Matches Made In Hollywood Heaven

Sometimes I love Hollywood. Other times I want to burn the whole thing to the ground. It is perhaps the largest single collection of arrogant, spoiled adults on the planet. But sometimes they come through with flying colors. Sometimes a movie or character comes along that just lights up the world. And I’m not so narrow minded that I can’t appreciate it when they do so.

There are those times it seems that a character was made for a particular actor or vice versa. It’s when  Hollywood manages to get a perfect match between a character and the actor who portrays it. It becomes impossible to think of the actor without thinking of the character. So here’s my list of matches made in Hollywood Heaven. Feel free to add your own in the comments.

“Nick Fury” – played by Samuel L. Jackson
In the Marvel Comics Universe, Nicholas J Fury is the Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. and responsible for the creation of The Avengers. Jackson plays the one-eyed, street-smart, lethal individual like no one else could ever hope to. He’s absolutely the perfect match for the role.
“The Terminator” – played by Arnold Schwarzenegger
OK who’s going to outdo Arnold in this role? Nobody. Lance Henrickson was originally going to play the part until Arnold auditioned for it. After that, well the rest is history.
“Warrant Officer Ellen Ripley” – played by Sigourney Weaver
Sigourney is perhaps the best “strong woman” actor in Hollywood history. She was a natural for the role of Ripley in the Alien movies. The only one who might possibly have equaled her performance is Bonnie Bedelia.
“Captain Kirk” – played by William Shatner
Shatner is a good actor but not a great one. But the role of Captain Kirk in the original Star Trek fit him like a glove. Shatner back in the day was an arrogant, self-important buffoon who thought anything he was involved in should be all about him. It’s why many of the Star Trek cast despised him. He’s mellowed over the years and largely forgiven by most for the asshole-ish-ness of his youth. But the fact remains that without him and who he was at the time, Star Trek would have fallen flat on it’s low-budget face.
“Doctor Strange” – played by Benedict Cumberbatch
He looks like the comic book character so much it’s creepy. Cumberbatch is a splendid actor, but to me he’s never distinguished himself the way he has as Dr. Strange. He plays the good doctor as being a bit arrogant and supremely self-confident. His abrasive relationship with Robert Downey’s equally arrogant “Tony Stark” character has made for some delightful comedy over the years.
“Officer John McClane” – played by Bruce Willis
Willis excels as Die Hard’s John McClane. The one-liners, the body language, his stormy on-screen relationships with Bonnie Bedelia (ex-wife) and Mary Elizabeth Winstead (estranged daughter) are at once comical and sympathetic. No one else could do it better. And oh, what a badass he was in that role. Yippee ki yay MF’er.
“Dirty Harry” Calahan – played by Clint Eastwood
This was Eastwood’s iconic role. Some will contend that the drifter he played in those spaghetti westerns defined him but I strongly disagree. Aside from “The Good The Bad and The Ugly” his early westerns were pretty much B-grade stuff. But the Dirty Harry flicks were top notch and Eastwood’s famous line became a part of the American lexicon.
“Captain America” – played by Chris Evans
Try to imagine anyone else playing this role. As a kid growing up I was not a fan of the Captain America comics. I was into Thor and Iron Man. But once the Fantastic Four fizzled and Evans was given the role of Captain Steve Rogers everything clicked into place. Evans made the righteous, old-fashioned, stars-n-stripes hero come to life. Now the torch is passed to Anthony Mackie (See what I did there?). I’ve not yet seen Mackie in the role (though I am a fan of “Falcon”). Not sure if I can get my mind around anyone besides Evans toting the shield. But I’ll try it at some point.
“Indiana Jones” and “Han Solo” – played by Harrison Ford
