It’s no secret big Hollywood studios like a sure bet, and there’s no shortage of predictable movies to prove it.
Which is probably why Nicolas Cage left Los Angeles for Las Vegas a long time ago. At 59, the Academy Award winner owns one of the most eclectic lists of film credits in the business.
He’s been at it for more than 40 years – pivoting from leading man to action-hero to a slew of lesser features and back again. But we learned, behind that kaleidoscope of characters is a unique imagination and an encyclopedic knowledge of film… that seems to motivate everything Nicolas Cage does… his work, his life, and even this.
He was tough, he was sexy, and he was one of the most charismatic movies stars of the 1970s — he was James Caan, your go-to guy when you wanted someone who could be flinty yet charming, smooth yet volatile.
A Bronx-born, Queens-raised actor who claimed he was the “only New York Jewish cowboy,” the former Michigan State football player got bit by the acting bug when he transferred to Hofstra University, and was already making the bit-player rounds on TV shows (Dr. Kildare, Combat!, Route 66, The Alfred Hitchcock Show) in the early ’60s.
After director Howard Hawks cast him in two movies — Red Line 7000 (1965) and El Dorado (1966) — Caan started to attract attention as the next big up-and-comer. It wasn’t until the one-two punch of a TV movie about a gridiron hero and Paramount picture based on a bestseller about gangsters, respectively, that he became a bona fide star.
Even when he showed up in his later years, usually as a crusty old guy for added color or the human embodiment of AARP-age machismo, Caan was still the kind of performer who stopped you dead in your tracks.
On the brink of greatness with Curse of the Spider Woman, William Hurt struggled to get free of his web.
By Jack Kroll, Mar 14, 2022
This article originally appeared in the October 1986 issue of Esquire. You can find every Esquire story ever published at Esquire Classic.
“Look, I’m not a talented man,” says William Hurt. “You know it and I know it.”
“I don’t know it,” I say.
“Well, you should know it,” says Hurt.“You’re not a talented man?” I press him.“Well, I’m not that talented a man,” he says.“Well then, what are you?” I ask.“I’m a focused man,” he says.
We are sitting in an Italian restaurant on New York’s Upper East Side, and Bill Hurt is engaged in one of his favorite pastimes—putting himself down. Few who have seen him act would agree with his estimate of his ability. And as for being “focused,” well, that’s the last word many people would use to describe Hurt.
The actor is a walking paradox: the owner of one of the cleanest, clearest, least self-indulgent acting styles in the business, Hurt is legendary for the far-out, labyrinthine, metaphysical flights of fancy that have driven interviewers on several continents into a state of mumbling meemies. WILLIAM HURT: ACTOR WITH THE ATOM BRAIN! blazed a headline in one English magazine.
Another interviewer succinctly summed up the experience of listening to Hurt: “He sounds like a man who has just smoked his first joint.”
The two-time Academy Award winner, 88, announced his retirement from acting Friday on the BBC Radio show Kermode and Mayo’s Film Review, following what will be his final onscreen appearance in the new film Best Sellers.
“Funnily enough, it has turned out to be what is my last part, really,” he explained. “Because I haven’t worked for two years, and I have a spine problem, which affects my legs. So, I can’t walk very well.
Enter Sean Connery, dark hair slicked with pomade, eyes locking hungrily upon a beautiful green-eyed girl.
Her return glance leaves no doubt—the feeling is mutual. His slouch and casual banter exude languor and nonchalance, but there’s an undercurrent of coiled menace to this man, as though he might, at any moment, spring into table-overturning, crockery-shattering action.
Except nothing of the sort happens. Instead, the other fellow in the scene cuts the tension by taking out his fiddle and favoring the room with a jaunty tune learned, he says in a stagy brogue, “in the old ruins on the top of Knocknasheega!” This isn’t a James Bond picture.
It is 1959, and Connery is putting in time in a cornball live-action Disney feature called Darby O’Gill and the Little People. He’s the second male lead, billed beneath not only Albert Sharpe, the elderly Irish character actor in the title role—a kindly farmhand who sees leprechauns—but also the green-eyed girl, the ingenue Janet Munro. Though verily pump-misting pheromonal musk into the air, to a degree unmatched before or since by any actor in a Disney family movie, Connery is still a jobbing scuffler, not a star. He has no idea of what lies in store for him.
“Stacy Keach joins the show to reflect on his legendary career, particularly his portrayal of Hemingway on the stage, in the classic miniseries, and in his audio recording of short stories.
“Keach compares the art of acting to the act of writing and gets to the heart of Hemingway’s knack for conveying emotion in spare prose. He reflects on the many adaptations of Hemingway novels and his friendship with George C. Scott and John Huston. He also offers insights into Hemingway’s psychology and destructive habits.
“As a special bonus, hear Keach’s brilliant read of our “one true sentence” introduction!