Community Post: Great Actors As Great Authors

1. Christopher Plummer as Vladimir Nabokov

More recently Plummer played another Russian titan, Leo Tolstoy, in The Last Station, but in a lesser-known turn from this 1989 Public TV special, here he is as Nabokov, giving a lecture on Kafka’s Metamorphosis at Cornell. Heady stuff!

Memorable quote: “Curiously enough, Gregor the beetle never found out that he had wings. This is a very nice observation on my part, to be treasured all your lives.”

2. Daniel Day-Lewis as Franz Kafka

Speaking of Kafka, here he is, as embodied by a young Daniel Day-Lewis in 1986’s The Insurance Man, one of many great teleplays by British playwright Alan Bennett (directed by Richard Eyre).

Memorable quote: “I do a very good imitation of a human being.”

3. Kate Winslet and Judi Dench as Iris Murdoch

In 2001’s Iris (another one directed by Richard Eyre), Winslet and Dench share a dual portrayal of the younger and the older Murdoch, whose vibrant mind ultimately was undone by Alzheimer’s disease.

Memorable quote: “There is only one freedom of any importance whatsoever: that of the mind.”

4. Ben Whishaw as John Keats

So far, 2009’s Bright Star is the best early-21st-century movie about an early-19th-century poet ever made.

Memorable quote: “A thing of beauty is a joy forever.”

5. Philip Seymour Hoffman as Truman Capote

From 2005’s Capote, of course. (With due respect to Toby Jones, also great, in 2006’s Infamous — and to Catherine Keener and Sandra Bullock, each as Harper Lee, in Capote and Infamous respectively.)

Memorable quote: “Sometimes, when I think how good my book can be, I can hardly breathe.”

6. Meryl Streep as Susan Orlean

Streep: so lofty, yet always so human, and therefore the perfect choice to play the most approachable of New Yorker prose stylists, in 2002’s Adaptation.

Memorable quote: “Um, John? Will you go like this? ‘Mmmmmmmmmmm.’”

7. Corey Stoll as Ernest Hemingway

Before being a highlight of House of Cards, he nailed this scene-stealing literary cameo in Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris, from 2011. (With due respect to Clive Owen, also great, in Hemingway & Gellhorn.)

Memorable quote: “I believe that love that is true and real creates a respite from death; all cowardice comes from not loving or not loving well, which is the same thing. And when the man who is brave and true looks death squarely in the face, like some rhino hunters I know, or Belmonte, who’s truly brave, it is because they love with sufficient passion to push death out of their minds. Until it returns, as it does to all men. And then you must make really good love again. Think about it.”

8. Viggo Mortensen as William S. Burroughs

Speaking of cameos, here’s the one worth waiting for in 2012’s On the Road, the long-awaited movie of Jack Kerouac’s Beat Generation classic. (With due respect, of course, to Peter Weller’s thoroughly Burroughsian Bill Lee in 1991’s Naked Lunch.)

Memorable quote: “Well, young man, I do believe the cocktail hour is upon us.”

9. Jane Fonda as Lillian Hellman

With Jason Robards as Dashiell Hammet, too. In 1977’s Julia.

Memorable quote: “Ooooowww!” [Frustratedly flings typewriter through window.]

10. Nicole Kidman as Virginia Woolf

True, more than a few Woolf fans did not appreciate the view of her put across by 2002’s The Hours, adapted from Michael Cunningham’s book. But what self-respecting list of actors as authors could fail to mention it?

Memorable quote: “Did it matter then, she asked herself, walking towards Bond Street, did it matter that she must inevitably cease completely?”

11. Geoffrey Rush as the Marquis de Sade

In Quills, from 2000. You might say he had a flair for the theatrical.

Memorable quote: “Conversation, like certain portions of the anatomy, always runs more smoothly when it’s lubricated.”

12. Malcolm McDowell as H.G. Wells

In 1979’s Time After Time, in a role far removed from the cheeky thug he played in A Clockwork Orange, McDowell holds his own as a dovish Wells, confronting Jack the Ripper (David Warner, also great) for stealing his time machine and trotting off to a rather ultraviolent 20th century.

Memorable quote: “The first man to raise a fist is the man who’s run out of ideas.”

13. Colin Firth as William Shakespeare

Speaking of time travel, and of cameos, and yes, with due respect to Joseph Fiennes, also great, in Shakespeare in Love, let us here celebrate the mirth of Firth in Blackadder Back and Forth, from 1999. Wait for it.

Memorable quote: “Don’t say it, I know, you hated Two Gentlemen of Verona. This one’s much better.”

14. Emma Thompson as P.L. Travers

Stay tuned for Saving Mr. Banks, opening December 20. Because who better to portray the Mary Poppins author in stubborn negotiations with a Walt Disney played by Tom Hanks?

Memorable quote: “These books simply do not lend themselves to chirping and prancing. No. Certainly not a musical.”

15. Ralph Fiennes as Charles Dickens

In The Invisible Woman, opening in limited release this Christmas, Fiennes directs himself as Dickens and Felicity Jones as the decades-younger woman who became his mistress.

Memorable quote: “Every human creature is a profound secret and mystery to every other.”

Read more:



Leave a Reply