Charismatic character actors in Hollywood – an update

Well, 3 hours later and I have updated my list already and made it a round 15 names with the addition of Benedict Cumberbatch. I have a feeling, he will move quickly out of the list of character actors to the list of leading men, much as Michael Fassbender has. The same may apply to some of the younger actors like Luke Evans. But for the time being, I think they qualify to be in this list:-

Listed in alphabetical order of their surnames.

1. Jason Clarke

 “ First noticed: As sadistic prison warden Ulrich in Death Race (2008). Best role so far: As Howard Bondurant in Lawless (2012), but I hear he is very good in Zero Dark Thirty (2012). He also has a big role coming up in Great Gatsby (2013) and will play Abe Lincoln’s father Tom Lincoln in The Green Blade Rises (2013). 

2. Marton Csokas

 “ First noticed: As the Elf King Celeborn in Lord of the Rings II and III; although all he did was to stand in the background behind Galadriel. He had a small but significant role as the assassin Jarda in The Bourne Supremacy (2004). Best role: Playing the younger Stephan in The Debt (2010). ” 

3. Benedict Cumberbatch

 “ First noticed: playing British PM William Pitt in Amazing Grace (2006). Best role: of course, as the lead in TV’s Sherlock. In a supporting roles, I liked him as Peter Guillam in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011). But I suppose his biggest on-screen role yet will be as the villain in this summer’s Star Trek into Darkness. ”

4. Liam Cunningham

 “ First noticed: As the army doctor in Spielberg’s War Horse (2011); it was a short but pivotal role, which helps to reunite Albert and his horse. Best role: As Ser Davos Seaworth in HBO’s Game of Thrones. ” 

5. Cliff Curtis

 “ First noticed: in Niki Caro’s indie sleeper hit Whale Rider (2002). Best role: As the FBI Deputy Director in Live Free or Die Hard (2007) ” 

6. Kevin Durand

“ First noticed: Playing Fred ‘The Blob’ Dukes in X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009) and as fallen angel Gabriel in Legion (2009). Best roles: As Little John in Robin Hood (2010) and Ricky in Real Steel (2011). ” 

7. Luke Evans

 “ First noticed: Playing Apollo in Clash of the Titans (2010), but he was even more impressive as the youngest and coolest-looking on-screen Zeus yet in Immortals (2011). Looking forward to seeing him play Bard in the 2nd and 3rd installments of The Hobbit (2013 & 2014). ” 

8. Bruce Greenwood

 “ First noticed: Playing JFK in Thirteen Days (2000), Roger Donaldson’s under-rated chronicle of the Cuban Missile Crisis. That probably remains his meatiest role to date, although technically he was playing the lead role in that film. I quite liked him in the role of Christopher Pike in Star Trek (2009) as well. ”

9. Ciarán Hinds

 “ First noticed: Playing Carl in Spielberg’s Munich (2005). Best role: While he has appeared in a number of movies since, I think his best role was in Munich. ” 

10. Oscar Isaac

 “ First noticed: Playing dastardly Prince John in Robin Hood (2010) and dastardly Blue Jones in Sucker Punch (2011). Best role: Blue Jones and his brief appearance in crime thriller Drive (2011). ” 

11. Stephen Lang

 “ First noticed: of course, as Col. Miles Quaritch in James Cameron’s Avatar (2009), although he also had a very good role as Charles Winstead in Michael Mann’s Public Enemies the same year. Best role: Col. Quaritch in Avatar and Commander Taylor in the short-lived TV series Terra Nova. ” 

12. Mads Mikkelsen

 “ First noticed: As villain Le Chiffre in Casino Royale (2006). Best roles: As Draco in Clash of the Titans (2010) and as Dr. Struensee in A Royal Affair (2012). ” 

13. Édgar Ramírez

 “ First noticed: as assassin Paz in The Bourne Ultimatum (2007). Best role: Playing the lead as Carlos the Jackal in Oliver Assayas’ TV mini-series, Carlos (2010)…however, this was a lead role; in a character role, playing Ares in Wrath of the Titans (2012). He will play Simon Bolivar next in Libertador (2013). ” 

14. Mark Strong

 “ First noticed: Playing Lord Blackwood in Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes (2009) and soon after as Sir John Conroy in The Young Victoria (2009). Best role: As Godfrey in Robin Hood (2010), as Jim Prideaux in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011) and as the aforementioned Lord Blackwood. ” 

15. Jeffrey Wright

 “ First noticed: Playing escaped slave Daniel Holt in Ang Lee’s Ride with the Devil (1999). Best role: As Latino gangster Peoples Hernandez in Shaft (2000). Since then, I think he’s just been cashing in paychecks, with walk-on roles like Felix Leiter in Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace. ” 


2 thoughts on “Charismatic character actors in Hollywood – an update

  1. I think Cumberbatch is already a leading man in Hollywood. His forthcoming movies are Assange (lead) in The Fifth Estate, the lead in the so-called Monty Python film “Absolutely Anything”, Brian Epstein (lead) in the Brian Epstein biopic and Alan Turing (lead) in The Imitation Game (not listed on IMDB yet but Screen Daily has reported), and his fervent fanbase might be larger (and much crazier) than Hardy’s and Fassbender’s, thanks to Sherlock. None of the actors on your list have such a fanbase, which is a crucial element of making a leading man.


    1. I do agree with you. In fact, my original list only had 14 actors and then I added Cumberbatch a bit later. But you are right, he has had a number of leading roles already in his native UK and will soon move to such roles internationally as well. Hmmm…maybe I will take him out of the list after all!


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