Flying into Superhero Movies! 5 Best Actors in a Leading Role…
All Super Best Actors in a Leading Role, All Superhero Films with some Superheroes and some Supervillains …
I’d initially been unsure as to what, when or who to write about for the 31 Days of Oscar Blogathon. I’ve reviewed many films with a wide variety of Oscar connections from Best Actress in a Leading Role (Shirley McClaine in Terms of Endearment (1983)), Best Picture (Kramer vs Kramer (1979)) to Best Make Up (That werewolf transformation scene from An American Werewolf in London (1981)) but wanted to do something completely random. I toyed with a few possibilities and eventually settled on this idea of 5 Best Actor in a Leading Role (henceforth abbreviated to Best Actor) Oscar Winners in Superhero movies.
I feel it’s also important to mention that many, many more Academy Award nominated actors have also acted in this genre, which also provided a list of worthy contenders ….so, takes big breath.. this includes Christian Bale, George Clooney, Jeremy Irons, Michael Fassbender, Ian McKellen, Benedict Cumberbatch, Robert Downey Jnr, Jeremy Renner, Michael Keaton, Jesse Eisenberg, Hugh Jackman, Heath Ledger and Michael Caine. And of course a few more winners including Nicolas Cage, Kevin Spacey and Jeff Bridges.
Michael Douglas in Antman (2015)
Michael Douglas won his second Oscar but his first Best Actor award in 1988 for Wall Street (1987) playing a ruthless corporate raider, Gordon Gekko. The film tells of Bud (Charlie Sheen) who wants to work as a broker for his hero, Gekko. He provides insider information, rises to the top and then his conscience begins to get the better of him as this hero disillusions him. Douglas as Gekko uttered “Greed is Good” and with his slicked back hair, designer shirts and suits he comes over as a formidable 1980s power magnet. A complete contrast to Douglas’s last role prior to this being the romantic comedy Romancing the Stone (1984).
However Douglas has a nicer role in Ant-Man, as scientist Hank Pym – the original Ant-Man – who invented the famous Ant-Man shrinking technology. The film starts approx 27 years ago, with a young CGI version of Douglas looking less like his dad than he does now and like the Michael Douglas I knew (and loved in a school girl crush kind of way) way back. Pym resigns from S.H.I.E.L.D after they’ve tried to copy his shrinking technology. In the present he plays the older Frank Pym – with natty wee suits and goatee – who recruits Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) to be the new Ant-Man and steal the Yellowjacket from Pym’s old colleague who is close to creating to this idea. A technology Pym fears is dangerous.
Gene Hackman in Superman (1978)
Superman (1978) had the honour of two previous Best Actor winners in its cast. One playing a superhero, one playing a villain. However to recap the plot, it tells of Superman (Christopher Reeve)’s origin story and his initial adventures as Superman against the dastardly Lex Luthor and his accomplices. And Superman’s romance with Lois Lane. The Oscar Winning actor playing a Superhero was Marlon Brando as Jor-El. Superman’s dad, who only appears briefly in the origin story. Brando had won an Oscar for The Godfather (1972) appearing in the first film of the trilogy as the title role.
However the infamous Curse of Superman didn’t affect the infamous bad guy, Lex Luthor. As the other Oscar Best Actor Winner was Gene Hackman who in Superman plays Lex Luthor. Hackman won an Oscar for The French Connection (1971). Additionally, Kevin Spacey who played Lex Luthor in Superman Returns (2006) won a Best Actor Oscar for American Beauty (1999). More recently, another Lex Luthor, Jesse Eisenberg – who played him in the recent Batman vs Superman (2016) – also earned a nomination for a Best Actor Academy Award for The Social Network (2010).
Ben Kingsley in Iron Man 3 (2013)
The Avengers Assemble (2012) have also starred with Best Actor Oscar winners. Jeremy Renner as Hawkeye has been nominated for The Hurt Locker (2008). Also, Iron Man (2008) himself is played by Robert Downey Jnr who was nominated for Best Actor for the lead role in Chaplin (1992). However Iron Man’s apparent adversary in Iron Man 3 (2013) is the Mandarin played by Ben Kingsley, however their final confrontation is a must see moment, as there is a wee twist in this tale…
Kingsley of course won his Best Actor award for the lead role in the biopic about the Indian leader, Gandhi (1983) in the Oscars. Later in Captain America’s Civil War (2016), Downey Jnr played opposite another Best Actor Oscar Winner, William Hurt who won his Best Actor for Kiss of the Spiderwoman (1985), a film I believed for years was a film about a superhero. Which it’s not.
Jack Nicholson in Batman (1989)
Jack Nicholson has had a record 12 nominations for Academy Awards. He’s won the Best Actor Oscar twice for One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975) (for this Michael Douglas won Best Picture) and for As Good As It Gets (1997). In the former he plays a criminal who believes he is taking the easy way out serving his sentence in a mental health hospital. The latter tells of a man with obsessive compulsive disorder who has a distrust of others who warms to a waitress.
In Batman (1989), however Nicholson played one of many parts he was born to play. With his devilish, over exaggerated grin, garish make up and his purple suits, Nicholson totally upstaged Michael Keaton’s Batman. For Nicholson’s supervillainous role as Batman’s nemesis the Joker, Nicholson demanded a share of the profits, high salary and his own shooting schedule. And the suits. Also up for this role was Nicholson’s co-star in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Brad Dourif and later co-star in Terms of Endearment, John Lithgow.
Anthony Hopkins in Thor (2011)
Anthony Hopkins is famed for his Best Actor performance as the cannibal serial killer and psychiatrist, Hannibal Lecter in Silence of the Lambs (1991). Here Hopkins gives a spine chilling performance as Lecter. In Lecter’s interviews with Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster), a young FBI agent allocated to him – with only glass separating them – she’s hoping he can give some clues regarding a serial killer named Buffalo Bill.
However in the Thor films, Hopkins plays the King Odin of Asgard, father of Thor and adoptive father of Loki. A stern but just man. It is hard seeing anyone else in his role and Wikipedia reports Mel Gibson was also offered this role but turned it down (thanks Mel!).
But staying on the Thor theme for 2017’s Oscars, I’d like to offer this nomination.. for a Best Actor in a Leading Role for Chris Hemsworth as Thor for this tongue in cheek trailer for Thor 3 : Ragnarok (2017) as seen below. As I’ve mentioned before Hemsworth has a great comedic gift, and to me he’d easily win the Best Actor award if this was made into a full-blown Superhero mockumentary… and nothing to do with fact he is. Not just a Norse God. But is (and always will be). Chris. Hemsworth.
THOR 3: Ragnarok – Vacation Teaser Trailer (2017), KinoCheck International, http://www.youtube.com
This was entered in 31 Days of Oscar Blogathon run by Once Upon a Screen. My other reviews with these actors include Douglas in Romancing the Stone (1984), Hackman in Superman (1978) and Nicholson in One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975), Mars Attacks (1976) and Terms of Endearment (1983). Ben Kingsley is reviewed in The Walk (2015) and Shutter Island Hopkins in International Velvet (1978) and Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992)