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film criticism by maryann johanson | since 1997

question of the day: Which actors deserve to be bigger stars than they are?

Peter Bradshaw at the Guardian’s Film blog the other day asked, “Why isn’t Salt star Chiwetel Ejiofor up there with Russell Crowe?” Which is an excellent question. Bradshaw:

Well, there’s certainly nothing to object to in Ejiofor’s Olivier-winning career as an actor, and it’s arguably naive to complain, because a professional actor has to make a living in the real world and make the parts he’s getting come alive. This Ejiofor unquestionably does. But he’s one of those performers who, infuriatingly, isn’t blazing on screen the way I thought he would at the beginning of the last decade. He is treated like a utility player, when he should be a star striker.

Ejiofor is sailing uncomfortably close to the doldrums with these utilitarian roles. It’s not, I think, a question of being marginalised as a black man, but as a highly competent and intelligent Brit who can do a first-class accent, is a strong and compelling presence and, perhaps, won’t break the budget with his fee.

It’s not a criticism of him – it’s a criticism of something short-sighted in the business which won’t respond fully to his star quality. Chiwetel Ejiofor should be up there at the Russell Crowe level, but annoyingly for his fans, like me, he’s not. Or not yet. Perhaps if he could get an action lead, that would shake things up. As it is, he’s doing these respectable middleweight supporting roles.

Yes yes yes to all, as well as Bradshaw’s hoorah for Ejiofor in his debut, Dirty Pretty Things, one of the best little movies of the past decade.

I, like Bradshaw, would love to see Ejiofor get his due, but it got me thinking about which other middling-big names should be bigger than they are. (Bradshaw also mentions Eric Bana and Naomi Watts, for instance.)

So: Which actors deserve to be bigger stars than they are?

(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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