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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

question of the day: What actors will you watch in anything?

Labor Day weekend in the U.S. is typically a slow weekend for movies, and this one was no exception: The American was able to clock in as the fourth-highest Labor Day debut ever even though it earned only an estimated $16.4 million, which would be paltry over any other summer weekend.

It’s a surprising place for the film to be, with even the positive reviews emphasizing its stillness, its lack of emotional involvement, and its Euro artiness. So it makes me wonder whether the big draw for much of the audience was George Clooney. Are there more folks out there who, like me, would watch Clooney in absolutely anything? (Of course, after I saw The American, I decided that there were, in fact, some Clooney movies I could do without.)

What about you? What actors will you watch in anything? Is it possible to imagine a film starring that actor after which you’d say, “Eh, I could have done without that”?

(If you have a suggestion for a QOTD, feel free to email me. Responses to this QOTD sent by email will be ignored; please post your responses here.)



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  • Abhi

    Without a doubt this is down to Clooney. People probably went in expecting Ocean’s One: The Bourne Cloonacy. There’s no way in hell that the general public would go in for a slow paced, European-style thriller under normal circumstances.

  • RyanT

    Sure. I mean we all have our favorite actors and could endure an hour or two to watch them in films we usually won’t see if it weren’t for them. The first few names off the top of my head include Kate Winslet, Meryl Streep, James McAvoy, Jamie Bell, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt. And hey I’ve seen all of Sharlto Copley’s projects to date! Maybe I’ll keep up the streak.

  • Lately it has been Leonardo DiCaprio for me. He’s proven that he can choose films that have real artistic merit. Partially because I think he has chosen to work with some of the best directors in the business.

  • Millie

    Shamefully I will admit I’d put Hugh Grant in this category. Actually, maybe I wouldn’t go that far. It’s not so much that I’d watch him in *anything* as much as if his role in some of his films was done by someone else, I wouldn’t be half as interested.

    I think personal affection for the actors involved is most strong in romantic comedies. Has there ever been a big name one cast with relative unknowns?

  • David

    Christian Bale
    Broken Lizard
    Paul Rudd
    Alyson Hanigan
    Anthony Hopkins
    Ed Norton
    Rosario Dawson
    Clint Eastwood

  • Laura

    Strangly, I share my two “follow-anywhere” actors with Ryan T.: James McAvoy and Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Both of them have taken me to some pretty crazy places, too: The Last King of Scotland, not to mention some of JGL’s darker indie movies. But I have faith in my boys! If they chose to be in it, I trust that there’s something worth seeing. Or that at least they’ll give their own performances strength.

  • Laura

    And hey, if all else fails, at least they’re pretty. :)

  • JT

    Cate Blanchett, Brad Pitt, Leonardo DiCaprio, Helena Bonham Carter, and (most of the time) Johnny Depp. All masters of their craft.

    Oh, and I almost forgot Sam Rockwell :-)

  • Althea

    I go along with Kate Winslet, Johnny Depp (did you see “Dead Man”?) and Leonardo di Caprio. Add Tom Hanks. Even his lowest-rung movies are memorable for him being in them (did you see “Joe Versus the Volcano”?)

  • mortadella

    For me? Guy Pearce. He seems to have really interesting taste in scripts….The Proposition, Memento, Ravenous….wonderfully weird stuff. He transitions over to mainstream beautifully (Counte of Monte Cristo, L.A. Confidential), and as far as I can tell, he doesn’t seem to take a lot of gigs based on the paycheck — like Bedtime Stories, but even in that movie he was doing his part and not phoning it in.

  • beccity98

    David Tennant and Paul Bettany. Leigon was pretty terrible, but Mr Bettany always puts everything into his characters.

    And no explanation needed for Ten.

  • AJDS

    Pierce Brosnan- I’ve never seen him in anything I couldn’t stand. In fact I’ve only seen 3 Bond movies with no desire to see the newer or the older ones- but I liked his.

