4. Edward Norton
With films like Fight Club, The Italian Job, American History X, Moonrise Kingdom, 25th Hour, and even Birdman, to his credit, one wonders why Edward Norton doesn’t quite receive the same applause as his peers. By his peers, I’m talking DiCaprio, Damon, Hanks, Pitt— the big guys. They’ve all starred in Oscar-winning movies, all worked with A-list directors, and are all incredibly talented.
It’s no news that Norton has been a rare face on our screens the last couple of years. This could be attributed to his terrible attitude on set. It’s pretty widely known that the actor is extremely hard to work with, notorious for redoing, rewriting and outrightly rejecting scripts. This has gone so far that Norton may have burned too many bridges at this point.
In American History X, Norton and director, Tony Kaye butted heads over Norton’s character, with Norton questioning the entirety of the character. After that challenge was supposedly surmounted, and it got to editing, Norton rejected a 95-minute cut that Kaye had created and opted to create a cut of his own, which was eventually accepted.
Norton tried to pull this off again on the set of Silence of the Lambs when he showed up with fresh script pages that he had taken upon himself to write, demanding that director, Brett Ratner, shoot them.
Similarly, with Incredible Hulk, Norton, accepting the role of Bruce Banner on the condition that any changes he made to the script would make it to the final cut, had a completely different direction of the titular character, aiming for a darker version—more like the Batman Trilogy. This led Marvel Studios to part ways with the actor and cast Mark Ruffalo in his place (which turned out to be an excellent choice).
(An art imitating life situation, in Birdman, Norton played an egocentric actor that no one wanted to work with).
Flowing from this series of events, it’s no surprise that directors are less inclined to opt for Norton. It may appear, however, that the actor shares a similar sentiment. In a 2015 interview with Independent, Norton stated that he’s now more selective of his roles, saying “I’ve…gotten more willing to wait for things that feel really strong as an attempt to make an original piece, or are expressing something that is really unique, or [are from] a filmmaker that I really admire like Wes Anderson, or Alejandro Inarritu or Spike Lee.”
It’s safe to assume Norton will not be gracing our screens with the same consistency that he did back in the day, anytime soon.
3. Jonah Hill
I say it without reservation when I say that Jonah Hill is a brilliant actor, and where conversations are being had about range, his name needs to be brought in more often.
Hill’s first leading role was in 2007 where he played Seth in Judd Apatow’s raunchy comedy, Superbad, for which he garnered multiple positive reviews for his performance. From there, Hill went on to star in Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Get Him to the Greek, Moneyball, 21 Jump Street (and sequel, 22 Jump Street), The Wolf of Wall Street, Hail Caesar!, War Dogs, and more recently, Maniac.
Moneyball (directed by Bennet Miller) was where audiences got to see Hill step away from the quirky, offbeat comedies that had previously underlined his career, and take on a more challenging role. Based on a true story, Moneyball tells the story of Oakland Athletics manager, Billy Beane (Brad Pitt) who attempts to build a baseball team based off statistics. Halfway through the film, he meets Peter Brand (Jonah Hill), a young Yale graduate of Economics, who has come up with a way to pick players based on the statistical probability of wins. Moneyball received high praise for its “intelligence and depth”, with Hill’s performance described by critics as fascinating. Moneyball went on to gross $19.5 million dollars in its opening weekend, and a subsequent worldwide total over $110 million. It received 6 Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture, and Best Supporting Actor for Hill which he lost to Christopher Plummer.
Two years later, in 2014, Hill received another Best Supporting Actor nomination at the 2014 Academy Awards, for his role as Donnie Azoff in Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street.
With all of this recognition, it could be argued that Hill is well on his way to achieving superstardom, except that he’s been “on his way” for the last ten years. Despite the success of his films and acknowledgment of his immense talent, why does Hill still feel like an actor with potential. Why is Channing Tatum whose talent in no way matches Hill’s considered a perhaps more established actor? The answer is simple. Hill is widely known for his supporting roles and is hardly the leading man. Playing the lead in the same film as Brad Pitt or Leonard DiCaprio is nearly impossible, granted, however, neither DiCaprio nor Pitt got to where they are today by sitting comfortably in the backseat.
However, in a move that promises to see audiences take Hill more seriously, Hill appears to be pushing aside less serious roles in favour of more challenging ones, on and off screen.
