So I have this theory. One way to be a great actor, even a brilliant one, is to be so insane and deluded that you actually believe yourself as a completely different person.
1. Tom Cruise
With most of these stars, it seems you either have to point out how crazy they are, or how good they are, because one of the two is usually obvious to everyone. With Cruise, it’s obvious that he’s a wee bit nuts. It’s well documented: the Scientology angle, the couch-jumping, the condescension toward reporters asking personal questions, the self-seriousness, the creepy relationships that seem a little forced.
2. Sean Penn
For a while Sean Penn was probably the best actor in the world, you know, during that period when Daniel Day-Lewis wasn’t doing too much work and Penn was sort of churning out these insanely good performances in things like Dean Man Walking, Sweet and Lowdown, I Am Sam, and Mystic River.
3. Russell Crowe
Russell Crowe is one dude whose acting style is as weird and sometimes off-putting as is his public persona, and yet it’s incredibly effective when used smartly, usually when paired with a skilled director.
4. Robert Downey Jr
I love Robert Downey Jr. in all his recent work, from Iron Man, to playing Iron Man in The Avengers, to Sherlock Holmes, to Iron Man 2, to Sherlock Holmes 2. I’m sure he’ll be great in Iron Man 3. But at this point I’m kind of thinking maybe it’d be good for him to branch out a little? I’m just tossing that out there.
5. Nicolas Cage
Do you even remember a time when Nicolas Cage was, like, a respected actor? I have to say, it seems like part of a distant memory, but his filmography begs to differ. As recently as 2009 he was receiving awards for Bad Lieutenant, and he has earned two Academy Award nominations for Adaptation and Leaving Las Vegas, respectively, receiving the win for the latter film.
6. Morgan Freeman
Everyone, whether they’ve seen Bruce Almighty or not, pretty much equates Morgan Freeman with God. He’s got your classic voice of God down to an art form at this point, and having him narrate your story basically guarantees it will be taken seriously and probably leave us all in tears.
7. Mel Gibson
I’m not sure if there’s anyone in Hollywood right now more reviled than Mel Gibson. He’s pretty much universally regarded as an anti-Semite, a homophobe, a racist, someone badly in need of anger management training and just an absolute nutjob in general.
8. Leonardo DiCaprio
Today I learned that the guy Cage was bidding against for that dinosaur skull (which ended up costing him almost $300,000), was Leonardo DiCaprio. Weird, hey? I don’t know what to make of this guy. His résumé speaks for itself. Django Unchained, Inception, Shutter Island, Revolutionary Road, Blood Diamond, The Departed, The Aviator—these are movies from just the last decade and it’s enough to guarantee a hall of fame career.
9. Anne Hathaway
I hesitate to even bring Hathaway up here just because she inspires more hatred than I think she deserves. Yes, she’s insufferable most of the time, but she doesn’t seem like an awful person, just kind of annoyingly chipper.
10. Clint Eastwood
This one I’m not going to wring my hands over. Clint Eastwood is a douche. I guess I have the space to elaborate, so I will. I have sympathy for him because he’s old and seems to be losing his marbles.
11. Angelina Jolie
I’m realizing how few women I’ve included on this list. I think it might be because there’s less tolerance for difficult women in show business, and perhaps business in general. There’s a higher bar for women to clear traditionally, that to really succeed they have to go above and beyond.
12. Alec Baldwin
To contrast with Eastwood, here’s someone whose politics I generally agree with, like Sean Penn I guess, but he seems seriously messed up. That sucks because he has consistently put in terrific work, even though he doesn’t seem to realize it.