Kong in KING KONG (2005)
I could go on about Andy's genius all day, whether it is his incredible incarnation as our beloved Golum in LORD OF THE RINGS or in his most recent stunning turn as Caesar in RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES. But in today's list of my personal favorites, I'm most in love with the life and heart he gave to Kong. Of course his spot-on physical ape-ness captured me, but he made me feel for this big ape in a way that I actually wanted him to get the girl and keep her. His eyes always emoting. I'll never forget the charm and eminent danger of the romantic, playing-on-the-ice in Central Park scene with Naomi Watts' Ann Darrow.
Count Dracula in DRACULA (1931)
With the least amount of make-up on a face in this list, Bela gave me chills in DRACULA. With just his intense eyes, he was able to project a sympathetic sinister that was ahead of it's time among most actors of his day. He could penetrate the soul with something so real, add that delicious, authentic accent to it, toss in a smooth physicality, and we had ourselves a genuine blood-sucking vampire that haunted my dreams.
Im-Ho-Tep in THE MUMMY (1932)
Of course we all think Frankenstein's Monster when Boris Karloff's name comes up. And he did make this character into a well-deserved movie icon that holds up to this day. But his portrayal of Im-Ho-Tep, the Mummy, was my first encounter with him on my family's black & white TV in the 1960's. Even though fascinated by his rickety movements when wrapped in bandages, it was his deep, haunting eyes as the modern-day Egyptian that still makes me shudder with terror. His waking up scene in the coffin was all about the eyes for me, too. He perfected subtlety, without having to push volume, and actually made his monsters sympathetic to this little boy back in Indiana.
Mr. Wink in HELLBOY II: THE GOLDEN ARMY (2008)
Brian is another one I could go on about all day, as he is the actor on this list with whom I've shared the most screen time -- 7 titles we have together. He can make the bigger creatures come alive with such personality and menace. Whether it's Sammael from HELLBOY, a Werewolf in UNDERWORLD, Harry in HARRY AND THE HENDERSONS, or one of the Predators, he always finds a unique presence for each role. My favorite is Mr. Wink from HELLBOY 2. With a threatening growl, a bit of whimsy, and 130 pounds of monster on him, Brian made it look effortless, as if he woke up as a big ogre that day and just came in to work
Gnarl in BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER (2002)
Another actor I've been blessed to share screen time with as my partner Gentleman in BUFFY's Hush episode. His Gnarl character in later "Same Time, Same Place" episode of BUFFY is what puts him on this film list with the only Television title. Camden's sing-songy, flesh-eating, poetic portrayal of this demon is enough to give me chills and giggles all at the same time. It was a tough choice between Gnarl, the Uber Vamp, or his delicious Nosferatu-looking turn as The Prince Of Lies on ANGEL's "Why We Fight" episode.
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Edward Scissorhands in EDWARD SCCISSORHANDS (1990)
Talk about a sympathetic character! Johnny Depp found a way to transform himself from TV heart throb to movie icon with this heartfelt performance. I loved watching him move those hands with a dexterity that made me believe they were really a part of him. His walk, his talk, his eyes, all conveyed a Johnny we had never seen before, and an Edward that needed a hug. This was also the start of my favorite film collaboration between a director and an actor (aside from Guillermo del Toro and me ... *ahem*), with Tim Burton knowing exactly what to do with this talent he'd found.
Erik, The Phantom in PHANTOM OF THE OPERA (1925)
Yes, "the man of a thousand faces" in the role I knew him best. A tragic character handled with such care and layers. Another childhood image stuck in my head, is when the Phantom is unveiled for the first time -- a horrific moment seeing a monster, but a monster who just wanted to find love like the rest of us. Lon knew how to use his limbs to form statuesque poses while conveying such heart and vulnerability with his eyes. Many journalists bring up Lon Chaney's name as a comparison when interviewing me, and I'm forever humbled when I say, "I don't want to sully his iconic reputation with my name in the same sentence."
Hellboy in HELLBOY 1 & 2 (2004/2008)
Ron is one of those actors who every other actor wants to work with. Including lucky me. He showed us how a monster could be a leading romantic man with his Vincent in BEAUTY AND THE BEAST TV series, but when he took on this Dark Horse comic book hero, he brought a respect for the source material, a raw manliness, a sassy sense of humor, and a teenage boy romantic vulnerability to this character that made him the only actor who could ever play Hellboy. Partnering at his right side in both HELLBOY movies is an honor I will always hold dear.
Darkness in LEGEND (1985)
Here is a classic case of a chameleon actor! When I first saw this movie in the theater, I said, "WHO was that demon guy?!", not having any clue it was the shape-shifting Tim Curry. This was such a dramatic turn for a comedic actor. And he pulled this off with strength, confidence, and underplaying just enough to prove to me that this demon had nothing to prove to me. In sharp contrast to his flamboyant Dr. Frank-N-Furter in THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW, all it takes is nod of the head, a glint in the eyes, a waft of the hands, and a well-placed laugh for Darkness to bring chills to my spine.
Max Schreck in SHADOW OF THE VAMPIRE (2000)
The premise of this movie was enough to sell me, but it was Willem's portrayal of Max Schreck that closed that sale for me. He made me believe that a real vampire could have found his way onto a film set. The posturing, the hands, the voice, the confident sense of humor, all made for a delightfully watchable character. The Academy agreed with me that year as they nominated him for Oscar's Best Supporting Actor in this role
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