The role of Indiana Jones was originally offered to Tom Selleck. He’d have been a good one but he opted for Magnum PI instead. Ford was amazing as the intrepid Doctor Jones. His ability to always be perceived as the underdog, and his amazing talent for physical comedy fit the character better than anyone else could ever hope to do. But before that Ford had already become a household word as Han Solo, one of the heroes of the Star Wars saga. Could anyone have topped Ford’s performance in Star Wars? No. Hell no. He owned it like no other could have.
“Officer Martin Riggs” – played by Mel Gibson
Like Mr. Ford above, Mel’s talent for physical comedy and the way he could deliver one-liners made him a shoe-in for the character. He and Danny Glover empowered the Lethal Weapon movies to be not just successful but phenomenal. “Riggs and Murtaugh” for a time became a part of the language.
“James Bond” – played by either Sean Connery or Daniel Craig (both nailed the character)
I can’t decide which one I like better. Connery defined 007 back in the day. Roger Moore was merely adequate. Pierce Brosnan and Timothy Dalton sucked. But then Daniel Craig came along and to a degree redefined the character. At this point I don’t know who’ll be the next Bond. Personally I’d like to see Idris Elba in the role. Time will tell. And yeah I know the 007 movies are not a Hollywood franchise. But the iconic nature of the character still stands – probably larger than many of the others listed here.
“Hikaru Sulu” – played by George Takei
By far the most talented actor of the original Star Trek series. Takei appeared relaxed and confident as Mr. Sulu. The “new” Sulu in the reboot movies is a decent actor but he lacks the inertia of Takei simply because Takei played it for so long. When I think of Sulu, I think of George Takei.
“Iron Man / Tony Stark” and “Sherlock Holmes” – played by Robert Downey Jr.
OK this isn’t fair. This guy gets to be Holmes, Tony Stark, Iron Man AND he gets to sleep with Susan Downey?! Shouldn’t there be some kind of limit to how much cool shit one person can have? Well, no there shouldn’t be. He’s earned it by Being Who He Is and Doing What He Does and Overcoming What He Was some years ago. I personally admire Downey above all other actors in Hollywood with the possible exception of Denzel Washington. It’s close.
“Doctor Watson” – played by Jude Law
Law (above with Downey) was the perfect sidekick to Downey’s Holmes. The reasonable, cautious, and gentlemanly Dr. Watson could be a total badass when needed. Law’s physical talents were well-suited for this, given his athleticism and ripped physique at the time. He was the ideal Dr. Watson. Also give him an honorable mention here for his performance in “King Arthur: Legend of the Sword.” Not an iconic movie (but a good one) but Jude’s performance as Arthur’s deadly kin was admirable.
“Luke Hobbs” – played by Dwayne Johnson
Big, bad, arrogant, stubborn and deadly when needed. Rock’s time in the WWE made him the perfect candidate for the role in the Fast and Furious franchise. It’s a shame that he and Vin Diesel couldn’t resolve their issues. The franchise was better with Johnson than without him.
“Black Widow / Natasha Romanoff” – Scarlett Johansson
Talented, athletic and drop-dead gorgeous. She became a mainstay in the Marvel Comics Universe as the former KGB assassin turned superhero. From her comic manipulation of Tony Stark to her incomparable heroics in the Avengers movies, Scarlett has been amazing.
“Thor” – played by Chris Hemsworth
He looks like Thor. Talks like Thor. Kicks ass like Thor. For all practical purposes, he’s Thor. As time has gone by he appears to have fully embraced the character. At this point I don’t think anyone else could do a better job of it. He is Thor.
“Ferris Bueller” – played by Matthew Broderick
Comedic genius. I don’t know if or how much the role was adapted for Matthew. But I can’t see him in anything else without thinking of “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.” What a helluva role this was for him.
“Oddball” played by Donald Sutherland
The role of “Oddball” in Kelley’s Heroes put Sutherland on the map. It remains as his most famous role. Imagine a 60’s hippie in WWII. His comedy combined with the earnest, heroic nature of the character endeared him to millions of fans around the world. And no one on Earth before or since could have played it better. Woof Woof.

