One-of-a-kind Actors and Actresses younger than 40

When we think of those actors and actresses from the past, including the old folks still active today, it’s not hard to make lists of the inimitable and unique ones whose like we may never see again.

Names like …

Robert Mitchum
Clint Eastwood
Paul Newman
Bette Davis
Meryl Streep
Elizabeth Taylor

… just to mention a few.

But who among the younger crowd today has the best chance of making such a list when it’s compiled, say, ten years from now?

Check IMDb for age before listing a name, because Brad Pitt and George Clooney are already too old!

Unfortunately, Juliette Binoche (whom I adore) and Johnny Depp are already past 40.

Juliette Lewis and Leo DiCaprio are not.

I’m amazed to find that Daniel Day-Lewis and Tom Hanks are 55, and Meg Ryan is 50!

Matt Damon is already 41.

Sandra Bullock is 47.

Angelina Jolie, thank God, is only 36!

Colin Farrell is only 35.

And Daniel Craig is 44.

Sorry, I just can’t think of any others right off the top of my head. It’s kind of depressing to find that so many of the actors I considered to be “of the current generation” (i.e., under 40) are actually over the hill, so to speak… :frowning:

I’ll nominate Kate Winslet (36), who has done some amazing work. She’s turning out to be something of an Oscar darling like Streep, with 6 nominations and one win in the past 10 years or so. I agree her Titanic buddy Leo DiCaprio is a good choice as well.

Like it or not, Christian Bale belongs on that list.

I wanted to see if this topic would develop into something before mentioning an old thread on a similar subject.

Predict which child actors will make it as adult actors got 21 posts between 02-06-2006, 12:10 PM and 02-07-2006, 05:57 PM.

Judge for yourself how accurate those 21 posts were back then.

Winslet, Jolie, DiCaprio, Farrell and Bale, definitely. I’d also say:

Idris Elba (39)
Neil Patrick Harris (39)
Jude Law (39)
Gwyneth Paltrow (39)
Jim Parsons (39)
Penelope Sanchez (38)
James McAvoy (33)
Natalie Portman (30)
Emily Blunt (29)
Anne Hathaway (29)
Anna Paquin (29)
Jamie Bell (26)
Evan Rachel Wood (24)
Saoirse Ronan (18)

I was going to include Jeremy Renner, but was shocked that he’s 41. If we expanded the age range to 45 my list would be more than twice as long. (Renner, Audra McDonald, Renee Zellweger, Paul Bettany, Jennifer Connelly, Amy Poehler, Michael C. Hall, Jon Hamm, Javier Bardem, Mark Ruffalo, and so on.)

Joseph Gordon-Levitt (31)
Chloe Grace Moretz (15)
Benedict Cumberbatch (36)
Keira Knightley (27)
Christina Ricci (32)

After Heath Ledger died, a friend of mine posted a simple point: “I wanted him to be the Robert Redford of my generation, and instead, he’s the James Dean.”

I think a lot of the actors/tresses that have been listed lack that distinctiveness and inimitability that the OP was looking for. Collin Farrell and Gwyneth Paltrow have certainly turned in some great performances, but for the most part, they could be replaced by another performer without me blinking an eye. I do agree with Christian Bale, Christina Ricci, Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet. And definitely Juliette Lewis, though I haven’t seen here around much lately. The rest seem either too fresh/narrow (as in: not having portrayed a wide enough variety of roles or been around long enough to judge, though I admit it may merely be that I haven’t seen them enough). Unfortunately, I can’t think of any to add. All my ideas are over 40, as it turns out! (I’d really love to been able to add Peter Dinklage, though!)

You’ve described my attitude pretty well, tadtooornamental, since I’m from a generation that grew up admiring the Star System that was groomed and managed by the studios, even after independent films became more the norm.

The Paul Newmans and Steve McQueens were on the fading end of that system but had already built their credentials by the time studios faded in power and control over an actor’s life.

I can’t honestly look at the under-50 crowd with much hope for their longevity and old-age status. Eastwood may be the oldest hangover from that era and he has had to diversify to stay viable.

Who will even approach his clout?

Yeah, I can’t think of anybody of whom I could sincerely predict that they’ll be both very individual and an A-list star in ten or twenty years’ time. Mayyyybee Michael Cera? [tentative tentative]

Ehh . . . I think Michael Cera only stands out as an “individual” because all of his characters have been the same.

And all of the roles for “that character” have been played by him. At least in the past few years.

Rosario Dawson (33). She’s often been better than the movies she’s in.

Here’s my dream ensemble of under-40 actors:
James McAvoy
Leonardo DiCaprio
Christian Bale
Joseph Gordon-Levitt
Chloë Grace Moretz
Collin Farrell (this guy is seriously under-appreciated–one of the very best around, IMHO)
Peter Dinklage
Casey Affleck
Jessica Chastain
Seth Rogan
Paul Schneider
Carey Mulligan
Samantha Morton
Jennifer Lawrence
Michael Fassbender
Kelly Macdonald
Penelope Cruz
Amy Adams
Chris O’Dowd
Michelle Williams
Anna Kendrick
Zoe Weizenbaum She was a great child actress (see 12 and Holding). She’s 20 now, and somebody needs to start giving her some juicy roles. (12 and Holding featured several good performances by child actors. Wouldn’t be surprised if some of them blossom.)
A lot of these actors will never be iconic in the way I think the OP means, but they are, in my opinion, some of the best actors working.

Who the hell are those people? Which, I think, is your point.

Well, since Zeldar is now expanding it to actors in their forties, I figure the path of least resistance involves noting that the movie currently breaking all those records is built around a guy who keeps working the knack for self-assured sarcasm that’s been his trademark for decades: he’s got the range to rack up Oscar nominations by doing something else altogether, but always comes back to his signature audience-winning approach.

So, okay, I don’t know how much longer Tom Cruise can keep playing a good-looking action hero – but Robert Downey Jr can presumably keep deadpan snarking so long as he keeps mixing it up with other roles in between: writers aren’t going to stop coming up with great quips, and someone has to deliver 'em.

As an aside, not as a hijack, it might be informative and a bit of fun to make a list of all the actors who have been dubbed “the next James Dean” since 1955! Has to be at least 20 of them, and almost one a decade minimum. Who else has been that much of a comparator as “the next _____”?

As a further aside, we finally saw Moneyball this week and I couldn’t help seeing two faces in Brad Pitt’s: Robert Redford and Benicio Del Toro!

Despite the long list of excellent actors in my previous post, I will say that America just doesn’t seem to produce the quantity and quality of leading men we once did. These days, it seems like a lot of the best leading men are imports. Anyone have any ideas as to why? (Or am I imagining it?)

I don’t think it’s all imagined. Maybe it has to do with the willingness of so many younger American actors to get over-exposed in lightweight roles. Then there’s the seriousness with which the imports take their work. But in there somewhere is the slurpy media hype that follows American actors around. Used to be actors (both genders) had a little more privacy and respect than these people get. Maybe my memory is jaded, but I don’t remember the paparazzi hounding those older folks as much. Sure, there were scandals and misdeeds, but it wasn’t quite as in your face as Twitter, YouTube and the rumor rags make it these days.

Missed the edit window:

When I think back on the roles from the last 10 to 15 years that called for a macho leading man (playing the part of an American), well, it seems like damned few of the actors were actually American. What American in the under-40 set would you cast as a manly leading man? Because I can’t think of many. Casey Affleck? Joseph Gordon-Levitt? Not exactly classic leading men.