddling dirty books to housewives. The “she-devil” is unleashed, though, when Mary meets Bob (Begley, Jr.) at a party and steals him away from frumpy wife Rose (Barr).
Having just discovered this sorta silly but definitely entertaining gem recently, it seemed only fitting that a return to the Then and Now series would very much suit this very cast-driven bitchy-fest. Following the goings-on and melodrama of a soap opera set, Soapdish features a cast of well-knowns that seems almost impossible to achieve considering the ridiculous content. But I’m very thankful that they were assembled. So here we go – the cast of Soapdish in their earliest (or at least earliest to find footage of) and latest work.
The comparisons – and possible blasphemy considering your take on these guys and gals – continues. Here are few more stars, from the decade that was, and their modern complements.
Robert Redford to Jake Gyllenhaal – Though his fame over the past couple decades has been primarily through the Sundance Film Festival and his later directorial efforts, Redford’s pretty-boy charms and romantic flair got him his break in 1967’s Barefoot in the Park and 1969’s Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. He went on to star in some of the most enduringly popular films of the decade, The Way We Were (1973), The Sting (1973), The Great Gatsby (1974), and All the President’s Men (1976). Gyllenhaal may’ve gotten started as a child star thanks to his director/producer parents, but his true break-out came as an uneasy sex symbol in The Good Girl (2002) – though his indie beginnings came two years earlier before with the now-cult-classic Donnie Darko (2001). Since, Gyllenhaal has eked out a similar career to Redford’s as the romantic lead in Brokeback Mountain (2005) and Love and Other Drugs (2010), as well as the central character in thrillers such as Zodiac (2007) and Brothers (2009).
Most Desired Remake – Jake Gyllenhaal in The Sting
Diane Keaton to Ellen Page – In the unlikeliest of scenarios, gawky but lovable Keaton became a symbol of ideal ’70s womanhood thanks to collaborations with Woody Allen – particularly Annie Hall (1977) and Manhattan (1979) – and her performances in the Godfather films as uneasy future matriarch to the Corleone family. And though probably their easiest comparison is their penchant for rocking traditionally malecentric clothing, Keaton and Page might yet travel a similar path. Though Page’s big break came in the form of a divisive anti-hero in Hard Candy (2005), she’s become an ideal of sorts for the hipster tomboy in her own right. She donned the lah-dee-dah Keaton attitude in 2007’s Juno and 2009’s Whip It, and her recent dip into the dramatic thriller venue – a la 2010’s Inception – insinuates a possible Godfather/Reds in her near future. Oh, and that entire wardrobe in 2008’s Smart People had to be borrowed from Keaton’s one-time closet.
Most Desired Remake – Ellen Page in Baby Boom (I know, utterly bizarre, but wouldn’t you pay to see a Page-inspired modern take on this ultra-shoulder-padded ’80s classic?)
Al Pacino to Ryan Gosling – Taking on some of the most iconic characters of the ’70s, Pacino and de Niro (featured in the previous post) sort of owned the decade for the men. With a flair for the dark and brooding, Pacino nailed both Godfather films (I like to pretend the third doesn’t exist) and turned Serpico (1973) and Dog Day Afternoon (1975) into enduringly important works both then and now. He’s perhaps the most courageous actor of the decade in terms of choosing characters that have some seriously disturbing flaws. Though Gosling had some television roles as a teen – most notably Young Hercules, if you’ll recall – and has dipped into the saccharine at times (case in point, 2004’s The Notebook), his best work has come from obscure and often troubling roles, much like Pacino before him. Half Nelson (2006), Lars and the Real Girl (2007), and assumedly Blue Valentine (2010) feature Gosling in abnormal and sometimes disturbing positions. And they’ve both got that makes-you-uneasy scowl down to an art.
Most Desired Remake – Ryan Gosling in Dog Day Afternoon (and I’ll take suggestions on who should take the John Cazale part)
Woody Allen to Emma Stone – Wait, wait – before you pishaw this, hear me out. If you think about it in terms of acting, I may not be as crazy as you first thought. Sure, Allen is most notable for his writing and directing, but he happened to star in a lot of his most notable ’70s films, so he makes the list as a result. Without his acting work as neurotic geeks in Bananas (1971), Annie Hall (1977), and Manhattan (1979), goofballs of the new wave would’ve avoided an entire new subset of male lead that is ever-present even today – the the funny-looking-but-funny romantic interest. Now, it’s not to say that Stone is at all funny-looking, but if her impressive comedic timing is any indication of her abilities in playing neurotic, she could be on the right track. Through Superbad (2007) and Easy A (2010), she’s proven to be a great comedienne, and, if anyone bothered seeing The House Bunny (2008), you’ll also know that she can be quite convincing and totally lovable as the awkward geek. So, no, she’s not headed toward screenwriting or directing as far as I know, but dammit if Emma Stone doesn’t have a little bit of the eccentric comedy stylings of Woody Allen.
