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3 Actors Who Never Seem To Get The Credit They Deserve

May 1, 2011 Leave a comment

In no particular order here are three actors I believe are great in their own ways but never seem to get enough pub from the media or the general public:

Gene Wilder

At this point I doubt anything is going to change to increase Gene Wilder’s status to that of comedy greats like Eddie Murphy, Steve Martin, etc.  In fact I don’t even know if he’s quite that good anyways.  He wasn’t self-made like a lot of great comedic actors are nowadays having done stand-up comedy to start, at least not to my knowledge.  In other words he’s great at taking a script and amping up the hilarity but hasn’t really created anything of his own.  The thing is that many fans of guys like Will Ferrell, Jack Black, John Candy, and others who I feel make up the “second tier” of comedy greats wouldn’t even know much about Wilder.

Some may point out that Mel Brooks had a lot to do with any success Wilder has had.  True Brooks is awesome and Wilder had the privilege in having parts in multiple movies of his, but it works both ways.  Brooks wanted Wilder because he apparently thought he was hilarious.  Blazing Saddles is more of an ensemble achievement in which Wilder plays a strong part, but Young Frankenstein is all Wilder.  He carries the movie and it truly is one of those times where you say to yourself  “I don’t think this would be the same if someone else played that part.”  He also teamed up with Richard Pryor in solid comedies like Silver Streak and Stir Crazy, which are still decent even if they’re starting to show their age.

I don’t think I need to spend too much time on his performance in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.  I’m pretty sure I’ve never seen a performance like it.  He goes back and forth from light and amusing to terrifying and intimidating and it’s never jarring and always seamless.  We’ve all seen the movie 100 times, but if someone made the argument that it was one of the best performances of all time I don’t think anyone could say it’s not at least a valid opinion.  See what I mean here and here (embedding issues).  I think overall it’s quality over quantity with Wilder and maybe that’s why he’s never been looked at as this amazing funny man.  On the other hand I can’t figure out for the life of me why he wasn’t cast as much in the last 30 years.  He could easily have twice as my gems.

Leonardo DiCaprio

Is DiCaprio the greatest actor ever?  Of course not.  Does he have incredible range?  No, he really doesn’t.  At the same time I don’t know what else this guy has to do.  I admit that a long time ago, while my younger sister was obsessed with Titanic, The Beach, and Man in the Iron Mask, I hated him.  However judging by the performances he’s churned out in the past few years I’d say he’s bar none the hottest actor out there right now, but for some reason I think he’s only seen as merely solid and somewhat respected.

Flip to 2:20 of the video here.  The above video and the one I just linked show him at his best.  When his characters are under duress there’s no one better out there right now, and in the end isn’t that all that matters?  There are a lot of actors that can get through some run of the mill dialogue.  I’d even bet that many of us that aren’t actors could do it too, but what separates great actors from everyone else is how convincing they are when they’re angry, sad, enthusiastic, or in love and DiCaprio hits the mark every single time.

His latest triumps include the aforementioned Inception and The Departed, however you can also safely add Blood Diamond to that list as well.  Many people chided his South African accent, but to be honest it sounded okay enough to me.  I am not South African though so I can’t say for sure.  I still maintain it’s a great performance and think it’s roughly equal to what he’s done in the other two blockbusters above.  Other strong performances of late include Shutter Island, Revolutionary Road, The Aviator, Catch Me If You Can, Gangs of New York, and Body of Lies, although admittedly not all of those movies as a whole will be liked by everyone including me.  If you want longevity you’ve got The Basketball Diaries, The Quick and the Dead, Romeo+Juliet, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, This Boy’s Life and even his work on Growing Pains is now regarded as very respectable.  These days I don’t see anyone else out there with the consistency that he has in terms of performance and the projects he chooses.

Gary Oldman

I mentioned range before.  How many actor honestly have it?  Well, Gary Oldman does and as far as I’m concerned he’s the best pure actor out there.  He can play pretty much anyone you want him to play.

Check him out in JFK if you want to see him do nervous yet convicted.  If you want to see him play it straight you can find that in the last two Batman films.  He can do everything.  I honestly have no doubt that if they put him in a dress, wig, and make up he’d pull off an amazing female character.  The obvious argument for the lack of Gary Oldman love in the mainstream is that he’s always in a supporting role.  I can accept that but at the same time he’s someone I always want to see on the screen more, and if someone could write something that fits his look and style I don’t see why it couldn’t be great with him in the lead role.  Maybe something strange and mysterious like The Machinist.  I think he could even play a cop in a noire-type thriller like Chinatown or Basic Instinct.

He’s probably old enough now that the time has passed for an opportunity like that.  Hollywood wants pretty faces first and foremost and if you can act then all the better, so my mind probably shouldn’t wander any further.  That being said I can think of a hundred actors who have made more money and been in more movies than Gary Oldman who couldn’t hold a candle to him when it comes to practicing their craft.

Speaking of which, that sounds like a great idea for another list to complement this one……..