    Another I could nearly say that about was David Carradine- he certainly wasn’t in a ton of good movies (over his whole career) but he brought something to even the mediocre/outright bad ones – not that I’ve seen everything of his. And he had some downright misses. *L*

  • Kirk

    Alec Guinness, Anthony Hopkins, Burt Lancaster, Cary Grant, Emma Thompson, Frances McDormand, George Clooney, Gregory Peck, Harrison Ford, Helen Mirren, Humphrey Bogart, Jack Lemmon, James Garner, James Mason, James Stewart, Johnny Depp, Liam Neeson, Morgan Freeman, Myrna Loy, Natalie Wood, Olivia de Haviland, Paul Newman, Roy Scheider, Spencer Tracy, Steve McQueen, Tom Hanks.

  • Barb

    Basically the Brits/Scots (no one ‘local’):

    David Tennant
    John Simm
    Trevor Eve
    Robson Green
    Nathanial Parker

  • Kate

    Anything with George Clooney, Cary Grant, Hugh Grant, Colin Firth, Ralph Fiennes, Leonardo DiCaprio, Meryl Streep, Kate Winslet, Kristin Scott Thomas, Keira Knightley, and/or Emma Thompson.

    I love that so many of these actors and actresses are in the same movies.

  • Kate

    Anything with George Clooney, Cary Grant, Hugh Grant, Colin Firth, Ralph Fiennes, Leonardo DiCaprio, Meryl Streep, Kate Winslet, Kristin Scott Thomas, Keira Knightley, and/or Emma Thompson.

    I love that so many of these actors and actresses are in the same movies.

  • Nadia

    Robert Downey Jr. I could watch him reading the phonebook. Also, Sam Worthington, but I have to confess that in his case it has less to do with his talent and more to do with the ridiculous infatuation I have with him, which is odd, because he’s not my usual type at all, but I watched Clash of the Titans (to the end!) just to see him in that skirt and carrying a sword.

  • Isobel

    Clive Owen. Witness to this is the fact that I not only saw King Arthur at the cinema, I also bought it on DVD (and that’s even with the fact that I really really don’t like Keira Knightley in anything other than Bend It Like Beckham).

    Also, Emma Thompson and Kristin Scott Thomas and Heath Ledger would have been in that category as well.

  • bats :[

    Wow, lots of “oh, yeah, him/her, too!” on the list. Derek Jacobi is my choice (gah, even in “Underworld: Evolution,” in a theater, but at least is was a dollar dive).
    Rufus Sewell as well, only there have been blips here — there are a few things I just can’t make myself watch.

  • Rob

    David Tennant, Julie Benz, Michael C. Hall, Amy Adams, Meryl Streep, Mary Louise Parker, Felicity Huffman, James Franco, Drew Barrymore, Sandra Bullock, Bette Midler, Lee Pace, Allison Janney, Ewan MacGregor, Julianne Moore, and James Dean (and although there are sadly only three films, I count actually getting through the entirety of “Giant” to count for at least three more, and I’ve also watched a lot of the extant TV plays he was in, in addition to every doc I can get my hands on).

  • History of Bubbles

    After seeing Sam Mendes’ “Cabaret” revival as a teenager, I became infatuated with Alan Cumming and followed his every film role. This did not generally steer me well. I watched “Spice World” for him, for the love of Pete. I feel betrayed.

  • sm

    Edward Norton, Billy Crudup, Nathan Fillion, Lee Pace, Carey Mulligan, Heath Ledger.

    Enver Gjokaj (from Dollhouse) and Jason Dohring (lesser-known TV actor from the late Veronica Mars and Moonlight who recently guest starred as an awesome psychopath on Lie to Me. I watched the episode just for him.)

    Also, that now that Zac Efron’s done with High School Musicals, I suspect he’ll make this list very soon.

  • Lisa

    David Tennant. End. Of.

  • Rachel Hartman

    Many of mine have already been named, except for Paul Gross, Hugh Weaving, and Emily Watson.

