Being an actor may seem like an easy and very rewarding job. However, only the hardest working, most passionate, and different will make a name for themselves.
The great American actors that we will be informing you about in this article fit all the categories that we have highlighted. By taking a look below, you gain a better understanding of their journeys and immense achievements.
1. Nicolas Cage.
Cage was born in 1964 in Long Beach, California. The arts run through the family, with his grandfather Carmine Coppola being a prominent composer. While his grandmother, Italia Coppola, was an actress who played in multiple movies of ‘The Godfather’ series.
His acting career began in 1982 with the film ‘Fast Times at Ridgemont High’, since then, he has had roles in films nearly every single year. In 2002, Cage had his directorial debut with the crime film ‘Sonny’ where Nicolas Cage also made an appearance.
The California-born actor is well known for his roles in low-budget artistic movies. In the past couple of years, Cage has had received a lot of critical acclaim for his roles in such movies. This includes the horror film ‘Mandy’ and space horror film ‘Color Out of Space’. As well as the drama film ‘Pig’, which is about a truffle forager who loses their pig. The film went viral online as many people found the plot funny. However, the film has a very deep meaning.
2. Al Pacino.
If you are a fan of movies, then there is no way that you have not heard of Al Pacino. Born in April 1940, he has had an acting career crossing over five decades.
The first film he starred in was called ‘Me, Natalie’ in 1969. Yet, it wasn’t until three years later, in 1972, that he starred in his first successful film. This film was ‘The Godfather’ where Nicolas Cage played a lead role as Michael Corleone. Furthermore, in this film, Al Pacino played along with the grandmother of Nicolas Cage, who we covered above. Thus, showing the great extent of his career.
In 2019, Al Pacino won the Hollywood Film Award for his role in the movie ‘The Irishman’. This is in addition to the hyper prestigious AFI Life Achievement Award. Only one is awarded per year to an individual who has had a major impact in the movie industry.
3. Quentin Tarantino.
Quentin Tarantino is one of the most famous directors in the world, but many people, do not know that he is also an actor. Born in Tennessee in 1963, he did not have a straightforward journey to movie stardom. From an early age, he was very passionate about movies.
In fact, when in school, he even directed and starred in school plays. However, his mother was not supported by his artistic endeavors. From that moment, he vowed that if he made it into the movie world, that he will “not give his mum a penny”.
Tarantino is unique on this list because his acting roles are mostly very minor. But this does not mean that they do not have a major impact on the message and plot of the film.
For example, Quentin Tarantino was the narrator of the Western thriller ‘The Hateful Eight’ which Tarantino also happened to be the director of. Furthermore, he had a voice cameo as the unseen commercial director in ‘Once Upon a Time in Hollywood’. Some of his acting roles are as himself, such as in the 2014 film ‘She’s Funny That Way’. In these situations, the joke is around how famous Tarantino is.
4. Willem Dafoe.
The next one of the great American actors that we are going to talk about is Willem Dafoe. Willem Dafoe was born in Wisconsin on the 22nd of July 1955. His real name is actually ‘William’; however, he decided to adopt the stage name ‘Willem’ when his acting career began.
His trademark is his deep, scratchy voice that has by now become iconic. In the past decade, he has won many awards, such as Best Supporting Actor for the ‘Florida Project’ from the National Board of Review. In addition to two more awards for his supporting role in the American drama film released in 2017.
Furthermore, Dafoe played a major role in 2018 in the Marvel superhero film Aquaman, which was one of the most successful films of the year. Willem Dafoe also had prominent roles in major films such as ‘The Great Wall’ and also in Pixar animation film Finding Dory.
5. Denzel Washington.
Denzel Washington is an American well-known for his inspirational roles in movies. These roles fit well with the calm and gentleman-like aura given off by him. Washington was born in New York and had a rough childhood. He notes in multiple interviews that he would hang around with the wrong group of people. Many of whom were involved in illegal activities such as selling illegal substances.
Thankfully, Washington at the age of 14 was sent to a strict military academy due to the divorce of his parents. However, he discovered acting at an older than usual age after completing his bachelor’s degree at university. It came about while he was working at a summer camp and chose to do a bit of acting for the talent show.
His Star-Studded career has not faded one bit in the past couple of years. He had key roles in ‘The Equalizer’ and ‘The Equalizer 2’. Washington also played a serious role in the drama movie ‘Flight’ which was a great commercial and critical success.
6. John C. Reilly.
A truly adaptable actor that is a natural at both dramatic serious roles and silly comedies. John C. Reilly was born in 1965 in Illinois, where he grew up in Chicago. He is the last actor that we will go over in this great American actors article.
