If an actor's entire career had to be reduced to one role...

…what role would summarize all the qualities that actor (male or female) has brought to her or his many efforts?

A few to get it started:

Gary Cooper: High Noon
Robert DeNiro: Raging Bull
Elizabeth Taylor: A Place in the Sun
Jodie Foster: Silence of the Lambs

Not what you’re looking for, but
Duncan “Dean” Parkin – Cyclops

His entire on-screen career consisted of playing giant one-eyed mutants in Bert I. Gordon movies. Kinda a niche actor

Boris Karloff: Frankenstein’s Monster

Lon Chaney Sr.: The Phantom of the Opera

Charlton Heston: Moses

Bela Lugosi: Dracula

Lon Chaney Jr.: Larry Talbot

Anthony Hopkins: Hannibal Lecter

Now, here’s a puzzler- Gary Oldman?

Arnold Schwarzenegger: The Terminator.

John Wayne: Ethan Edwards.

How true. I’d nominate his roles in The Professional and True Romance but when your talent and skills are as diverse as his, one role is going to be hard to find.

Others in that category:

Meryl Streep
Gene Hackman
Judi Dench
Tommy Lee Jones
Robert Duvall
Glenn Close
Lee J. Cobb
Bette Davis

I’d add Anthony Hopkins to that list.

I’d add Robin Williams and Jack Nicholson

No way, IMO. Hopkins is always going to be Hannibal the cannibal.

As much as Jack has shown his range in a wide assortment of roles, I believe One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest displays his talents as well as any single role.

I tend to agree on Robin.

And Brando.

I started to have him on the list in the OP but couldn’t decide if Don Vito or Stanley Kowalski was the more definitive role. I do think it would have to be one of the two, though. He did some real sloppy work in any number of movies.

Can you name another standout performance he did? Marc Antony maybe? The Wild One? Zapata? Fletcher Christian?

Keanu Reeves: Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure

For Lee J. Cobb I’m torn between the obnoxious juror in Twelve Angry Men and the detective in The Exorcist. I can’t believe that he’s been dead now for over thirty years, I guess that’s the thing about actors, it always feels as if they’re still with us.

It’s difficult to choose with Pacino too. Dog Day Afternoon? Scarface? The Godfather? All of those three are etched in my memory.

Jim Carrey: The Mask

Cobb’s Johnny Friendly in On The Waterfront needs mentioning, too.

I’m with Pacino a lot like Nicholson: lots of range, but hard to top his GF1 performance. As much as I love …And Justice For All it’s just another of his screaming roles. Name one that isn’t, if you can.

Let’s don’t limit this to older established actors. Can you pick one role for any of these folks:

Johnny Depp
Russell Crowe
Leonardo DiCaprio
Ethan Hawke
Samuel L. Jackson
Uma Thurman
Halle Berry
Gwyneth Paltrow
Angelina Jolie
Anna Pacquin
Natalie Portman

Sky Masterson. swoon

And Terry Malloy, of course.

I’ll give you Terry, but will refrain from the swoon part. I have read that Sinatra never had a kind word for Brando after he got the Sky role that Frank wanted. Frank withheld kind words from lots of stars, though, so Brando isn’t alone there.

Yeah, Frank Sinatra thinking you’re an asshole … this is bad, why?

Clint Eastwood will always be Harry Callahan to me. :slight_smile: