ON ACTING: CAGE, DEPP, ANISTON, JOHANSSON, REEVES, BRANAGH

Here are links to some recent pieces I have written for the Telegraph website about contemporary actors and actresses. Needless to say (though clearly some Telegraph readers had problems understanding this), these are opinion pieces, and you won’t necessarily agree with them.

I am sure most of you are already aware of this, but I did not write the headlines of these pieces, so there’s no point in taking issue with me about any questions raised in them.

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NICOLAS CAGE: The Wonderfully Mad World of Nicolas Cage.

“Have you ever seen anybody do anything like this before?” asks Nicolas Cage in The Frozen Ground, a serial killer thriller based on a real-life case. Cage fans are already scouring the trailer for hints of nuttiness, but he seems to be playing it low-key, for once. We’re talking about an actor who can’t even be upstaged by special effects that turn his head into a skull on fire in Ghost Rider and Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance. This is a performer who soars so regularly over the top he is celebrated online by a compilation called Nicolas Cage Losing His Shit.

To read on, please click on the pic of Nicolas Cage wearing plastic vampire fangs.

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depp

JOHNNY DEPP: Where Did It All Go Wrong for Johnny Depp?

Is it inevitable that successful Hollywood actors become caricatures of themselves? It happened to Brando, Nicholson and De Niro. And now it’s happening to Johnny Depp.

Not long ago, Depp seemed the very model of a thinking person’s film star – a bit quirky, more like an old-fashioned rock musician than a movie star ironed flat by the PR machine. He trashed hotel rooms, got into punch-ups with paparazzi, hung out with funky chicks like Winona Ryder and Kate Moss, accrued tattoos, played guitar, and guested on The Fast Show.

To read on, please click on the pic of Johnny Depp wearing an orange fright wig.

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JENNIFER ANISTON: Can Jennifer Aniston Ever Really Lose Rachel from Friends?

It’s nearly a decade since Friends ended its 10-season run, but Jennifer Aniston is still the focus of media frenzy. Her new film, We’re the Millers, won’t upset any apple-carts – her fans will love it, detractors will hate it, and critics will continue to sneer, not least because she plays a stripper who strips all the way down to… her bra and knickers.

But for her millions of loyal fans, Aniston will always be the character she played on Friends. Rachel Green is funny but not too funny, pretty but not too pretty, sexy but not too sexy, scatterbrained but not too scatterbrained – someone who came into their homes every week for 10 years, someone they know. Their BFF! The girl next door who put on a plucky face and soldiered on when her husband dumped her for Angelina Jolie! The patron saint of jilted women everywhere.

To read on, please click on the pic of Jennifer Aniston from The Good Girl.

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Scarlett-Johansson

SCARLETT JOHANSSON: How Scarlett Johansson Got Interesting.

It’s not Scarlett Johansson’s fault that I used to hate her. Thanks to the vagaries of film distribution, there was a fateful week in 2006 when I couldn’t go near a cinema without her face looming up. Here she was as a student journalist in Woody Allen’s Scoop! There she was as a girlfriend in Brian De Palma’s The Black Dahlia! And there she was again, a magician’s assistant, in Christopher Nolan’s The Prestige!

I was sick of the sight of her, particularly as she was miscast in all three films, though in Scoop and The Black Dahlia (for which even the actress admitted she was “physically wrong”) she was far from being the only bad casting choice. But it was as though the Lords of Hollywood had decreed she was the Girl of the Moment, and thus had to play every female character that came along, whether it suited her or not.

To read on, please click on the pic of Scarlett Johansson in a brunette wig.

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keanuKEANU REEVES: Keanu Reeves, I’m Sorry I Doubted You.

Keanu Reeves, I must apologise. For years, like other film critics, I cast aspersions on your acting talent, belittled your intellect, and cracked jokes about your name, which means “cool breeze over the mountains” in Hawaiian. Only now do I realise I was foolish and misguided. The video of you giving up your seat on the New York City metro is evidence that, onscreen and off, you are awesome.

You’ll be 50 next year, but wear it so well there is now a “Keanu Reeves is a vampire” internet meme to set alongside the “Sad Keanu” one from a few years ago. But it was ever thus. Born in Beirut but brought up in Toronto, you were already in your twenties when you played a teenager in River’s Edge (1986), faced with the dilemma of whether or not to snitch on a schoolmate who murders his girlfriend.

To read on, please click on the pic of Keanu Reeves in Matrix shades.

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branaghKENNETH BRANAGH: How I Learnt to Love Kenneth Branagh.

“You think this is game, Jack?” I’m looking forward to Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, but not because of Chris Pine and Keira Knightley. I’m looking forward to it because Kenneth Branagh is playing Victor Cherevin, a villain with a foreign accent and (as per that opening quote) the occasional dropped article. Oh yes, this is game!

Branagh is also the director, having proved – with Thor – that he’s better at helming effects-heavy action pics than he ever was at directing Shakespeare, or such goosepimples on the pale posterior of British cinema as Peter’s Friends (1992), in which he gave us one of the worst drunk scenes in cinema history, culminating in the declaration, “I am an absolute dribbling asshole.”

To read on, please click on the pic of Kenneth Branagh as Reinhard Heydrich in Conspiracy.

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