What is interesting about Reilly’s career is that for most of it he would take up just serious roles. It was not until decades after he became an actor in 2004 that he showed his worth as a comedy film actor. Since then, Reilly has been a critical part of comedic films such as ‘Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues’ which was released in 2013. He was also a protagonist in the comedy films ‘Holmes & Watson’ and ‘Ralph Breaks the Internet’.
Moreover, Reilly has also diversified by becoming a comedian and going on nationwide comedy tours such as the ‘Cox Across America 2007 Tour’. In addition, he also played at the theater show ‘8’ which is about a trial in the USA that tried to ban-same sex marriage.
7. Brad Pitt.
Arguably the world’s most famous heartthrob. Brad Pitt may look as youthful as ever; however, he has been working in the movie industry for a very long time. He was born in 1963, to William Alvin Pitt who was an owner of a trucking company, and also Jane Etta who worked at a school.
Despite not having any links to the film business, he was consistent. His first film was a comedy called ‘Hunk’ where Pitt played a background role that was uncredited. Pitt’s first major success was in the movie ‘Thelma & Louise’ which brought him to the limelight.
Brad Pitt’s success has not slowed down one bit in the last couple of years. He starred as the lead character in the film ‘World War Z’, which ended up being his most commercially successful film ever. Additionally, he was one of the producers of ’12 Years a Slave’, which apart from being very popular is also one of the most awarded films in history.
Additionally, Brad Pitt was one of the protagonists in Quentin Tarantino’s ‘Once Upon a Time in Hollywood’ and also James Gray’s science fiction film ‘Ad Astra’. For his role in ‘Ad Astra’, Pitt won a number of prominent awards due to the fact he was his own stunt double. These include a Golden Globe, a Screen Actors Guild Award, an Emmy, and a BAFTA for Best Actor in a Supporting Role.
8. Leonardo DiCaprio.
DiCaprio has been an actor pretty much all of his life. His career starting at the young age of 5, when he appeared on the children’s television series ‘Romper Room’. In his teen years, he also acted in a number of other television shows and also starred in television commercials.
However, not everything was always so rosy. DiCaprio faced racism, and it was even recommended that he adopted the stage name ‘Lenny Williams’ since it was “more American”. He also struggled to find the right agent and nearly quit in his late teens after not being offered work for well over a year.
It may seem like Leonardo DiCaprio was always on top of the world. However, in reality, it was eight years of grueling hard work to get to where his now. His first major success was a big one, with his role as ‘Jack Dawson’ in the film ‘Titanic’. It remains one of the highest-grossing films, with a box office of over $2.2 billion.
For DiCaprio, it is quality over quantity, on average, he has starred in just two to one films a year. Every one of his latest films has been a large commercial hit and has been critically acclaimed. These include household names such as ‘The Revenant’ in 2015, ‘The Great Gatsby’ in 2013, and also the pulp sensation ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’ in 2013.
9. Johnny Depp.
What makes Johnny Depp a worth addition to our list of great American actors is the fact that he is himself. He does not try to recreate himself in order to please others. He has famously lived a Rock Star lifestyle and has the film accolades to back it all up.
Born in the city of Owensboro, Kentucky in 1963. Depp dropped out of high school at the age of 16 with the goal of becoming a Rock Star. Things did not work out that way, but he did get inspired to become an actor after his wife introduced him to Nicolas Cage. Depp has not looked back ever since.
Depp’s career has kept on going strong as usual in the past decades. He has starred in a number of timeless classics such as ‘Alice Through the Looking Glass’ which is Disney’s grown-up adaptation of ‘Alice in Wonderland’.
Johnny Depp also returned as the protagonist of ‘Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales’ in 2017. As well as starring twice in a leading role in two ‘Fantastic Beasts’ films, which are spinoffs from the popular Harry Potter entertainment franchise.
10. George Clooney.
One of the most respected and loved actors due to his remarkable on-screen performances and his humbleness. Clooney’s career began in T.V, which is not surprising considering that his father was a television news anchor. He had a number of uncredited roles on television shows, such as the Western-themed ‘Centennial’ series. He was part of popular shows such as ‘The Facts of Life’ where he played 17 episodes. Clooney also had a five-year role in the drama series ‘ER’.
Clooney’s career has aged like fine wine. He was a protagonist and director in the WW2 film ‘The Monuments Men’ and also the impactful comedy-drama ‘The Descendants’ which was released in 2011. The Descendants were nominated for a whopping five Oscars, with Clooney himself being nominated for the Best Actor category.
In addition, the Kentucky-born actor has also got involved in directing movies more seriously. In the past decade, he has been the director of large budget films such as ‘The Midnight Sky’, ‘Suburbicon’, ‘The Ides of March’ and of course ‘The Monuments Men’.
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