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10 Great Character Actor Roles in Cinema

Historic drama is a genre of film in which the story and plot is based around
historic events and famous people.  It can be mind spelling when an actor portrays
a historic figure with direct precision.  I have composed a list of some of the best
performances in which a historic figure was portrayed.  The list is not limited to
leading characters, as many secondary roles are well deserving. 

10. The Deliberate Stranger - Mark Harmon

The Deliberate Stranger
was a two-part TV miniseries broadcasted in May of 1986 that
followed events in the life of serial killer Ted Bundy.  The film was adapted from a
book written by Seattle Times reporter Richard W. Larsen.  The movie omits Bundy’s
childhood and first known murders and starts out in the middle of his U.S. murder
spree.  Ted Bundy was still alive in prison when the film was released, but would be
executed in 1989 for multiple counts of murder.  Mark Harmon gives a chillingly
realistic view of the clean cut educated Bundy.  It is the best portrayal of Ted Bundy
ever captured in film.  Harmon is able to build and show the many different
personalities of Bundy.
 
Surviving victims have commented on Harmon’s realism in reproducing Bundy’s rigid
posture and suspicious expressions.  The film is an accurate portrayal of events, but has
changed the names of the victims and some family members.  Mark Harmon was
nominated for a Golden Globe for his work on the television special.  It can be a hard
video to find, but is a scary series.
 

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9. Catch Me If You Can - Leonardo DiCaprio


Catch Me If You Can
is a comedy-drama examining the life of Frank Abagnale Jr.  At a
very young age Abagnale became skilled at forgery and conned millions of dollars away
from the government.  He was a master of disguise and often posed as a Pan America,
World Airways pilot, a doctor, attorney, and parish prosecutor, until his eventual arrest.
The film was an international blockbuster and made $352 million on a $52 million
dollar budget.  It shows a realistic portrayal of the 1960’s and the acting is great with
Tom Hanks as Carl Hanratty and DiCaprio as Frank Abagnale Jr.
 
Catch Me If You Can w
as directed by Steven Spielberg.  DiCaprio puts together a great
performance giving the movie a serious but comedic feel.  He is great at portraying
multiple characters as Abagnale played many men in his criminal life.  DiCaprio also
depicts a great New Yorker, which is interesting as he was born in Los Angeles. 
  

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8. The Buddy Holly Story - Gary Busey


The Buddy Holly Story is a biographical film that follows the story of rock legend
Buddy Holly.  It was released in 1978 and Gary Busey landed the lead role of Holly.
The story begins with Holly as a teenager growing up in Lubbock, Texas and spans his
entire adult life until his tragic death.  It is a wonderful time piece that explores the
history of 1950’s music.  The movie won the Academy Award for Best Music, Original
Song Score, Best Adaptation Score, and Gary Busey was nominated for Best Actor in a
Leading Role.
 
Gary Busey is an eccentric American actor who was born in Goose Creek, Texas.  He is a
great character actor and some of his most widely known roles are from the films Lethal
Weapon, Point Break, The Firm, and Under Siege.  For this movie Busey assumed a
great portrayal of Buddy Holly and even looked similar in appearance.  He performed
most of the original music used in the film.  Busey was endless in studying Holly’s
musical pitch and mannerisms.  He might have won an Academy Award for his acting if
not for Jon Voight and the movie Coming Home.

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7. Schindler’s List - Ben Kingsley


Schindler’s List is a film released in 1993 that depicts certain aspects of the German
invasion of Poland and the Holocaust.  It tells the story of Oskar Schindler, a German
businessman who opened a factory during the Holocaust and saved many Polish Jewish
refugees by employing them in his business.  Schindler’s business is maintained and run
by a Jewish man named Itzhak Stern, who was played by Ben Kingsley in the film. 

The movie ended up winning seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best
Director (Spielberg).  Kingsley’s portrayal of Itzhak Stern was touching to the heart.
For the role Kingsley took himself back into the war and made himself see and feel
what millions of Jewish people felt during this time.  His creative posture, body
language, and dialog delivery gives a small glimpse into the true pain of this war.  It is
not surprising as Kingsley is one of Britain’s most acclaimed and known performers.  He
is often known for his award winning performance as
Mohandas Gandhi
in the 1982
release Gandhi, which is also clearly deserving of this list.
 

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6. Bonnie and Clyde - Warren Beatty


Bonnie and Clyde
is a 1967 crime film depicting the stories of Clyde Barrow and Bonnie
Parker.  Barrow and Parker are the legendary bank robbers who operated in the central
United States during the Great Depression.  It was a ground breaking production and
helped introduce Hollywood into the next generation of film making.  The acting was
great with Warren Beatty portraying Clyde Barrow and Faye Dunaway as Parker.  The
movie was nominated for eight Academy Awards, including a Best Actor nomination
for Beatty.  Beatty was a heart-throb in the 1960’s, but his acting reaches high levels of
intensity in this picture.  Bonnie and Clyde was a financial success and helped launch the
acting career of Beatty.

