From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
An actor or actress is a person who acts, or plays a role, in a dramatic production. The term commonly refers to someone working in movies, television, live theatre, or radio, and can occasionally denote a street entertainer. Besides playing dramatic roles, actors may also sing or work only on radio or as a voice artist.
An actor usually plays a fictional character. In the case of a true story (or a fictional story that portrays real people) an actor may play a real person (or a fictional version of the same). Occasionally, actors appear as themselves, as in John Malkovich's performance in the film Being John Malkovich.
Definition and history of acting
Acting is the work of an actor or actress, which is a person in theatre, television, film, or any other storytelling medium who tells the story by portraying a character and, usually, speaking or singing the written text or play.
One of the first actors is believed to be an ancient Greek called Thespis of Icaria. An apocryphal story says that Thespis stepped out of the dithyrambic chorus and spoke to them as a separate character. Before Thespis, the chorus narrated (for example, "Dionysus did this, Dionysus said that"). When Thespis stepped out from the chorus, he spoke as if he was the character (for example, "I am Dionysus. I did this"). From Thespis' name derives the word thespian.
Acting requires a wide range of skills, including vocal projection, clarity of speech, physical expressivity, emotional facility, a well-developed imagination, and the ability to interpret drama. Acting also often demands an ability to employ dialects, accents and body language, improvisation, observation and emulation, mime, and stage combat. Many actors train at length in special programs or colleges to develop these skills, and today the vast majority of professional actors have undergone extensive training. Even though one actor may have years of training, they always strive for more lessons; the cinematic and theatrical world is always changing and because of this, the actor must stay as up to date as possible. Actors and actresses will often have many instructors and teachers for a full range of training involving, but not limited to, singing, scene-work, monologue techniques, audition techniques and partner work.
The first recorded case of an actor performing took place in 534 BC (though the changes in calendar over the years make it hard to determine exactly) when the Greek performer Thespis stepped on to the stage at the Theatre Dionysus and became the first known person to speak words as a character in a play or story. Prior to Thespis' act, stories were only known to be told in song and dance and in third person narrative. In honour of Thespis, actors are commonly called Thespians. Theatrical legend to this day maintains that Thespis exists as a mischievous spirit, and disasters in the theatre are sometimes blamed on his ghostly intervention.
Actors were traditionally not people of high status, and in the Early Middle Ages travelling acting troupes were often viewed with distrust. In many parts of Europe, actors could not even receive a Christian burial, and traditional beliefs of the region and time period held that this left any actor forever condemned. However, this negative perception was largely reversed in the 19th and 20th centuries as acting has become an honoured and popular profession and art.
List of leading ladies
Leading lady is a term often applied to the leading actress in the performance if her character is the protagonist. It is also an informal term for the actress who plays a secondary lead, usually a love interest, to the leading actor in a film or play.
A leading lady can also be an actress of renown. For example, Lynn Fontanne and Helen Hayes were both referred to as the "leading lady of the theatre" in their time. Similarly, Mary Pickford was called the "leading lady" of the cinema.
The term has been applied to an actress who is often associated with one particular actor. For example, Olivia de Havilland was Errol Flynn's leading lady in several films, Katharine Hepburn had a similar association with Spencer Tracy, Lauren Bacall with Humphrey Bogart, and Maureen O'Hara with John Wayne. A leading lady is also an actress who is typecast in romantic supporting roles.
The term can also be used collectively; for example, the phrase "Hollywood's leading ladies" can be used to refer to a group of notable, famous, or popular actresses.
