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  • Writer's pictureHunter Howe Cates

Famous Actors' Favorite Film Roles

Originally published on Looper.com, January 24, 2022.





Being a famous actor has its drawbacks — massive wealth, universal adulation, an army of sycophants at your beck and call, getting to make more money in three months than most people make in a lifetime playing pretend and dressing up like a superhero.




Okay, we're sure there are some drawbacks — we just can't think of any right now. But one of the lesser publicized benefits of being a famous film actor is being able to look back on your career at specific roles that stood the test of time. Well, theoretically, at least. Thanks to our culture's TikTok-addled attention spans, we've already forgotten what movie or TV show we watched last night, but that's beside the point.




Being a famous actor has its drawbacks — massive wealth, universal adulation, an army of sycophants at your beck and call, getting to make more money in three months than most people make in a lifetime playing pretend and dressing up like a superhero...Okay, we're sure there are some drawbacks — we just can't think of any right now.



What matters is that if you're a film actor, your life's work isn't made up of just memories — there are movies, as well. All due respect to accountants, but most can't say: "Yep, I still have that tax return I filed in '79." An actor can point to their work and say: "Yeah, I did that." It's nice knowing you made something people loved, and people loved you in.




Yet surprisingly, while many actors have iconic roles, those parts are usually not the ones that mean the most to them. Why? We don't know; actors are weird, we guess. However, each actor has their favorites, and many of them might surprise you. From the iconic to the obscure, from the award-winning to the all-but-forgotten, here are these famous actors' favorite film roles!




Harrison Ford




Few actors are more associated with their most famous characters than Harrison Ford — Han Solo from "Star Wars" and Indiana Jones from, well, "Indiana Jones." This isn't surprising, considering out of his career box office earnings of $10 billion worldwide, a little more than half came from "Star Wars" or "Indiana Jones" movies.




Eight out of 52 movies accounting for more than half of your total box office is impressive, but the dude is still a star. "The Fugitive," "Air Force One," the "Jack Ryan" movies — all were big hits sold on his star power. So it's surprising that his favorite role was in one of his biggest bombs: Allie Fox in "The Mosquito Coast."




One year after the Australian auteur Peter Weir scored Ford his one and only Oscar nomination in "Witness," Weir nabbed the megastar again for the role of a megalomaniacal inventor who, convinced that society is crumbling, drags his family to Central America for a simpler life (until things fall apart).




While Ford was praised, the movie was not, and the flick may be better remembered if it were, y'know, better. Still, Ford loved the part, or so we assume. Ford proclaimed Fox his favorite part in a 1986 interview with Gannett News, just before the movie bombed. Since Ford has made a lot of money donning fedoras and blasters after "The Mosquito Coast," maybe he's had a change of heart.




Keanu Reeves




We're not surprised that Keanu Reeves' favorite part isn't John Wick from the "John Wick" films or Thomas "Neo" Anderson from the four "The Matrix" films. Yes, those franchises have netted $575 million worldwide and $1.7 billion worldwide, respectively, but Reeves doesn't seem like the kind of guy who's too concerned with money.




Honestly, we figured his favorite part would be Ted from the "Bill & Ted" trilogy, as that part seems closest to Reeves' own heart. Alas, it's not Ted, either. Nope, Reeves' favorite part was in a would-be blockbuster from 2005 — John Constantine in "Constantine" (via Cracked).




Originally created by Alan Moore and crew as a supporting character in the "Swamp Thing" comic book, Constantine became the center of his own "Hellblazer" comic book series and one of the principal characters in the DC Comics' "Dark" storylines. We can see why he's fun to play: A foul-mouthed, chain-smoking, whiskey-shooting magician who does battle with demons, both personal and metaphysical.




Basically, Dr. Strange if he were a Humphrey Bogart gumshoe. Constantine is also British, which Reeves' version was not, as he presumably learned his lesson from "Bram Stoker's Dracula." Anyway, Reeves told Esquire he'd love to play Constantine again, and we bet Warner Brothers would too, despite the film underwhelming critics and underperforming at the box office.




Jennifer Aniston




J'An (is that a thing?) has earned more than $3 billion at the worldwide box office, despite not starring in any superhero movies and only one sequel. However, her most famous role is undoubtedly Rachel Greene, whom she played for 10 seasons on TV's "Friends."




While her 236-episode run on "Friends" made her rich and famous, and her multiple movie roles made her more rich and famous, the role that makes Jennifer Aniston happiest is ... the psychopathic, sex-craving, man-eating dentist, Dr. Julia Harris, D.D.S. from "Horrible Bosses." Okay, we certainly didn't see that coming from America's sweetheart.




Aniston told Vanity Fair her favorite roles were in predictably indie films "Cake," "The Good Girl," "Friends with Money," and — in a "which one of these things is not like the other?" situation — the demented dentist in "Horrible Bosses" and "Horrible Bosses 2."




Dr. Harris was certainly a departure for Aniston. The manipulative, raunchy dentist who tried to force her non-consenting employee (Charlie Day) to have sex with her was a far cry from Aniston's normal roles, and it probably wouldn't fly in the post-#MeToo era.




