Ugly Ducklings: Actors Whose Craft Has Improved

I have never been a fan of Ben Affleck. His solo scene in Good Will Hunting in which his character (Chuckie Sullivan) realizes that Matt Damon’s character (Will Hunting) has indeed left for California is awful. However, in Argo, his acting was much better.

This topic is not about the Jack Nicholsons, Robert Duvalls, and Michael Caines of the cinema world who started off as gifted actors who’ve achieved greatness. It’s more about the Paul Newmans who initially got by with looks (like Redford), but improved exponentially with experience (unlike Redford). Nor is it about the Harrison Fords who started out mediocre and never got much better.

Which actors, in your opinion, have shown tremendous growth after a less than auspicious start? How does this happen? Which early performance(s) left you underwhelmed? Why? Which later performance(s) convinced you of their improvement? Why?

One challenge of this topic is communicating the actor’s progression beyond, "Pauline Kael says…" But hey, that’s a start.

  • Is this topic just concerning actors who got parts based on attractiveness (rather than talent), but improved with more acting experience (hence the irony of the "ugly ducklings" title)? If so, then it sounds like an interesting topic since it narrows down the scope from the many actors one can think of. Since it can be such a subjective response, what criteria should one give for how well certain actors performed? – aprosaicpintofpisces 8 years ago
  • It's about any actor, attractive or not, whose craft has improved. The last paragraph alludes to the difficulty of the topic. – Tigey 8 years ago
  • aprosaiintofpisces, how would we know whether if someone were hired for looks alone? Also, what other criteria are you alluding to? If you have something specific, please let me know. – Tigey 8 years ago
  • I agree, TKing. I don’t think we’d ever know that for sure, but there are definitely people whose careers have begun and continued despite an obvious lack of talent. There have been models, singers, or individuals who were simply related to already-established actors. For example, there was that controversy at the Golden Globes about Lady Gaga winning for “Best Actress.” I’ve never watched American Horror Story so I can’t give my own opinion about her performance, but the incident did stir up controversy about whether she won simply because she’s Lady Gaga. Some have succeeded despite a rough start while others haven’t gained much talent despite continued acting careers. I was just talking about actors’ attractiveness as a suggestion since you happened to mention it offhandedly. It could focus on just about anything else that led them into having continued acting careers despite evidence to the contrary. I was only asking for more specificity regarding the types of actors we’re examining. – aprosaicpintofpisces 8 years ago
  • I meant to say, "I agree, Tigey." I apologize for mixing up usernames. – aprosaicpintofpisces 8 years ago
  • Paulie Shore's mom owns (or owned) a Comedy Store, so he got as much stage time as he wanted. My dad's funeral was funnier than Paulie Shore on his best day. Then there are the awards that are do-overs. Christopher Paul Curtis wrote a beautiful adolescent book, The Watsons Go to Birmingham, the Newberry Award panel goofs, gives the award to a lesser work, then realizes its mistake and "makes up" for it by awarding him the Newberry for Bud, Not Buddy, a good book, but not as good as The Watsons. Likewise, Bob Dylan got a Grammy for Serve Somebody, but nothing for Blood on the Tracks, Like a Rolling Stone or (cue up the angelic choir) Blonde on Blonde. Surely we see through a glass darkly. Don't worry about the name thing. A rosy Tigey burning brightly by another name is just as Swede. – Tigey 8 years ago
  • Multiple articles could be spun from this topic to include more diverse nationalities and industries. Can new kids who get breaks into movies solely on the basis of nepotism learn quickly on the job and become versatile actors crafting special niches for themselves? Illustrate for and against the thesis statement with comprehensive examples. – Dr. Vishnu Unnithan 4 years ago

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