Captain Sisko and Constable Odo

“Captain Benjamin Sisko” (Deep Space Nine) played by Avery Brooks

The baddest of all the Star Trek captains. Sisko’s volcanic temper was balanced by his unfailing loyalty to the Federation and it’s stated ideals. Shatner was great, but Brooks had a gravitas not even Patrick Stewart’s Captain Picard could match. Deep Space Nine was my personal favorite of all the Star Trek franchises, and that was largely because Brooks was just so damn good in his role. The series exposed the Federation’s dark underside. The side that played dirty politics with innocent lives and violated the very inalienable rights it was expected to defend. In other words, just another government. I’ve got all seven seasons and still watch an episode or two a couple times a week.
“Constable Odo” (Deep Space Nine) played by Renee Auberjonois
Renee (above with Avery Brooks) added a distinctiveness to what might have been a ho-hum character otherwise. His dry, sarcastic (often corrosive) wit and strict adherence to the law made him a perfect security chief in what amounted to the Wild West of outer space. Not to mention the fact he was an alien shape-shifter from the far side of the galaxy.
“Robert McCall / The Equalizer” – played by Denzel Washington
I love Denzel. Every character he plays, he plays it to the hilt. But “McCall” in The Equalizer movies fits him the way Die Hard fits Bruce Willis. McCall’s humility and quiet self-confidence and loyalty to his friends are perfectly portrayed by Denzel, who might well be the most talented actor in Hollywood today.
“Laurie Strode” – played by Jamie Lee Curtis
The Queen of the Scream. Her portrayal of Laurie in the Halloween franchise has become an American icon. I’m not a big fan of horror movies. But I don’t miss a Halloween movie. Oh wait… that pair of cheap knockoffs by Rob Zombie? Those don’t count. F**k Rob Zombie. Jamie to this day remains one of Hollywood’s most distinguished and respected actors. I love her.
“Jacob McCandles (Big Jake)” played by John Wayne
I am not a fan of Western movies, and not an especially big fan of John Wayne. But Big Jake is an exception. Wayne (along with Richard Boone) are outstanding in their roles. But even with Richard Boone’s villainous character, the movie would have flopped without Wayne. Some say Wayne’s iconic role was actually that of Rooster Cogburn. And yes he was great in that role. But as Jacob McCandles he was the irresistible force against Boone’s immovable object. He owned the role like no other.
“Shirley Muldowney” (Heart Like A Wheel) – played by Bonnie Bedelia
Bonnie back then even looked a bit like Shirley Muldowney. And she played the role like she was born to it. I don’t think anyone else could have done it better than Bonnie. She mirrored the sassy, independent Muldowney like she’d known her all her life. I’m told Bonnie and Shirley actually became good friends during the filming.
“Howard” (10 Cloverfield Lane) – played by John Goodman
I love John Goodman. He’s one of the funniest guys in Hollywood. But he’s anything but funny as “Howard” in “10 Cloverfield Lane.” He was scary in a way very unlike standard movie scary. He scared you because you knew he was evil. You knew he was going to hurt you. You knew he was stone cold crazy. And you knew you couldn’t stop him. But you also needed him. You wanted to please him. Seriously. I cannot think of anyone who might have done it better than Goodman. He was a genuinely frightening character.
“Hannibal Lector” – played by Anthony Hopkins
Hopkins is among the best actors on the planet. I’ve never seen him do a bad job. But this was the role of a lifetime for him. This is the role that fit him like Kirk fit Shatner or Fury fit Jackson. “Silence of the Lambs” would have been a good movie with someone else in the role. But Hopkins made it a great movie. All he had to do to scare the shit out of you was just stand there in his cell, stare into the camera and smile. You just knew he wanted to eat you.
“Captain Jack Sparrow” played by Johnny Depp
If anyone ever owned a character, it’s Depp and Captain Jack. And yes I know that’s been recently taken from him. Apparently there will not be another “Pirates of the Caribbean.” But that does not negate the fact that no one on the Seven Seas or in the known universe could have played the role better than Depp. You cannot think of the man without thinking of the character. At least I can’t.

And now an honorable mention…
Most of you reading this won’t have a clue who Haruo Nakajima (1929 – 2017) was. But from 1954 to 1972 he was the “biggest” star in any movie, Hollywood or otherwise. He was the man in the Godzilla suit. Everyone knows Godzilla. People who’ve never watched a single monster movie still know Godzilla.

In the beginning Japan didn’t have any rubber to spare for a silly monster suit in a movie. World War II had left Japan depleted of resources just like every other nation. Some say that first suit was canvas coated in ready-mix concrete. Others say it was a special plastic. Regardless, the suit weighed 220 pounds.

I’ve been a fan of Big G since I was a little boy. Some of the movies are just awful. Others are pretty good. But there is just something about watching those big rubber feet smashing all those toy cars. The original is a classic. Aside from the original my personal favorite is “Godzilla 2000.” The American knockoffs don’t count.

He was considered by many to be the best suit actor in the long history of the Godzilla franchise. At the time, Toho’s visual effects director, Eiji Tsuburaya considered him completely invaluable, and he was employed to essay the roles of most of the kaiju (Japanese monsters) during his career as a suit actor.

Before shooting began for the first Godzilla movie, in 1954, Nakajima said he spent a week at Tokyo’s Ueno Zoo, where he studied the motion of elephants and bears. He said he threw a piece of bread at the bears to see how they moved to catch it. He also studied the heavy, ponderous gait of the elephants. “When elephants walk, they never show the bottom of their feet,” he said. When filming began, he said the original suit weighed 100 kilograms [220 pounds] and required two men to help him put it on. “How can I act in this thing?” Nakajima said he asked himself. He eventually mastered the suit, and went on to teach the other suit actors who came after him. – Wikipedia

OK those are my picks. I’d love to say that these choices are the result of much objective research but that’d be a lie. I do believe that these actors “owned” the characters they portrayed. I don’t believe anyone else could have topped their work specifically for a given character. That said, you may disagree on some or all of my choices. And I’m sure some will say I should have included this or that character / actor. That’s normal. I recently read a list in some magazine of the 100 all-time best guitar players and was baffled that John Kay wasn’t included. So yeah, anything like this is always subjective. But hey, that’s part of the fun, right? See y’all next time.

 

Author’s Note:
The images used in this post are the property of their respective copyright holders. They’re used here under the Fair Use Doctrine and no violation of copyright is intended.

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