Will Smith




If you were to ask us to guess Will Smith's favorite movie role of his, we'd probably say "all of them." Seriously, Smith seems like a genial and jovial fellow who loves all of his movie roles equally. Well, almost all of them (more on that in a sec). Granted, it's not hard to love your movie roles when they have made nearly $10 billion worldwide.




However, that's what Smith's movies have earned the movie studios that hired him. The movie that earned him the most money personally thanks to performance-based pay was "Men In Black III" (via Business Insider).




Due to a back-end deal, Smith made a portion of the film's earnings, resulting in $100 million in Big Willy Style's bank account. "Men In Black III" earned $654 million worldwide, so just imagine how much Smith would have earned with a bigger gross. However, money doesn't buy happiness, or should we say "Happyness"?




Surprising nobody, Smith told GQ his worst role was James West in "Wild Wild West," saying, "To see myself in chaps ... I don't like it." Nobody did, Will. Nobody.



While participating in GQ's "Actually Me" series, Smith revealed his favorite movie roles are a tie between Chris Gardner in 2006's "The Pursuit of Happyness" and Agent J in the first 1997 "Men In Black," and he didn't even get paid $100 million for them! Surprising nobody, Smith told GQ his worst role was James West in "Wild Wild West," saying, "To see myself in chaps ... I don't like it." Nobody did, Will. Nobody.




Samuel L. Jackson




Are you ready for Samuel L. Jackson's favorite movie role? "Hold onto your butts!" Okay, it's not "Jurassic Park," we just wanted to say that. Anyway, the favorite role for the man who played Jules in "Pulp Fiction," Shaft in "Shaft," Mace Windu in the "Star Wars" prequels, Nick Fury in "The Avengers," and some character in six out of nine Quentin Tarantino films is, well, not any of those roles. So what is it? Surely it has to be a blockbuster?




Jackson certainly has his pick, with $16 billion domestically and $27 billion worldwide, making him the highest-grossing actor domestically and third-highest-grossing worldwide. What if we told Sam Jackson's actual favorite role was a complete bomb, grossing a meager $33 million on a $65 million budget?




Welp, that is the case. Jackson says his favorite movie role was playing down-on-his-luck private eye Mitch Hennessey in "The Long Kiss Goodnight." The 1996 Renny Harlin action pic starred Geena Davis as a cold-blooded assassin, turned small-town school teacher and mom, turned back into cold-blooded assassin.




Jackson revealed Hennessey was tops out of his 150-plus films on "The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon," and you could tell by the audiences' stunned silence that they'd never seen it. Well, they're wrong. We're 100% with Jackson on this one — "The Long Kiss Goodnight" is awesome.




Jeff Bridges




Unlike every other entry on this list, Jeff Bridges' favorite role isn't surprising — it's The Dude. In a career spanning decades, The Dude definitely ties the room together. Bridges made this not-so-revealing revelation in an interview with Esquire, saying: "Oh man, that's like asking, 'Which is your favorite kid!' I mean, The Dude has got to be right up there. People like The Dude, but they're all special to me."




This just goes to show that Bridges (and most parents) have a favorite kid too. To be honest, we're not surprised Bridges chose a fan-favorite option.




Despite all of the awards on his shelf — including one Oscar for "Crazy Heart" and six other nominations (none for "The Big Lebowski," unfortunately) — Bridges seems like the kind of guy who doesn't mind being defined by one role. Still, it's strange that The Dude is that one role, as "The Big Lebowski" only managed $17 million domestically and $46 million worldwide in 1998 but was saved by its economical $15 million budget.




Clearly, most of the movie's fans didn't see it in theaters, as the sordid tale of The Dude has built one of the biggest cult followings in film. While The Dude may be based on a real dude, for millions of Dude-ites worldwide, there's only one man who deserves to wear the crown (or the stained bathrobe): Jeff Bridges.




Leonardo DiCaprio




For a critically acclaimed, filthy rich man who spends his free time on yachts surrounded by a bevy of the world's most beautiful women, you kind of have to feel sorry for Leonardo DiCaprio. But only kinda.




Because despite DiCaprio starring in some of the best films of the past twenty years, working with the world's finest directors, winning an Academy Award, and even being called "Last Movie Star," he will always be defined by one role: Jack Dawson in "Titanic." Which is funny because it's the one role he told GQ he regrets taking, as he had to turn down Dirk Diggler in "Boogie Nights" to star in James Cameron's masterpiece.




DiCaprio should be more grateful, as "Titanic" made him a star and accounts for nearly one-third of his $7 billion worldwide box office, but we digress. What is DiCaprio's favorite role? Not the one that first won him raves ("What's Eating Gilbert Grape?") or the one that won him an Oscar ("The Revenant") but the one that had him stockpiling jars of his own pee — Howard Hughes in "The Aviator."




It's not just the role itself, but what went into it, as DiCaprio had been developing "The Aviator" for years and recruited Martin Scorsese to direct it in their second collaboration together. So sometimes actors love a role not just because of the work on screen but the work behind the scenes.




Morgan Freeman




You always remember your first time. Or, in Morgan Freeman's case, about your 72nd time. Freeman had been acting on screen since 1964 but got his big break in 1987's "Street Smart." Little wonder then his performance as Fast Black the pimp in the 1987 flick is also his favorite role.




You always remember your first time. Or, in Morgan Freeman's case, about your 72nd time.



Before "Street Smart," Freeman was a journeyman character actor best known for his role on the public-access children's TV show "The Electric Company," which he starred in daily from 1971 to 1977. Nothing wrong with children's TV, as Steve from "Blue's Clues" has proven (wait, could Steve Burns become an Oscar-winning actor someday?!), but Freeman pined for something more adult.




What's more adult than sex work, right? Ten years later, Freeman got his wish at the age of 50, nabbing his first of multiple Academy Award nominations and soon snagging more mainstream, above-the-title parts in movies like "Glory" and "Driving Miss Daisy."




Freeman is sanguine about starting his movie star career late, saying in a 2011 interview with AFI: "It didn't have to happen at all." Freeman's journey would make an interesting documentary, and we know there's only one person who could narrate it.




Drew Barrymore




Drew Barrymore is the rare case of a child star who turns into a movie star. Even more impressively, she did so despite coming from Hollywood royalty. Her grandfather was John Barrymore, her great aunt was Ethel Barrymore, and her great uncle was Lionel Barrymore (best known as Mr. Potter from "It's A Wonderful Life.")




If you haven't heard of the Barrymore's, well, you need to subscribe to Turner Classic Movies pronto. Anyway, Drew Barrymore became famous at the tender age of 7 in Steven Spielberg's 1982 masterpiece, "E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial."




Forty years, one head-scratching marriage to Tom Green and dozens of roles, including playing herself on the syndicated daytime TV talk show "The Drew Barrymore Show," the actress certainly has her pick of favorite parts. So which is it? Well, she's reported to have cited a few roles, including Josie, the late bloomer in "Never Been Kissed" and Lucy from "50 First Dates" (via POPSUGAR).




But the one we find most convincing is Danielle from "Ever After: A Cinderella Story." Ironically, Drew Barrymore told Elle she believes that playing a princess in a fairy tale was how she came of age as an adult actor. We suspect Barrymore feels about her film roles the way she feels about her children — she loves them all equally.




Tom Hanks




Tom Hanks was dubbed "America's Dad" by Esquire, whatever that means, so you'd think his favorite role would be Captain Miller in "Saving Private Ryan," since it's a statistical fact that all dads like World War II. However, it's not. Hanks is also Forrest Gump, Woody in "Toy Story," and Dr. Robert Langdon in "The Da Vinci Code.




But Hanks' favorite role is not playing a hippie-haired cryptographer, animated toy cowboy, or even a simple but wise man who finds himself smack dab in the most significant events of the 20th century. Nope, Hanks' favorite role is playing a man trying to outrun a cannibal played by Hugh Grant in the year 2321. Wait, what?




Hanks' favorite role is playing a man trying to outrun a cannibal played by Hugh Grant in the year 2321. Wait, what?



Yep, in an interview on "The Bill Simmons Podcast," Tom Hanks, the man behind some of the most famous films ever, cited one of his favorite roles — make that several roles, as he played multiple parts — like those from "Cloud Atlas," the Wachowski's little-seen 2012 sci-fi epic.




Okay, technically, Hanks said "A League of Their Own" was tops because he got to play baseball all summer, followed by "Cast Away" because making it was an adventure. (Does that mean his favorite co-star is Wilson the volleyball? Unfortunately, Simmons didn't ask that obvious follow-up question.)




We just thought "Cloud Atlas" making the top three was wild. For the record, Hanks ranks his movies according to his personal experience making them because in terms of quality, it's obviously 1987's "Dragnet."




Robert Downey Jr.




Before you wonder what Robert Downey Jr.'s favorite role is, we'll stop you right there — it's not the most obvious choice of Dr. Kozak in Disney's 2006 Tim Allen-starring remake "The Shaggy Dog."




With that out of the way, it's not the other most obvious choices either, like his 1992 title role in the biopic "Chaplin" that earned him an Oscar nom (which would have been our pick, to be honest).




Before you wonder what Robert Downey Jr.'s favorite role is, we'll stop you right there — it's not the most obvious choice of Dr. Kozak in Disney's 2006 Tim Allen-starring remake "The Shaggy Dog."



It's not even Tony Stark in the "Iron Man" and Marvel movies, which make up the bulk of his $15 billion worldwide career box office and his purported $300 million net worth.




Rather, it's the movie that got him on Marvel's radar in the first place, despite bombing with $16 million worldwide on a $15 million budget, or less than a Marvel movie earns in one hour. The film? Shane Black's 2005 neo-noir comedy "Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang."




In a 2020 interview on "The Joe Rogan Experience," Downey Jr. called his part in the flick his "calling card" because it showed "Iron Man" director Jon Favreau that Downey Jr. could do action.




So if you're in the mood for a Robert Downey Jr. movie, skip your 15th viewing of the MCU (or any viewing of "The Shaggy Dog") and watch "Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang" instead.




Read More: https://www.looper.com/745582/famous-actors-favorite-film-roles/?utm_campaign=clip

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