Share this article

print logo

PICK OF THE CROP: 30 ACTORS CHOOSE THEIR FAVORITE ROLES

We asked 30 actors to pick out the one gem of a movie role in their entire oeuvre they cherish most. And if you think Jim Carrey picked "Liar, Liar" or Lauren Bacall said "The Mirror Has Two Faces," you're in for a surprise.

Jim Carrey: "Maybe my best role will be Truman Burbank in 'The Truman Show.' I play a guy who doesn't know he lives in a TV show. My favorite actors were guys like Jimmy Stewart, and this is the kind of role where you can laugh like hell at the guy one minute and care so much about him the next that he can make you cry."

Daniel Day-Lewis: "I thought the role of John Proctor in 'The Crucible' was one of the best I've ever done. There was something so startlingly clear about what he was going through. And the language that Arthur Miller wrote was so powerful and endlessly beautiful."

Elisabeth Shue: "Playing Sera in 'Leaving Las Vegas' was a milestone in my life and a very intimate experience."

Julia Ormond: "Playing Caroline in 'Traffik,' an English miniseries about heroin, was a terrific experience. People still come up to me and say, 'Weren't you in "Traffik"? My cousin is a heroin user, and when I saw it with my family, we got talking.' Maybe it's because it's made a difference for people or maybe it's because it's my first role, but it's very close to me."

Drew Barrymore: "There will always be a little space in my heart for Gertie in 'E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial' because Steven Spielberg was so wonderful. More recently, I got butterflies playing Skylar in Woody Allen's 'Everyone Says I Love You.' I played this Sandra Dee/Breck girl who wears felt sweaters, pleated skirts and knee-high stockings."

Antonio Banderas: "Maybe it would be Che in 'Evita.' It was a big role and a dream of mine. (My career) started at the bottom. And I went little by little. I never had, boom! I never had the kind of movie where someone said: 'This is it! You are going to be remembered always because of that movie.' But I felt people would remember this role, because it was so important to me."

Fran Drescher: "I just love my first movie role, which was in 'Saturday Night Fever.' John Travolta and I were on that lighted disco dance floor, and honey, he was holding me tight and twirling me. I'm blushing now just thinking about it. My first words to him on screen were, 'Are you as good in bed as you are on the dance floor?' Then for some insane reason I decided to grab his tushy, which wasn't in the script. He could have fired me on the spot for doing it, and today you'd get sued for it, but John just smiled."

Cuba Gooding Jr.: "What do you think? Rod Tidwell in 'Jerry Maguire,' man. The whole thing just happened so beautifully. I was on my way to a press junket for an HBO movie, and my agent called and said there'd be a read-through with Robin Williams today and would I want to go? I said, sure. When I got there, Cameron Crowe said: 'You know, this isn't a Robin Williams movie. This thing stars Tom Cruise!' It was so great."

Richard Gere: "It's hard to choose a favorite, but I'll tell you a story. Two summers ago I was on a plane from England to Los Angeles, and the film was 'An Officer and a Gentleman.' I had terrible jet lag, but looked up and noticed this movie was on every screen. I didn't want to, but I ended up watching the whole thing. I hadn't seen it in 15 years. I sat there, thinking: 'This really is a good movie. This is really kind of terrific.' It was a great role."

Liv Tyler: "I guess it has to be a tie, because I fell in love with Joaquin Phoenix on the set of 'Inventing the Abbotts,' so playing Pamela Abbott will always be special to me, and I loved my character from 'That Thing You Do.' It was also the most fun I've ever had making a movie."

Frances McDormand: "I love my character Marge from 'Fargo.' I admire that she has a steadfast trust in the goodness of human beings. I also didn't realize how funny she was until I saw the movie and I'm like, 'They're laughing.' And then there's the Oscar!"

Robert Redford: "I loved doing 'Jeremiah Johnson.' It was filmed in my land (Utah), which is why the role has special importance to me. I keep running across the movie when I'm watching TV and it always shocks me. I drop the remote. I'm like, 'Whoa!' Then I'll linger, but not for long. I hate watching myself. I also enjoyed playing Sundance to Paul Newman's Cassidy in 'Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.' "

Jennifer Lopez: "It's Selena, because I worked really hard playing her and felt I did a good job. By the time I finished making the movie, I could look in the mirror and see Selena's face. I felt so satisfied. And singing live on stage made me want to record my own album of Spanish music."

Kevin Bacon: "I enjoyed playing Henri Young in 'Murder in the First' because it was such a challenge. I was shackled to the wall in Alcatraz and rats were running all over me. Yeah, it was hard work, but worth it. The only bad part is I was playing varying levels of pain, anguish, heartache, torture."