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5. Tombstone - Val Kilmer

Tombstone
is a Western movie that was released in 1993.  It was directed by and starred
Kurt Russell.  The movie is not entirely factual and is loosely based on historic
incidents that occurred in 1881-1882, including the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral.  It tells
the story of Wyatt Earp, his two brothers, and Doc Holliday as they settle in Tombstone,
Arizona.  Val Kilmer plays Doc Holliday, who is a southern gambler and expert
gunslinger seeking relief from his tuberculosis in Tombstone.  In the film he meets up
with Earp and they start a friendship. 

Kilmer’s portrayal is astounding.  An interesting fact is that Doc Holliday was noted as
being "pale and sweaty" well before reaching adulthood as the result of a rare genetic
defect.  It is a great Western movie and Kilmer spent countless hours perfecting the
swagger of Holliday.  The movie was a commercial success and earned $56 million
domestically on a $25 million budget.
 

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4. Ray - Jamie Foxx


Ray
is a 2004 drama depicting 30 years of the life of legendary blues musician Ray
Charles.  The film was independently produced and Foxx received an Academy Award
for his work.  Jamie Foxx did not use a voice over and performed all of his characters
music.  It was a fitting tribute for Charles who died the same year as the film was
released.  Ray Charles was one of the most influential musicians of all time and was
rated #10 on a recent Rolling Stone Magazine list of the 100 Greatest Artists of all
Time.  As with any great performance Foxx had to overcome the fact that Charles was
completely blind by the age of 7.  In order for an actor to train and give a performance as
great as this they must have some natural musical talent, as Foxx clearly does.  His
performance shows how special and difficult it was for Ray Charles to succeed in life. 
The accuracy of the plot is good and the music is great.  Some other notable musical
portrayals are Lou Diamond Phillips as Ritchie Valens, Gary Oldman as Sid Vicious,
and Angela Bassett as Tina Turner.
 

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3. My Left Foot - Daniel Day-Lewis


My Left Foot
is a 1989 drama recounting the life of Christy Brown, an Irishman born
with cerebral palsy, who could control only his left foot.  Christy Brown was born into
an extremely large family in Crumlin, Dublin.  From a very young age he was disabled
by cerebral palsy and was considered to be intellectually incapable of making decisions.
Brown went on to become a successful author, painter, and poet.  Daniel Day-Lewis
performance makes this film.  He is one of the best and well trained actors of the last 30
years.  The movie won five Academy Awards, including a Best Actor nod for Lewis.
Daniel Day-Lewis has many roles deserving entry on this list including his portrayal of
Bill ‘The Butcher’ Cutting in Gangs of New York.
  

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2. Malcolm X - Denzel Washington


Malcolm X
is a biographical film released in 1992 and directed by Spike Lee.  It gives
accounts of the life story of African-American activist and nationalist Malcolm X.  The
film divides his life into three sections, one looking at his troubled childhood, the
second examining his time in prison, and the third following his religious conversion as
a disciple of Elijah Muhammad.  Malcolm X was an extremely important figure in the
civil rights movement of the 1950’s and 60’s, noted for being an excellent public
speaker, minister, and human rights activist.
 
Denzel Washington’s portrayal of Malcolm X is powerful.  Washington instantly takes
to the role and displays a wide range of emotional openness in the film.  Denzel received
an Academy Award nomination, but eventually lost out to Al Pacino and Scent of a
Woman.  The entire movie had great casting.

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1. Raging Bull - Robert De Niro


Raging Bull is a 1980 film directed by Martin Scorsese.  It tells the story of Jake
LaMotta, who was a middleweight boxer whose rage, sexual jealousy, and appetite to
cross life’s boundaries helped to fuel his career.  Jake LaMotta was a world
middleweight champion who compiled a professional record of 83 wins, 19 loses, and 4
draws.  He was the first man to beat Sugar Ray Robinson.  LaMotta was fighting in the
mafia rich 1940’s and was accused of throwing fights on occasion.  This is the best
boxing movie ever made and probably De Niro’s best performance.
 
De Niro became a professional boxer for a year while working on the film, finding a way
to escape into the mental mind frame of a prize fighter.  Actors on set did not find De
Niro hospitable or friendly during the making of this masterpiece.  Raging Bull is built
around an incredible realism that is brought to life through the acting of De Niro, Joe
Pesci,
Cathy Moriarty, Frank Vincent, Nicholas Colasanto, and Mario Gallo.
  

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Copyright The List Blog - Top 10, All Right Reserved, Posted June 20, 2009