There's a point in any aging actor's life when he or she realizes that their instrument just ain't what it used to be. That doesn't mean they have to stop performing—in fact, we're all about the elderly stepping up and out-doing their youthful successors. Just because you pop out your teeth and drop them in a glass at night doesn't mean you can't nab an Oscar nomination. It just means it might be more of a…subtle performance.
Unfortunately, not every actor has the same mentality. After decades of working in showbiz, some people have found an easier path than shaping innovative, nuanced performances with every new film. The tactic? Playing the cranky old person. Standing in one place, a gruff look smeared across your face and bitching in a grumbly voice that's barely discernible—from the actor's perspective, it doesn't get much better.
Taking a nod from Harrison Ford's latest Cowboys & Aliens, we looked back at some of the grumpiest, gruntiest, aged-actor performances in movie history:
Harrison Ford in Morning Glory
Speaking of Harrison Ford, the 69-year-old actor has had a career resurgence in the last few years, popping back up after a lull of financial duds with Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull and Morning Glory. Whereas the fourth Indiana Jones gave people a sour taste seeing the beloved hero reduced to a cranky shell of his former self, the light, fluffy rom-com embraces Ford's huffing and puffing. New addition to The Joy of Cooking: grumpiness goes great with frittata.
Clint Eastwood in Gran Torino
Clint Eastwood as taken a position behind the camera for most of the last decade, directing thoughtful dramas and sending his fellow actors towards Oscar gold, so when he decided to step back on the big screen for Gran Torino, people paid attention. When it was first announced, fans were giddy of a possible Dirty Harry revival. What they got was a get-off-my-lawn parable starring Eastwood as a mushmouth racist. That works too...
Burgess Meredith in Rocky
Burgess Meredith proves the important rule here: just because you're grunting, yelling and badgering other people the whole way through a movie, doesn't mean you're doing it wrong. As the ready-to-bicker trainer Mickey Goldmill, Meredith whips Sylvester Stallone's Rocky into shape and teaches him what it really means to sound like you have 34 marbles in your mouth.
Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon in Grumpy Old Men
At least there were no surprises when Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau, arguably two of the finest actors of the from the '50s all the way to the '90s, decided to channel their inner-grump for a movie about…well, two grumps. Which elderly gent out-kvetched the other in Grumpy Old Men? Tough call, but note that Burgess Meredith also co-starred in this film, so it was a close race.
Danny Glover in the Lethal Weapon franchise
Danny Glover was only 41 when he first uttered, "I'm too old for this shit"—but he sealed his own fate. By Lethal Weapon 4, he was too old for that shit, retroactively becoming too old for that shit back in 1987's Lethal Weapon. The silver lining: if it wasn't for that catchphrase, Murtaugh may have evolved into full-on old man grunting. No way to end a series.
Ed Asner in Up
Ed Asner's kept quite chipper in his last few years of live-action appearances, but in 2009 he unleashed his crankiness in full force for Pixar's old man adventure film Up. To be fair to Asner, the movie aims to take an emotional look at growing old and purposefully set up its main character, Carl Fredricksen, to be the grumpiest of the grumps—making it the perfect movie to spoof with Gran Torino.
It’s that special time of year again, for fanboys, joystick addicts and comic-book enthusiasts to emerge in their gloried, creative ensembles, and congregate at the 4th annual New York Comic Con.
What began as a mini-me version of the original San Diego Comic Con, has undoubtedly ballooned into a full-blown NY comic extravaganza within the last few years. The fascinating comic cult simply took over the overwhelmingly large Jacob Javits Center.
Divided by numerous exhibitors, every booth was overcrowded and adorned by eager fans donning unconventional suits and intriguing costumes. After all, aside from Halloween, this is a great occasion for fanboys to play dress up and illustrate their undying devotion and penchant for their favorite comic-book heroes and characters.
But the best part are the panels. Kicking off the day, WB held a special presentation of their highly anticipated films, Watchmen, Friday the 13th and Terminator Salvation. First, artist Dave Gibbons walked on stage and enthusiastically introduced the premiere of the first 18 minutes of the Watchmen, adapted from his critically acclaimed graphic novel.
The audience was pleasantly surprised and blown away by the spectacular never-seen-before opening adrenaline-driven footage. It began with a vivid, historic montage, followed by an exhilarating fight scene, leading to The Comedian’s (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) death (we’re not giving anything away). The exclusive footage, which culminated in a chilling scene of an unmasked Rorschach (Jackie Earle Haley) in prison, kept us clamoring for more. Comparable to his cinematic vision in 300, director Zack Snyder intensified, emphasized and captured all the action in these clips by using breath-taking action sequences, extreme close-ups, and frame by frame shots. Check back in few days for a more in-depth coverage of the NYCC’s Watchmen coverage with Q&A’s with artist Gibbons and director Synder, as we await anxiously for the movie’s release in theaters Mar. 6.
The second WB presentation was for their forthcoming reboot of Friday the 13th. Sitting on the panel were the producers Brad Fuller and Andrew Form, and stars Derek Mears (as the hockey-masked psychopath Jason) and Jared Padalecki. Fuller introduced the terrifying footage of the masked murdered on a killing spree in Camp Crystal. It’s clear that with this version, the film will finally redeem itself as the spine-chilling, horror film it once was. Following the sneak, the cast and crew wrapped up the panel by answering a few questions about the film, which opens this Friday, the 13th. Natch.
The final WB panel was for Terminator Salvation, presented by its director McG, who approached the audience with great humor, in light of Terminator star Christian Bale’s recent on-set tirade. He managed to do damage control by joking with the audience about the fight, and conveyed Bale’s apology once again.
The chatty director also talked about: the plot, the origins of the Terminator, creator James Cameron, the film’s composer Danny Elfman, the wonderful cast, and possible cameos by Schwarzenegger and Hamilton, before introducing the latest footage from film. We were shown a montage of different scenes, elucidating John Connor’s rise in the post-apocalyptic resistance. Each scene was equally electrifying, action-driven and visually enticing. Filled with anticipation, the audience had their Q & A period with McG before heading back to the comic craze.
Then it was off to the Disney panel for their upcoming flicks Up and Surrogates. Up’s director Pete Docter and producer Jonas Rivera introduced Disney-Pixar’s sweetest animated creation. The comedy-adventure is based on a 78-year-old balloon salesman Carl, who fulfills a lifelong dream by tying thousands of balloons to his house and flying away to South America. He embarks on a great adventure along with a spirited 9-year-old Wilderness Explorer scout named Russell. Doctor and Rivera introduced the film’s footage with great pride and joy. Following a few different clips and a 50-minute screening of the film later in the day, I shared the same enthusiasm and affection for Up. Anyone familiar with Pixar’s films will understand how incredibly genuine, visceral and endearingly realistic it all is. Another winner.
Disney’s second presentation was a trailer for the futuristic thriller Surrogates, starring Bruce Willis. The action-thriller is based on a graphic novel about humans who live in isolation through identical replicas of themselves, in the form of robotic surrogates. The chase and action begins when someone finds a way to kill a person by killing their surrogate. The screening ended with a long line of beautiful people, walking around like robots and handing out Surrogate business cards. Clever.
The final panel was for Summit Entertainment’s upcoming films Knowing, The Hurt Locker and Astro Boy. We began with an exclusive footage of Knowing, starring Nicolas Cage. The action-thriller is based on a professor (Cage) who stumbles on a piece of paper filled with numbers, which helps him predict the future. As he begins decoding the numbers and signs, he sets out to prevent every terrifying prediction from taking place. The use of spectacular special effects, translated the footage into a thrilling, powerful and entertaining film.
Moving on to The Hurt Locker, which garnered lots of attention and acclaim during its premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival last year. Slated for a 2009 release, the film is based on a real life journalist’s experiences following bomb squads in Iraq. It’s directed by Kathryn Bigelow and stars Jeremy Renner, who portrays a bomb technician named James. We were presented with a scene from the movie, where James finds a trashed car filled with ticking bombs, ready to explode. Driven by the rush and high of dismantling the bomb, he is determined to do what it takes to complete his tense mission. Following the footage, Renner stepped on stage to answer a few questions, stressing that this was not a political or war film.
The final Summit Entertainment panel for the day concluded with a peek at the new images and short footage from Astro Boy. Based on a Japanese manga series, Astro Boy is a powerful robot created by a scientist to replace the son he lost. Although he looks and feels like a human, he eventually discovers his superior powers and uses them to fight crime. Using breathtaking CGI animation, the footage showed Astro Boy falling down and discovering his powers for the first time, as the rocket boots activate.
WATCH MORE VIDEO ABOUT NEIL GAIMAN'S CREATIONS AND MORE!
VOTE IN OUR COMIC-BOOK POLL ON WHAT YOU WANT TO SEE!
Bobby Garfield (David Morse) returns to his small hometown to attend the funeral of his childhood friend and remembers the fateful summer in 1960 when his whole world changed. The story flashes back to when 11-year-old Bobby (Anton Yelchin) and his best friends Carol (Mika Boorem) and Sully-John (Will Rothhaar) capture the pure joy of youthfulness. When a mysterious stranger named Ted Brautigan (Anthony Hopkins) moves upstairs and starts to pay attention to Bobby the boy suddenly realizes what's truly missing from his life--the love of a parent. Bobby's mother Liz (Hope Davis) is embittered by the death of Bobby's father and shows little compassion for her son's growing needs. Ted fills a void with the boy opening his eyes to the world around him and helps Bobby come to terms with his real feelings for Carol--and his mother. But Ted also has some deep dark secrets of his own and Bobby tries hard to stop danger from reaching the old man.
The performances make the film especially in the genuine camaraderie of the kids. Yelchin Boorem and Rothhaar never deliver a false move with an easiness that makes us believe we are simply watching three 11-year-old children grow up together. Yelchin in particular is able to get right to the heart of this young boy who misses his father and clings to the only adult who will listen. And his scenes with Boorem simply break your heart. (Davis) does an admirable job playing a part none too sympathetic. She manages to show a woman whose been beaten down but who does truly love her son in her own way. Morse too is one of those character actors you can plug in any movie and get a performance worth noting. In Hearts you want to see more of him. Of course the film shines brightest when Hopkins is on the screen. It may not be an Oscar-caliber performance but the actor is unparalleled in bringing a character to life--showing the subtleties of an old man looking for some peace in his life.
If you are expecting the Stephen King novel you may be disappointed. Screenwriter William Goldman and director Scott Hicks (Shine) deftly extracted the King formula of telling a story through a child's eye and explaining how the relationships formed as a child shaped the adult later. Hicks did an amazing job with his young actors especially Yelchin and Boorem. But where the novel continued into a supernatural theme explaining Brautigan's fear of being captured by "low men in yellow coats" (a reference to King's The Dark Tower series) the movie downplayed the mystical elements instead giving real explanations for Brautigan's man-on-the-run. That was the one problem with Hearts--we needed more danger. Introducing men from another dimension may not have been the way to go but had there been more tension the film would have resonated more especially when Bobby risked his own safety to save Ted.