This topic is interesting, it reminds me of something my teacher said in a class I'm taking, that there are essentially two types of actors: personality actors and character actors. Personality actors have a certain persona that they play in most or all of their films, whereas character actors transform themselves to suit the character. Some obvious personality actors are John Wayne, Marilyn Monroe, Jim Carrey, and Jack Nicholson. Some good examples of character actors are Dustin Hoffman, Meryl Streep, and Johnny Depp.
I noticed that almost everyone mentioned as a bad actor falls very squarely in the personality category. However, personality actors can be just as talented and convincing as character actors, though they may lack the range (or are forcibly typecast).
Anyway, just an observation. I agree that quite a few of the actors you guys mentioned suck. ;D
I don't know that I'd class Jack Nicholson as a personality actor, though. I think his range is much broader.
He has taken it down a notch in movies like About Schmidt, but he tends to do larger-than-life rather than life-size roles.
Personality actors often have roles created or altered just for them. For example, Jack Torrance in the novel The Shining was a somewhat normal guy who went crazy, but resisted the evil influence of the house as long as he could. In Jack Nicholson's hands, Torrance seemed like a stark raving lunatic who couldn't wait to shed his inhibitions and start axe-ing people.
Not to say that he isn't very talented; he is. He's just not one to blend into a character so that you forget you're watching Jack Nicholson.
Has anyone mentioned Kevin Costner yet? Definitely a personality actor... but with no personality!
And with a face to match!
I agree that Jack Nicholson has done some unforgivably over the top roles, The Shining definitely being one of them. As it happened, I'd just finished reading the book when the movie came out. The book rather sensitively delineates the character's increasing madness. The movie made him a full-bore asshole right from the beginning, so totally an unsympathetic character. One of my favorite scenes is Shelly Duval wandering the hotel halls, which at that point in the movie are of full of crawling rotting corpses & other disconcerting sights. She's nicely made up & tidily turned out -- even wearing a perky scarf around her neck. The movie also taught us that abject evil looks like a swarm of bees.
But I digress ...... One problem with Nicholson & other well-known stars who've walked their way through cinematic schlock is that it obscures their talent in our memories. Another problem is their very celebrity, making it hard for us to simply focus on the role & forget who's playing it. I know I've enjoyed certain movies more than others simply because I wasn't familiar with the actors in them.
I wish I could find the clip of the soliloquy by Nicholson in this movie, but this one will have to do:
Along these same lines I have given serious thought about Diane Keaton. Doesn't she seem to be more of a personality actor? Granted,she got pigeon holed so to speak, working under Woody Allen all those years,and then I think of her role in the aforementioned Reds,(which I thought she did an excellent job)and now I'm dithering about this. I love some of her work,but then there are times when she seems to do the same thing over and over with little or no affect,just the same expression,not too much range. There was a movie,somewhat obscure,Shoot the Moon which also starred Albert Finney (whom I adore) in which I loved her performance. It was one of the few movies aside from Reds where I thought she really demonstrated some range.
Not someone so major that anyone spends any time thinking about her, but Adrienne Barbeau. I've finally started watching the 2003 series CarnivÃ le, in which she has a role. I never liked her in Maude & I don't care for her now, simply because she's such a wooden actress. She does have an enormous bosom, which may have helped in her career.
Has anyone mentioned Val Kilmer?? I viewed for the 2nd time( out of boredom I have to admit....) Oliver Stone's film of THE DOORS in which Kilmer portrays Jim Morrison and Meg Ryan his muse/wife/whatever. What an awful movie, aside from the fact that I simply adored the Doors Music, well, in particular, their first album was transformational for me.
You deliberately watched a movie with Val Kilmer AND Meg Ryan?!
Were you doing penance for something?
Admittedly, it was a weak moment. I don't know what I was thinking....
As an aside, perhaps Kerouac knows the answer to this. How was Jim Morrison afforded burial space in the cemetery he was. I always thought it curious that he is buried in the same place as Chopin and other famous artists.
Jim Morrison's burial was organized by his friend Alain Ronay, who ignored his last wishes of being cremated and having his ashes scattered at Venice Beach in California. Several sites in Père Lachaise were proposed, including one right next to Oscar Wilde when the cemetery person learned that Jim Morrison was also a poet. But Ronay felt that it was inappropriate and took an available tomb in the old section of the cemetery. Only 5 people attended his funeral.
That's because she has no personality whatsoever. They just use her for the role of "generic female" and yet she starred in The Help, Zero Dark Thirty, Interstellar, Miss Julie, The Tree of Life, etc. (Actually, she was almost interesting in Miss Julie.)