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Steven Spielberg named who he thinks are the five greatest actors ever

Emily Puckering

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Steven Spielberg named who he thinks are the five greatest actors ever

Featured Image Credit: Emma McIntyre/GA/The Hollywood Reporter via Getty Images / GWR/Star Max/GC Images

Steven Spielberg once revealed who he thinks are the five greatest actors to ever live... and being one of the world's most renowned directors, we'll certainly take his word for it!

Of course, Spielberg is one of the most beloved directors in cinema and has worked with some of the best actors in the business.

Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Cruise, Liam Neeson and Whoopi Goldberg are just some of the talent that Spielberg has worked with on his movies, but who does the acclaimed filmmaker single out as his top five favourite actors?

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In an interview, Spielberg recalled a conversation he had with fellow director Stanley Kubrick after he'd watched a screening of The Shining, and didn't much like it on the first watch.

Spielberg explained to the director that he thought that, while Jack Nicholson is a talented actor, the way he played the role of Jack Torrance in Kubrick’s movie was over the top, and compared it to Japanese Kabuki theatre - in which actors are heavily stylised and made up with larger-than-life costumes and makeup.

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Defending Nicholson's performance, Kubrick asked Spielberg to list his five favourite actors of all time.

And surprisingly, none of the actors Spielberg had collaborated with himself made the list.

He said: “So, I quickly went ‘Spencer Tracey, Henry Fonda, Jimmy Stewart, Cary Grant, Clark Gable’.

Steven Spielberg revealed who he thought were the five greatest actors of all time. Credit: Dave J Hogan/Dave J Hogan/Getty Images
Steven Spielberg revealed who he thought were the five greatest actors of all time. Credit: Dave J Hogan/Dave J Hogan/Getty Images
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“He stopped me and said, ‘Stop, okay, where was James Cagney on that list?’

“And I thought, he’s up there high, and he said, ‘Ah, but he’s not in [your] top five. You don’t consider James Cagney one of the five best actors around, but I do.

“‘And this is why Jack Nicholson’s performance is a great one'."

So essentially, Kubrick's point was that just because Nicholson's style of acting in The Shining wasn't to Spielberg's taste, it doesn't mean it's a bad movie.

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Spencer Tracey is perhaps best known for his roles in the 1961 movie Judgement at Nuremberg and 1967’s Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner, while Henry Fonda was most well known for the 1940 film The Grapes of Wrath and 12 Angry Men (1957).

Spencer Tracey made the cut. Credit: Getty Images
Spencer Tracey made the cut. Credit: Getty Images

Jimmy Stewart was famed for roles in Anatomy of a Murder (1959), Vertigo (1958) and The Philadelphia Story alongside another Spielberg favourite Cary Grant.

Clark Gable, meanwhile, is well known for the 1939 romance-drama Gone with the Wind.

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Kubrick's preferred actor James Cagney, meanwhile, was known for his high energy performances, which bore similarities to Nicholson's turn in The Shining.

He is known for his roles in 1938's Angels with Dirty Faces and 1949's White Heat.

Topics: Film & TV, Film and TV, Steven Spielberg

Emily Puckering
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