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21st Jun 2017

Now that Daniel Day-Lewis is retiring, who will take the title of Greatest Actor in the World?

The three-time Oscar winner's retirement opens up a spot at the top of acting, but who shall claim it?


Sad news, movie fans: Daniel Day-Lewis is retiring from acting.

The three-time Oscar winner and all-round acting god is bowing out at the end of the year in Phantom Thread, the latest film from Paul Thomas Anderson, who directed Day-Lewis in There Will Be Blood.

Arguably the greatest living actor, Day-Lewis became notorious for his uncompromising method acting style, completely immersing himself in his characters throughout the duration of a movie shoot. Though unconventional and often extreme, whatever he was doing obviously worked.

But alas, he will be bowing out of the acting profession, undefeated champion of Hollywood. So who is next in line to the throne? Let’s consider the contenders.

NOTE: We have to take current form into account when deciding, so for that reason we cannot include Robert De Niro or Al Pacino. Jack Nicholson has more or less stopped making films, so he’s out as well.

Christian Bale (nominated by Rich Cooper)

As happy fronting blockbuster features as he is diving into indie movies, Christian Bale is both a bona fide movie star and top-notch actor. His searing intensity penetrates every role he takes on; from Batman to Bateman, there is always something burning behind the eyes of the characters he portrays.

His physical transformations are the stuff of legend – he gained 109lbs for Batman Begins after losing 64lbs for The Machinist – but whatever shape he’s in, he absolutely cannot be ignored when onscreen.

Seminal role: Patrick Bateman in American Psycho

Viggo Mortensen (nominated by Wayne Farry)

An actor who is equally effective in a quiet, pensive role as he is dominating scenes with his sonorous voice, Mortensen has risen to prominence in the last 15 years due to his versatility.

After first appearing in 1988’s Witness, the New York-born actor starred in a number of flops (Psycho, GI Jane) but has consistently impressed audiences with his seemingly effortless style of acting and magnetic on-screen presence.

Like Day-Lewis, he possesses an ability to fully envelope his character – something which isn’t always the case with leading men – and it’s a quality which can be seen across a variety of his roles, from the ruthless and deadly Nikolai in Eastern Promises to the broken yet determined Man in the movie adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road.

Not as prolific as Day-Lewis, but increasingly selective in the roles he takes, Mortensen can do it all, if he chooses to.

Seminal role: Aragorn in The Lord of Rings Trilogy

Leonardo DiCaprio (nominated by Wil Jones)

People might have mocked Leonardo DiCaprio’s completely shameless decade-long quest for an Oscar (which finally came to a conclusion last year with The Revenant), but it just showed what an actor he’d become. There was a point, post-Titanic, when he seemed just like another pretty-boy teen idol. But Martin Scorsese saw something in him, casting him against Daniel Day-Lewis in Gangs of New York.

And to be honest, he still seemed a bit out of his depth against Day-Lewis back then. But since that film, he’s acted like a man possessed, working with the best directors in the world, and never giving less than about 500%, in wild, daring, brilliantly entertaining, showboating performances, like The Wolf of Wall Street, The Great Gatsby, Django Unchained and Shutter Island. His performances always feel like events, and while they can sometimes veer into silliness, they always, always demand your attention.

Seminal role: Jordan Belfort in The Wolf of Wall Street

Denzel Washington (nominated by Richie Driss)

I have never seen a terrible Denzel Washington movie. There, I said it.

Sure, some aren’t exactly fantastic – Deja Vu anyone? – but he also has some of the most underrated films out there. The journey he takes his character in Man on Fire on – from grizzled and grumpy war veteran who softens to Dakota Fanning’s character, then back to kicking ass and taking names – is something only he could pull off.

Seminal role: Detective Alonzo Harris in Training Day

Steve Carell (nominated by Nooruddean Choudry)

The problem with comedy is no one takes it seriously, despite the fact that many thespians admit to it being the hardest strand of acting to pull off. History is littered with accomplished comedians who excelled in serious roles – from Charlie Chaplin to Peter Sellers to Robin Williams. Comedy is everything that standard acting comprises – tragedy, pathos, urgency – plus the laughs.

Carell isn’t a great actor *in spite* of his comedic chops – he’s a great actor *because* of them. Charming, sweet, vulnerable, layered and hilarious as Michael Scott in The Office, he has shown the full extent of his dramatic range in recent years. Chilling and magnetic in Foxcatcher, powerfully brittle in The Big Short, and piss-funny as Despicable Me‘s Gru.

Seminal role: Michael Scott in The Office

Ryan Gosling (nominated by Wil Jones)

Under-acting is the new over-acting. Daniel Day-Lewis has plenty of potential scenery-chewing successors ready to fill his roles. Maybe we should to look to someone who doesn’t have to do anything much at all to transfix audiences. Just because you shout and scream and wave your hands about, it doesn’t necessarily make your film any better.

Look at Ryan Gosling. Wether he’s singing and dancing in La La Land or stomping in a dude’s head in Drive, he manages to always to strike the perfect balance of laconic movie star cool and twitchy anxiety. And he’s not just a pretty face, either. In films like Blue Valentine, Half Nelson and The Place Beyond The Pines, he offers up performances as powerful as anyone else on this list, just with a lot less hand waving.

Seminal role: The Driver in Drive

Mark Rylance (nominated by Rich Cooper)

Best known as a fearsome Shakespearean actor, Mark Rylance has started popping up in more and more feature films of late, winning Best Supporting Actor at the Oscars for Bridge of Spies. If it were down to pure craftsmanship, Mark Rylance would be untouchable – he’s simply amazing, and absolutely in same league as DDL.

Rylance is no movie star and may not be as famous as Day-Lewis, but both men possess the uncanny ability to disappear inside their roles and take on new lives as completely different people.

Seminal role: Rudolf Abel in Bridge of Spies (though others may argue his performance as Rooster Byron in the play Jerusalem deserves it more)

Riz Ahmed (nominated by Nooruddean Choudry)

Still only 34-years-old, Ahmed has made a career of choosing daring and controversial roles, and imbuing them with a realness and humanity that fundamentally challenge the viewer’s expectations. The closing credits of his films often leave you lost in a moral maze of confusion.

Ahmed can do more with his eyes than most actors can do with their whole bodies. Some of his silent moments are verging on Pacino-esque. There’s always an internal story that he’s telling in parallel to the surface text. The list of acclaimed directors and co-stars he has worked with tells its own story.

Seminal role: Rick in Nightcrawler

Tom Hanks (nominated by Richie Driss)

Tom Hanks might have hit peak Dad when he appeared in a Carly Rae Jepson music video, however, the sheer number of classic films he’s been in speaks for his own greatness: Forrest Gump, Cast Away, Saving Private Ryan, Big, Apollo 13, The Green Mile, Philadelphia, Sleepless in Seattle, Road to Perdition – there are millions of them.

There are loads of great actors, but there’s only one Tom Hanks. He’s in a league of his own.

Seminal role: Forrest Gump in Forrest Gump

Paul Dano (nominated by Wayne Farry)

A co-star of Daniel Day-Lewis in There Will Be Blood, Dano made his big arrival in the rather inauspicious role of nerdy teenager Klitz in teen comedy The Girl Next Door.

He has since moved on to bigger and better things, first through his odd and captivating performance in the brilliant Little Miss Sunshine before playing the dual roles of twin brothers Eli and Paul Sunday in the aforementioned American historical drama.

While that remains his biggest role to date, his best is arguably that of the deranged and eerie Alex Jones in Prisoners. Though not yet near the level of Day-Lewis, Dano has shown a similar eagerness and talent for the most unconventional of roles.

Seminal role(s): Eli and Paul Sunday in There Will Be Blood

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