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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