  • amanohyo

    Emma Thompson for me as well, along with
    Zooey Deschanel
    Ellen Page
    Holly Hunter
    Javier Bardem
    Uma Thurman
    Parker Posey
    Johnny Depp
    Lauren Bacall
    Julie Andrews (except for the Shrek movies)
    Gene Kelley
    Rosalind Russell
    Yukari Oshima
    Michelle Yeoh
    Toshiro Mifune
    Mr. T

  • judy

    Michael Caine, Sam Rockwell, Diane Keaton, Robert Downey jr, Colin Firth, Cary Grant, Meryl Streep, Fred Astaire, and Audrey Hepburn.

  • Here, it’s all about my gorgeous hyperintelligent British crushes: Kate Winslet and Rachel Weisz.

  • SC

    John Simm. He’s bloody brilliant.
    Jake Gyllenhal, Emma Thompson and Robert Downey jr. are also on my list. And as for directors that I would watch anything they made, Sam Mendes comes to mind.

  • SC

    oh, and also Tim Roth.

  • David Tennant, Paul Gross, Bruce Campbell, Rufus Sewell, George Clooney, Jeffrey Donovan, Stephen Fry, Hugh Laurie, Christopher Eccleston, Philip Glenister, John Simm, Paterson Joseph, Viggo Mortensen.
    It can’t be a coincidence that so many of these have been chosen as subjects for female gazing?

  • markyd

    I’m with Brian a few comments above. I rarely see a movie just because a particular actor/actress is in it, but there are a few exceptions.
    Kate Winslet
    Rachel Weisz
    Both of these gals are great at what they do and look great while doing it. They’ve both also made some pretty darn bizarre movies.
    I kinda have a thing for Kiera Knightley, too. A bit thinner than I usually like, but she’s just so darn attractive. Fine actress as well.
    As for guys…
    I will see most any Depp movie, even if he has made some clunkers lately.
    There are other male actors that I like(Hugo Weaving, Guy Pearce, Leo) but I won’t see a movie just because they are in it.

  • moviefan

    Unlike you and some others, I actually have an aversion to Clooney so I’ll only go see him if its a movie I am really interested in. So far, not so many.

    I will go see Russell Crowe in anything, in fact I have seen him in everything, I’d even watch him read the Sydney phone book. I would also go see Jeff Bridges in anything, Liam Neeson, Robert Duvall, Robert Downey Jr, Cate Blanchett and Kate Winslett

  • moviefan

    Oh yeah, I forgot. I think some folks went to see The American because of Clooney, but I believe it was mostly because the movie was sold as a thriller/actioner/hit man movie, and as everyone knows now, it was anything but that. I expect it to fall quite rapidly next weekend.

  • Victor Plenty

    Alan Rickman. Haven’t yet seen everything he’s done, but it is one of my goals to do so. I also like many of the actors listed above by others, but didn’t see Rickman on anyone else’s list, and he ought to be here.

    Also have to second Viggo Mortensen. Another whose entire career I’ve not yet seen, but his stunning range and skill is clearly visible in two of the films that I have seen. Anyone who can be totally believable as Aragorn in one performance, after I had already seen him breathe terrifying life into the role of Satan (while also upstaging Christopher Walken) in an earlier film, is simply a force of nature.

  • Alice

    I second the comment citing Alan Rickman. First saw him in London in Les Liaisons Dangereuses and he was mesmerizing and incredibly sexy. (Once heard about that play that there wasn’t a dry seat in the house.) Anyway, have never seen him in anything that I wasn’t fascinated by him. That voice. I don’t know how the other actors manage to remember their lines–it’s like hypnotism.

  • Bassy Galore

    David Tennant.

    And if we’re talking old school (not shown in a theater) I’d throw in Audrey Hepburn and Cary Grant.

  • JoshDM

    Tom Hanks.

    I always wanted Tom Hanks to team-up with Robin Williams and do a movie.

    The closest I ever got to that was that lousy Robin Williams/Billy Crystal vehicle where one or the other was the father of some kid, but no one knew which.

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