1. KLAUS KINSKI (1926-1991) Fighting madness itself, both Kinski and his ‘Woyzeck’ are pushed by war, society, various kinds of mental disorders and the most explosive actor-director relationship in film history. The impossible resolution is scary and unforgettable.
2. MARIA FALCONETTI (1892-1946) Could there ever be another one-time performance revealing such torment and otherworldly emotion for humanity? Does humanity deserve it? No wonder Falconetti struggled with mental illness all her life before she finally took it.
3. ISABELLE ADJANI (1955-) Free form of pure insanity and duality in a woman torn between men and worlds beyond her control. The possibilities seem endless…
4. MARIA CALLAS (1923-1977) It’s like an incarnation of her soprano and overall persona: grandeur, blood and fire. You will be branded by Medea’s last words and you will be crushed by Callas’ final expression.
5. GIAN MARIA VOLONTE (1933-1994) My all-time favorite actor and although I love him so as the poetic philosopher Giordano Bruno (1973), his darkly ironic portrayal of politician Aldo Moro in a surreal religious Big Brother utopia is one of a kind. The fact that he portrayed him again in the ‘80s after Moro’s assassination, this time with totally realistic and humane approach, speaks itself for the greatness and diversity Volontè had. His acting, for a political person like him, forever will be like a true political act: not for the political statements he was always trying to make and be distinctive and significant on his stage, but for the way he made them and how much of his own soul and blood he shed on screen.
6. GARY OLDMAN (1958-) The most tragic youth+fame+love+reality epitome by a Vicious mile. Sid’s My Way has been owned by Gary.
7. MICHAEL FASSBENDER (1977-) Physical and spiritual loss of all ego not without saintly shades and the deeply personal reasons to truly understand Bobby Sands the human and tear yourself apart. Stars were born in the face of Fassbender and McQueen, but what’s more: it’s unlikely that they both, and even cinematographer Sean Bobbitt too, will ever top a work like this.
8. ANNA MOUGLALIS (1978-) A risky experiment disguised as an occult or anatomic examination in hardcore voyeurism due to Grandrieux’s apparent ability to shoot IN his people’s psyches. In Mouglalis’ case it’s a wretched Hell touched by tenderness for which you are welcome to hope and survive.
9. DENIS LAVANT (1961-) Not until the grand finale can you fully appreciate what kind of actor Lavant is and how much he has kept inside throughout the 90 minutes.
10. DELPHINE SEYRIG (1932-1990) Extremely minimalistic acting approach shows how can an actress of such range endure playing a housewife who keeps everything to herself while doing daily routines for 200 minutes. And to what extent will her ultimate defying act be justified.
11. GENA ROWLANDS (1930-) Something similarly special, but far more artsy and alienated with reason, Antonioni did accomplish with his muse in Red Desert. Point is, only a director who shoots the woman of his life can deliver with such care and empathy how damaged her heroine is, and damaged here she truly is. Madness with love from John and Gena.
12. JOAQUIN PHOENIX (1974-) By the end you will really KNOW ‘Freddie Quell’ ((aka the refined legacy of Brando’s/De Niro’s strongest characters)) and just how mentally unable, lost and separate he is: from everything in his existence and even from Joaquin Phoenix himself. It could be the few years in his exile from films or a PTA magic spell around the spiritual and philosophical themes of the story, but in any case transformation is fully achieved.
13. RIVER PHOENIX (1970-1993) Somewhere between the generations of James Dean and Heath Ledger, and right at the peak of Kurt Cobain, River and his ‘Mike Waters’ are exactly this wasted and tired youth of all times. A flawed, vulnerable beauty filled with life and doom.
14. VINCENT GALLO (1961-) Feels so raw and private, it’s kind of beyond documentary or biography. And probably the last personal thing Gallo shared with a world which did not really see it.
15. PETER GREENE (1965-) You’ve never experienced schizophrenia the way ‘Peter Winter’ reveals it with such quiet care. He and the very important sound mixing…
16. PETER SELLERS (1925-1980) To have this kind of upper range and yet be able to give such humility and innocence with no visible effort, Chance deservedly is the role of Sellers’ life just in time before leaving it. Final curtain and applause.
17. CAROLE LAURE (1948-) The only thing that’s not shocking nor strange or funny is the fact Laure sued Makavejev for what she went through during filming. Her result on screen is now quite legendary in one of the first showcases of performance art in cinema.
18. DAVID BOWIE (1947-2016) Acting abilities aren’t necessary when you’re simply an alien playing yourself with all the outer vision and inner distance possible.
19. BJORK (1965-) Going blind and getting beaten by society and escaping from everything by singing&dancing would be the hardest and dullest reason for someone to express real character depth, but if that exact someone is multi-talented Björk it then becomes organical magic.
20. FAYE WONG (1969-) In tradition of French New wave chicks like Seberg and Karina and later ‘Amélie Poulain’, Faye Wong does best of them all despite being a singer. A lot of improvisations and unpretentious quirks add to the quickest ever performance to fall in love with.
21. HRISTO HRISTOV (1969-2008) When art equals life: story is fictional, ‘Hristo’ the character is not. A non-professional in his debut and a painter like in the movie where he struggled with addiction, unsatisfactory lovelife and unbearable social injustices, Hristov OD’d near the end of filming and never saw the finished product which quickly became an essential chapter of the new Bulgarian cinema. But his character isn’t one of a junkie; he’s a struggling artist who is losing more and more of his heart and spirit by not doing much in the wrong place for too long. The one key resolution for his legacy on screen is in discovering the will to pick up the pieces and go on & on, forever.
“Many times I remember being down in the dumps and then I saw a film that took me away for a few hours and I was completely restored. And I realized that actors make a contribution to people’s lives, giving us a gift that you can’t buy. Something that they can imbue with power and beauty and magnificence. Something beyond themselves, and we do need that. Acting is just making stuff up, but that’s okay. Life is a rehearsal. Life is an improvisation. Acting is surviving.” – Marlon BrandoRead less