In 2018, Hill starred in Netflix miniseries, Maniac, where he played the leading role, alongside his Superbad co-star Emma Stone. That same year, in his directorial debut, Hill released the coming-of-age drama, Mid90s, which met critical acclaim.
In a 2019 interview with Variety, Hill expressed his desire to step away from “bro comedies” saying, “I love those films, but I also think that if you look back at those films, a lot of what they’re showing is major bro comedy, and bro masculinity. It’s not like a responsibility. It’s where my heart is and what I want to make. But at the same time, I’m learning I’ve got to unlearn a lot of stuff, and maybe some of the people that liked Superbad will come with me on that journey.”
Hill will also be starring in Netflix political satire, Don’t Look Up alongside an ensemble cast (Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Lawrence, Cate Blanchett, Meryl Streep, Timothée Chalamet and more), set for a 2021 release.
2. Caleb Landry Jones
You probably know the face but not the name. If you’ve seen Get Out or Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, you would be familiar with Caleb Landry Jones (oh yeah…that guy) but Jones’ breakthrough was in X-Men: First Class, where he played Banshee.
In 2017, Jones played Jeremy Armitage, the creepy, twisted brother of Rose Armitage (Allison Williams), in Peele’s Academy Award Winning horror film, Get Out, for which he received a Screen Actors Guild Award nomination for Outstanding Performance by a Cast. The same year, Jones played the local advertising man, Red Welby (yes, the guy who was thrown out the window) in another Academy Award Winning film, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, and again, was nominated for a Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast.
Although Jones’ filmography is far from expansive, his talent is evident in the few roles for which he’s been cast, and this can only become more glaring and acknowledged if he graces our screens more often. With actors like Jones, agencies must work extra hard in scouting directors like J.J Abrams, who are known for taking a chance with relatively small actors. We’ve seen situations where bang average actors come from obscurity and are cast in four leading roles in three years (coughs…Noah Centineo…). Television also seems like a great place to start. Actors like George Clooney, Jared Leto, James Franco, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, all started out at from the small screen, most of them at much younger ages, and that notwithstanding, small screen stardom is a pretty comfortable space to be in.
At 31, a relatively young age, it’s safe to say Jones still has his whole career ahead of him.
1. James McAvoy
James McAvoy’s lack of recognition is abominable to say the least.
The major problem is people simply do not talk about James McAvoy enough. Or at all. Except in conversations like these.
The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, Academy Award-winning The Last King of Scotland, Atonement, (which earned him a Golden Globe nomination), X-Men (First Class, Days of Future Past and Apocalypse), and more recently, in HBO fantasy, His Dark Materials, are some of the notable performances from the Scottish born actor, but M. Night Shyamalan’s Split was where McAvoy displayed his range performing what has been described as Acting Olympics by playing 23 different personalities. The split went on to make over $40 million in its opening weekend in North America (more than four times its budget), despite projections that it would open at $20-$25 million. The film made a worldwide gross of upward of $278 million, making it the most profitable film of 2017. Despite this, McAvoy to the surprise of many didn’t receive an Oscar nod for his performance.
I’m well aware that movies like Split hardly get recognized by the Oscars simply because they lack depth. However, McAvoy deserved a nomination singularly for his performance. We’ve seen it time and again at the Academy Awards—Best Actor nominations for films not nominated in the Best Picture category. Morgan Freeman getting nominated for Invictus back in 2010, Gary Oldman with Tinker Taylor Soldier Spy in 2012.
From his journey from the small screen—playing Steve McBride in Shameless (UK), to film, and back to the small screen, James McAvoy is a star in anything he appears in, and has basked in box office success. Speaking on how he prepares for a role with Sharp Magazine, McAvoy said, “Being ready doesn’t mean like, my soul is affixed because I’ve spent three months sitting on a fucking mountainside contemplating the character you know? Being ready means do I know how he walks? Do I know how he talks? Do I know what he wears? Do I know what his worldview is? That’s it. That’s preparing.” He also stated that he doesn’t bother researching his characters, saying “If it’s not clear from the story what I should be doing, then the scene’s not good enough…the story itself works or it doesn’t.” One may consider McAvoy a natural talent of sorts, performing astoundingly without necessarily trying to hard. Yet, this hasn’t quite translated to his recognition and respect.
At this point, it’s nearly impossible for me to rationally deduce what McAvoy has to do to get some attention. We really just have to keep our fingers crossed on this.