Most Desired Remake – Emma Stone in Hank and His Brothers (a gender-opposing take on 1986’s Hannah and Her Sisters – don’t you think Stone could play the semi-obnoxious hypochondriac Mickey to greatness?)
As The Godfather, Annie Hall, and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest that came before them, I decided to take a gander at the new decade’s counterparts of the American new wave’s stars of the ’70s. Feel free to scrutinize to your heart’s desire in the comments, but here are my humble choices…
Jack Nicholson to Jeremy Renner – Making a name for himself as a snarky hoodlum in movies like Easy Rider (1969), Five Easy Pieces (1971), and Carnal Knowledge (1971), Nicholson found himself one of the broadest performers of his generation. His R.P. McMurphy in Cuckoo’s Nest (1975) and Jack Torrance in The Shining (1980) are clear-cut evidence of that. And Renner has eked out a similar career through his beginnings – he played bad boys in North Country (2005) and The Hurt Locker (2009), and his most recent turn in The Town (2010) had the broad choices found in an iconic Nicholson role.
Most Desired Remake – Jeremy Renner in The Shining
Jane Fonda to Rebecca Hall – After her kitschy beginnings in Barbarella (1968), Fonda went on to become the edgy performer who led Klute (1971) and They Shoot Horses Don’t They? (1969), eventually becoming the critical darling (despite her political slants) garnering accolades for her work in Julia (1977) and Coming Home (1978). Hall got a big start early on thanks to her expert turn in Woody Allen’s Vicky Cristina Barcelona (2008). And, following some small roles in prestige pics such as Frost/Nixon (2008) and Red Riding (2009), she’s gone on to some major roles in buzzy flicks such as The Town (2010).
Most Desired Remake – Rebecca Hall in Barefoot in the Park
Robert de Niro to Leonardo DiCaprio – Gaining early traction as the 1970s quintessential tough guy, de Niro has Martin Scorsese to thank for his early success, in essence. From Mean Streets (1973) to his star (and Oscar-winning) turn as young Don Corleone in The Godfather, Part II (1974) to his arguably most important roles in Taxi Driver (1976) and Raging Bull (1980), de Niro played best with Scorsese and other ’70s visionary Francis Ford Coppola. In perhaps a too-obvious comparison, DiCaprio has taken a similar path. After some humble beginnings as a child star, Scorsese, too, helped him gain his cred as a leading man in Gangs of New York (2002), The Aviator (2004), and particularly 2006’s The Departed.
Most Desired Remake – Leonardo DiCaprio in The Deer Hunter
Dustin Hoffman to Emile Hirsch – Hoffman obviously made his mark late in the ’60s with The Graduate (1967) and Midnight Cowboy (1969), so by the 1970s, he was a full-fledged movie star. With an incredibly diverse career for such a distinctly atypical actor, Hoffman was perhaps best loved as flawed heroes in Lenny (1974) and Kramer vs. Kramer (1979) and full-on thriller heroes in All the President’s Men (1976) and Marathon Man (1976). As an actor of equally unusual skills, Hirsch went edgy like Hoffman in the beginning, taking roles in The Secret Lives of Altar Boys (2002) and Imaginary Heroes (2004). But Hirsch channeled his Hoffman Oscar cred with a supporting turn in Milk (2008) and his mesmerizing role in Into the Wild (2007).
Most Desired Remake – Emile Hirsch in The Graduate
Ellen Burstyn to Maggie Gyllenhaal – Critical darling Burstyn made a name for herself from playing careworn ladies, often with hellish children – enter The Exorcist (1973). And this was years before her now best-known role in Requiem for a Dream (2000). From The Last Picture Show (1971) to Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore (1974), she rocked the bob and the over-worked gal to a tee. Then there’s Gyllenhaal, who, though she’s had her fair share of glamour roles in Mona Lisa Smile (2003) and The Dark Knight (2008), her best work has come from her scrappier, bob-headed turns in fare such as Happy Endings (2005), Sherrybaby (2006), and of course Secretary (2002).
Most Desired Remake – Maggie Gyllenhaal in Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore