Good vs. Bad: What makes a good actor?

Good vs. Bad: What makes a good actor?

What is it that makes us like or dislike an actor? Here's a brief look at it.

With the myriad of fan casts and casting hopefuls we see on this site, the argument of whether or not that actor can actually act inevitably comes up. Whether it is Jensen Ackles, Vin Diesel, or Jason Lewis, there are always those who defend the abilities of the actors and those who will chastise them for their lack of skills as an actor. Naturally, we all want our beloved comic book characters to be portrayed correctly and done so by somebody who has the skills to pull it off. Heaven forbid the one and only Captain America role be given to someone with the acting abilities of bag of flour. I do not say that as a joke either. For the most part, we have all been waiting for these characters to be brought to life for years, some of us, decades! So I’ll be damned if Hollywood throws some schmuck into the roles just for the sake of making a little more money!

Back to my point…What really makes a person a good or bad actor? Is the fact that someone has been acting for many years enough for them to be called talented? Or how about the idea of some no-namer getting plucked from obscurity to portray a major role? I’d like to take a few minutes a go over my feelings on this subject and also get your feedback as to what you think makes a good or bad actor.

In order for a person to be a good actor, I think the first thing a person must possess is the ability to make their lines and the entire story believable and to make you feel they are not really acting at all. If the delivery of the lines comes across as stiff and one dimensional, then it pulls you out of the story and makes the movie less enjoyable to watch. My example for this would be none other than Keanu Reeves. With the exception of “Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure” and “Point Break” (both of which required him to play the beach-bum type character), every role he has he comes across as stiff and passionless. It is frustrating to watch him act due to the lack of these abilities.

Another important piece of the acting puzzle is whether or not the actor believes in the story they are trying to tell. If this doesn’t happen, the work lacks any dimension and depth, which leads back to my first point. A good actor will always take the time to find out who or what the character is. Some will even go to the level of becoming and living the part they are portraying. Johnny Depp, Gary Oldman, John Turturro and Meryl Streep are perfect examples of this. Every role they have, they embrace it and make it their own. No two characters they portray are alike, in any way.

Something very simple that is often over looked in acting is how hard an actor tries. Confused? Let me explain. A good actor doesn’t really need to try hard, it just comes naturally. A lot of actors try way too hard to be serious or funny for that matter and it just comes across as silly. A great example of this is Hayden Christensen. While attempting to portray Anakin Skywalker, he tried so hard to be bad and evil and it just did not work out that well. Forced tears and the attempts at sounding angry did not allow me to believe that he would become Darth Vador. Sad really…

Those are just some of the skills needed (in my humble opinion) to qualify a person as a good actor. I think these are the most basic at the least. I will admit, however, that whether or not you like an actor is truly up to you and we all have our own likes and dislikes. To finish things off, I’d like to include my list of some of the better actors out there, as well as those I’m not too fond of:

The Good:
Gary Oldman, John Turturro, Johnny Depp, Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks, Anthony Hopkins, Robert DeNiro, Edward Norton

The Bad:
Keanu Reeves, Nicolas Cage (granted, he’s a couple really good roles), Hayden Christensen, Orlando Bloom, Ben Affleck, Steven Seagal, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Robert Pattinson, Kirsten Dunst
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Filed Under "Fan Fic" 11/14/2009
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Superheromoviefan - 11/14/2009, 4:56 PM
l'm not agree.
Robert Pattinson hasn's play to lots of movies, so we don't know if is good or bad.It must past some time before be sure.
ecksmanfan - 11/14/2009, 5:05 PM
He's had several roles over the past couple of years and has several in the next year or so. Everything I've seen him in, he sucks pond water.

I'm always willing to give someone the benefit of the doubt. For instance, Channing Tatum. While his work as Duke in "GI Joe" was gawd-awful, he was actually pretty good in "Stop Loss." But as I stated in the article, it's all personal preference. =>
Wadey09 - 11/14/2009, 5:39 PM
one must also realize that actors are people too.
they have good days and bad days. ask christian bale.
but what i believe also plays a factor in beoming one of the greats is your committment.
granted that some like hayden christensen had committed quite a bit into the role of anakin and it still seemed forced.
but like ecksmanfan stated channing tatum was horrible in gi joe but in his opinion his performance in stop loss was good. i say in his opinion because i haven't seen stop loss yet.

but every movie i go see, i always give an actor the benefit of the doubt because sooner or later one of them might have their own AWEsome performance.
Betty - 11/14/2009, 7:09 PM
I thought this was a strange topic at first. I used to believe, as far as acting, you either are or you are not a good actor. Like everything else, it is not so black and white.

Writers have a saying, "Write what you know". I used to think that this meant one could ONLY right about things or concepts that the writer has "real" knowledge of. Now I understand this as meaning, "Fuking figure it out, man!" If you don't "know" but want to seem like you do you need to do research, research, research.

Character actors can look between the lines of this same concept and "Act what you know". Keanu was great in Bill and Ted or Point Break because his character's personality was close to home. In Dracula, every time he opened his mouth it jolted me out of the illusion of the movie. He may have spent five minutes working on his fake sounding accent but you could tell he didn't spend five seconds getting to know his character. He hasn't looked between the lines, so to speak.

And that's what great actors do. Be the part. Live the part. Have sex with the part. Eat, shit, and breath the part! Act what you know.

This practice also has a dark side, which I'm sure you're all aware of. I've heard of undercover law enforcement having the same problem. Sometimes you can reach too far trying to understand motivation and mind set. You try so hard to understand a reality, you become the reality. I've heard of actors having to go through therapy or taking extended vacations to get back to who they are, even rehab sometimes. Talk about suffering for the craft.

I think what makes a great actor is someone that spends time getting into the mindset of their own character. If they believe it, usually we'll believe it too.

Wadey09-- I try to do the same thing. I even give 'em half the movie to sell me the part sometimes.
SlaughterHouse - 11/14/2009, 9:05 PM
The muscles from Brussells a bad actor?! Blasphemy!
TheUnknown - 11/15/2009, 12:18 AM
Van Damme was pretty amazing in JCVD
lc - 11/15/2009, 11:45 AM
a good actor is justin hartley =green arrow from smallville!! FACT LOL
BubastisTheLynx - 11/15/2009, 5:21 PM
@Unknown I'm not gonna judge Van Damme, not having seen any of his movies, but playing yourself is the easiest role you can honestly play. For instance Wes Craven had a small role in Wes Cravens new Nightmare, and was surprisingly good, but guess who he played.
SlaughterHouse - 11/15/2009, 8:57 PM
And JCVD was lame to begin with. He should go back and do Kickboxer 7 lol.
Stumblin - 11/16/2009, 8:57 AM
Van Damme a good actor? Ha! His films are fun action flicks, nothing more. I hope you were joking Unknown.
MistressKizuna - 11/16/2009, 3:12 PM
I really don't agree with Robert Pattinson being on "the bad list" just because of Twilight. We really can't blame him for the way the script was written. He's over-the-top and melodramatic in those movies BECAUSE the Twilight Saga IS over-the-top and melodramatic. I saw a clip of him in "Little Ashes" and he did a pretty good job in it, as small as it was.

Good actors that I would add, personally...

Cillian Murphy, Rachel McAdams, Naomi Watts, Eva Green, Wentworth Miller, Barry Pepper, Guy Pearce, Robert Downey Jr, Liam Neeson, Daniel Day-Lewis, Tricia Helfer, Edward James Olmos, Chiwetel Ejiofer, Don Cheadle, Robert Knepper, and a lot of others.

On the bad list...

Channing Tatum, no contest. >P
ecksmanfan - 11/16/2009, 10:41 PM
I've seen Pattinson in a few other movies and am totally unimpressed. You are correct in the fact that the Twilight script was crap, but he just doesn't have it. As for Tatum, he CAN be good. Did you see "Stop Loss"? He was actually pretty good in it.
MistressKizuna - 11/17/2009, 12:14 PM
What few other movies did you see Pattinson in?

As for Channing Tatum in Stop-Loss, yeah, he was surprisingly better in it, a lot less wooden than usual, but that was because he HAD to be good. But honestly, in everything else, he's so deadpan and boring. I just can't get impressed with him.
ecksmanfan - 11/17/2009, 1:46 PM
Little Ashes, Harry Potter, The Haunted Airman. There are much worse actors out there, don't get me wrong, but I think he's one of the most over rated and over-hyped.

Out of curiosity, what do you mean Tatum HAD to be good in Stop Loss?
SupermeCool - 11/17/2009, 6:00 PM
Extremely good article; hey well done!

I am quite interested too, what do you mean when you say Channing Tatum HAD to be good in Stop Loss (HE WAS GREAT nothing else really)?

I think people forget that Channing Tatum was brilliant in A Guide To Recognizing Your Saints; even the Rolling Stone Magazine had him as this generation Marlon Brando with that performance.

If we are going to go with the teen crowd (Twilight) then Channing Tatum was fantastic in Step Up and Step Up 2. You might laugh but if it was not for his performance in Step Up, there would not be a Step Up 2 and Step Up 3D (2010), a franchise is growing and he kicked it off (you think of any Step Up movies and his name comes into the frame).

In addition, She's the Man is also cool for the audience value of a teen crowd.

Channing Tatum just does NOT get enough credit - WHY?? Agreed Pattinson is truly over-rated and over-hyped.

I cannot wait for Twilight to be finished (franchise) so he can disappear or actually prove himself.

Channing Tatum is smart enough and seems to be picking various movie projects, which is totally different and growing. Not saying his performance will always be perfect but he is heading in the right direction and the buzz on Dear John (2010) looks exciting.... Bring on the Eagle of the Ninth too....

Enough said....CHANNING TATUM IS A GOOD ACTOR (there are lots of then around) AND GETTING STRONGER with each performance!!!!
1chris2 - 11/18/2009, 1:28 PM
what makes a great actor? well, when they dive into the role, and really try and bring that character to life,when they put it all out there and put the emotions all into the character they are becoming,when they try artistic things to make the character a little more interesting like what heath did,or just look at ben foster in any film he does,or sam worthington,or even gerard butler. look at gerard butler in 300 then in the phantom of the opera.

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