Let’s consider the career of Tom Hanks. Yes, he’s starred in more amazing movies than there’s space to name them (Forrest Gump, Philadelphia, Cast Away), but he’s also got a gaping hole in his seemingly bulletproof résumé: the action flick. Hanks has done comedy, drama, mystery, animation, and space but hasn’t killed 30 guys with fifteen bullets or fought off an army of terrorists. He’s hardly the only star to eschew the genre: action has scared off many a serious actor and deprived fans of entertainment. Here’s some others.
Couldn’t a younger Sandler have succeeded in playing a character like Mel Gibson’s Riggs in Lethal Weapon? Totally. He’s certainly got the comedic chops. After all, every action star secretly wants to be funny. (Witness the witty banter of Gibson or Bruce Willis.) Get Sandler on a workout plan, pair him with a buddy, and hook him into a movie franchise, before it’s too late.
Walken’s done virtually every kind of movie: The Deer Hunter, Wedding Crashers, The Country Bears. Yet, somehow, he’s never made a real action film. For any fan of the genre, that’s a huge disappointment. Walken’s a great actor, alluringly weird and funny, even when he isn’t telling jokes. Perfect qualifications for becoming an action star.
Day-Lewis has been in nine movies in the last two decades, most of which were highbrow, so it shouldn’t surprise anyone that he’s eschewed action thus far. But as the outrageous Bill the Butcher, in Gangs of New York, Day-Lewis showed he could be a great villain. Imagine him as a Die Hard-type bad guy, stroking a beard and detailing his nefarious schemes in an absurd accent.
DiCaprio has landed tantalizingly close to the genre, with The Departed and Blood Diamond, both of which contained a fair share of guns and fighting. His Departed co-star, Matt Damon, did it with the Bourne franchise. Would anyone think less of DiCaprio if his next project were about a suave spy with a penchant for explosives and beautiful woman? On the contrary.
If you’ve never thought of Streep as a potential action star, you’re probably not alone. But think outside the box: is it really that hard to picture her setting aside her reading spectacles and picking up a weapon? Her villainous turn in The Devil Wears Prada hinted at much action potential.
The shortage of black action stars is pretty appalling. Short of Denzel Washington and Will Smith, there isn’t a single black guy who regularly stars in big-budget action flicks. The best candidate? Mos Def, who more than held his own in 16 Blocks and The Italian Job. Somebody should hand the guy a gun (or three) and see if he can save the world, or at least a small American city.
Portman has all the tools: the acting chops, the beauty, and the fanboy love (thanks to her role in the Star Wars prequels). Actresses like Scarlett Johansson (Iron Man 2) are getting into the action mix, so why not Portman? The next time a big superheroine role opens up, someone needs to call on her. (Wonder Woman, anyone?)
How has Hanks starred in roughly 5,000 great movies, while the closest he’s ever come to real action is in one of his worst, The Da Vinci Code? Contemporaries of far lesser skill (John Travolta) and physical stature (Tom Cruise) have gotten into the game with success. In what kind of world do Michael Keaton and Val Kilmer get to play Batman, but Hanks, who’s been acting for two decades, hasn’t caused a single explosion?