Modern day leading ladies include: Amy Adams, Jennifer Aniston, Cate Blanchett, Emily Blunt, Sandra Bullock, Glenn Close, Olivia Colman, Marion Cotillard, Penélope Cruz, Jamie Lee Curtis, Judi Dench, Octavia Spencer, Taraji P. Henson, Amy Poehler, Angela Bassett, Viola Davis, Julia Louis-Dreyfuss, Sarah Paulson, Mary Steenburgen, Cameron Diaz, Jane Fonda, Jodie Foster, Gal Gadot, Anne Hathaway, Isabelle Huppert, Kate Hudson, Scarlett Johansson, Angelina Jolie, Diane Keaton, Jessica Lange, Brie Larson, Nicole Kidman, Jennifer Lawrence, Frances McDormand, Melissa McCarthy, Shirley MacLaine, Bette Midler, Helen Mirren, Julianne Moore, Michelle Pfeiffer, Meg Ryan, Natalie Portman, Candice Bergen, Jennifer Tilly, Annette Bening, Margot Robbie, Julia Roberts, Saoirse Ronan, Gwyneth Paltrow, Susan Sarandon, Emma Stone, Elle Fanning, Hailee Steinfeld, Anya Taylor-Joy, Meryl Streep, Kristen Stewart, Charlize Theron, Alicia Vikander, Kate Winslet, Reese Witherspoon, and Renée Zellweger.Template:Cn
Minnie Mouse, an anthropomorphic animated character, has been the most notable and most successful cartoon leading lady for The Walt Disney Company over the generations, who mostly portrays the secondary lead roles to her respective boyfriend and the company's mascot Mickey Mouse.
List of leading men
Leading men of the silent era included Francis X Bushman, Douglas Fairbanks, Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, Harold Lloyd, Ramon Novarro, John Barrymore, John Gilbert, Wallace Beery, Conrad Nagel, Conrad Veidt, Rudolph Valentino, Sessue Hayakawa and Henry B. Walthall.
Leading men of the 1930s included Clark Gable, Ronald Colman, Maurice Chevalier, Warren William, Robert Young, William Powell, Fredric March, Paul Muni, Gary Cooper, George Raft, Edward G. Robinson, Cary Grant, Spencer Tracy, Henry Fonda, Robert Montgomery, Bing Crosby, Fred MacMurray, James Cagney, Errol Flynn, John Wayne, Burgess Meredith, George Brent, Robert Taylor and Charles Boyer. Glenn Ford
In the 1940s, leading men included James Stewart, Humphrey Bogart, George Sanders, Tyrone Power, Joel McCrea, Ray Milland, Ronald Reagan, Bing Crosby, Bob Hope, Dana Andrews, Joseph Cotten, Gregory Peck, William Holden, Burt Lancaster, Victor Mature, Laurence Olivier and Robert Mitchum, Glenn Ford.
The 1950s included Marlon Brando, Farley Granger, Charlton Heston, Robert Mitchum, Michael Rennie, Gene Kelly, Montgomery Clift, Rock Hudson, Tony Curtis, Norman Lloyd, Ricardo Montalban, Jeff Chandler, Yul Brynner, James Dean, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Jerry Lewis, Jack Lemmon and Paul Newman.
The 1960s included Steve McQueen, James Garner, Sidney Poitier, Clint Eastwood, Dustin Hoffman, Jon Voight, Rex Harrison, Robert Redford, Keir Dullea, Kirk Douglas, Lee Marvin, Jerry Lewis, Dick Van Dyke and Sean Connery.
The 1970s included Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Roger Moore, Jack Nicholson, James Caan, John Travolta, Gene Hackman, Gene Wilder, George Segal, Martin Sheen, Burt Reynolds, Woody Allen, Sylvester Stallone, Bruce Lee and Chuck Norris.
The 1990s included Johnny Depp, Bruce Willis, Keanu Reeves, Nicolas Cage, George Clooney, Val Kilmer, Leonardo DiCaprio, Robin Williams, Brad Pitt, Hugh Grant, Will Smith, Denzel Washington and Jim Carrey.
Some examples of modern-day leading men include Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, Russell Crowe, Bradley Cooper, Robert Downey Jr., Christian Bale, Mark Wahlberg, Will Ferrell, Daniel Craig, Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart, Simon Pegg, Chris Pratt, Chris Hemsworth, Chris Evans, Hugh Jackman, Ryan Gosling and Ryan Reynolds.
- Bit part
- Body double
- Cameo appearance
- Character actor
- Child actor
- Drama school
- Dramatis personæ
- Extra (actor)
- Facial expression
- Improvisational theatre
- Matinee idol
- Method acting
- Paradox of the Actor by Denis Diderot
- Pornographic actor
- Sex symbol
- Star system (filmmaking)
- Stunt work
- Supporting actor
- Voice actor