Sting: "To me it all seems like the same character. I always play the same brooding loner with good hair. So how could I possibly pick a favorite?"

John Travolta: "Vincent Vega in 'Pulp Fiction,' just because at the time I really needed the job. Before (director) Quentin Tarantino called me, I had no other scripts. I was saying, 'Oh, man, it's over.' Then, a year later, the response I got when the movie came out just broke my heart, so I'll never forget that role. I felt such a goodwill and desire for people to see me do well. It makes me want to cry even thinking about it now."

Richard Dreyfuss: "Hooper in 'Jaws' was terrific, although I did get my hand stuck in the shark's stupid mechanical jaw. I also liked what I did in 'American Graffiti,' and I have very good memories from the shoot. My fondest is of Harrison Ford getting drunk and throwing me in a pool."

Angela Bassett: "It has to be Tina Turner in 'What's Love Got to Do With It,' which scared me a little because it inhabited me. I actually walked around all the time with my lips pursed like she does. I laughed like her. I lost myself in the role. Also, working with Laurence Fishburne was incredible -- we had immediate, palpable chemistry."

Robert Duvall: "My role in 'Lonesome Dove' is my favorite ever. I also enjoyed playing Stalin. I used to stand in the mirror to make sure I was as quiet as I could be -- Stalin did that himself to practice being him. Now those were my favorite TV movie roles, but my favorite big-screen experience was on 'The Godfather,' because James Caan and fun go hand in hand."

James Caan: "Playing Sonny Corleone in 'The Godfather' was so much fun because we had a lot of laughs on the set of that movie. One day a bunch of us guys had to carry Marlon (Brando) on a stretcher because he was so damn heavy -- and this was years ago. Well, he had put bricks under himself as a practical joke. I nearly got a hernia, but it was just part of the craziness."

Diane Keaton: "I loved my role in 'Annie Hall' because that really started everything for me. It made me learn to trust my instincts and after that movie I suddenly felt that if I liked a part, it might be OK. Plus, being around Woody Allen was great, but it did make me realize I didn't have his talent. I picked up his sense of discipline and the fact that he is a very hard worker."

Halle Berry: "I really liked my character Khaila Richards in 'Losing Isaiah' because she was strong, and the movie had real meaning and purpose -- it was about race and adoption. White families adopting black kids is an issue today, so I felt by doing the film I was helping put a little light in a dark place."

Kirsten Dunst: "Ohhh, this is so hard. I really loved playing Tom Hanks' daughter in 'The Bonfire of the Vanities.' Tom was soooo nice. But I think my favorite role was Amy March in 'Little Women,' because off-camera I got to make lemonade with Susan Sarandon's daughter, Eva, and we sold it to the crew. We got $20, which is pretty good considering people could get it for free on the set."

Lauren Bacall: "I won't say Slim from 'To Have and Have Not,' because it's such an obvious choice, so I'll say Marilla Hagen from 'Designing Woman.' I really loved doing a comedy with Gregory Peck. Someone asked me the other day if the movie should be remade. My answer: 'Without me? Hell no!' "

Val Kilmer: "Playing Jim Morrison in 'The Doors,' because performing live on stage was one of the ultimate challenges."

Jon Voight: "Luke Martin from 'Coming Home' was my favorite role because I got to work with great people like Jane Fonda and Hal Ashby. And we were sincerely at work. All the paraplegics and Vietnam veterans made us feel like we all had a sense of purpose, which was to give this piece to the public so people who were divided might come together and heal the hurt. It was a heart-wrenching time."

Bruce Willis: "Playing Carl Roebuck in 'Nobody's Fool' was a great role. It went by so fast and I was sad when it was over. I wanted to work with Paul Newman so bad because he is one of my all-time heroes. I wasn't there for the money; I just wanted to act with Paul. I'm also very proud of my work in 'Pulp Fiction.' "

Jennifer Connelly: "My best role was in my first movie, 'Once Upon a Time in America,' because I was such a young kid and everything seemed bigger than life. I received my first kiss on that movie, so that made it special, too. I also enjoyed doing 'Labyrinth' with David Bowie because even the kids at school who didn't like me suddenly thought I was cool because I knew Bowie."

Chris O'Donnell: "I've always had an affection for my first role, in 'Men Don't Leave.' I was this high school kid who almost blew off the audition because I had crew practice. When the casting lady asked me to come back and audition again that night, I said, 'But I can't -- it's a school night!' Can you imagine? I'm thinking about homework."

Harrison Ford: "My favorite role? You will never pin me down on this one. I don't have a favorite. But don't feel bad that I won't answer the question. You'll never get me to commit on my favorite flavor of ice cream, either."