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2/26/2008 12:13:00 PM
Actors who nailed their roles as athletes
Cuba Gooding won an Oscar for his work in "Jerry Maguire."
Brian Bahr/Getty Images
By Lang Whitaker, SI.com
Sunday's Academy Awards celebration was, as usual, a little underwhelming. Yes, we got to see a lot of celebrities dressed like they were going to the prom, and all the famous people smiled and applauded for each other, but the movies honored were mostly dialogue-heavy films lacking explosions and special effects -- two things I always go to the movies for. The other thing that brings me to the cinema is sports movies. Any movie even vaguely involving sports, I'm there. (Yes, even The Cutting Edge.) Here are my top five performances by an actor/actress as an athlete in a sports movie.
1. Daniel Day-Lewis in The Boxer:Robert DeNiro gets props for Raging Bull, but Day-Lewis was extraordinary as a middleweight trying to reclaim his life after prison.
2. Kevin Costner in Bull Durham: Costner has also played an aging pitcher and an aging golfer, but he was most convincing as an aging catcher trying to hang on long enough to see The Show.
3. Nick Nolte in North Dallas Forty: Nolte may technically be insane, but it fit well for Nolte's banged-up receiver in North Dallas Forty.
4. Cuba Gooding, Jr., in Jerry Maguire: There was more off-field than on-field action with Rod Tidwell, but Gooding nailed the modern-day athlete, from the physique to the swaggering strut.
5. Hilary Swank in Million Dollar Baby: As Maggie Fitzgerald, Swank transformed herself from a red carpet fashion icon into a lean, mean, fighting machine.
What was your favorite performance by an actor as an athlete? Let us know below...
Lang Whitaker is the executive editor of SLAM magazine and writes daily at SLAMonline.com
LL Cool J as a running back in Any Given Sunday, and Omar Epps as a freshman running back in the college football movie, The Program. Then you have Anthony Michael Hall as the big headed, hot shot, highly recruited quarterback in Johnny B. Good.
Just because it was the greatest sports movie ever made, I'll vote for Gary Cooper, portraying Lou Gehrig in Pride Of The Yankees. Of course I could have voted for Babe Ruth playing Babe Ruth in the same movie.
Typical pop-culture-driven list that ignores movie history older than 25 years (except NDF (1979)).
DeNiro set the bar for all movie boxers. Day-Lewis and Swank were excellent in part because of him. "Brian's Song" is the measuring tape for all good buddy films. And whoever said Bernic Mac needs to watch more movies (ala "Clockwork Orange").
Scott Bakula, the dude from Quantum Leap played a mean QB in Necessary Roughness. He was the the glue that kept the Fighting Armadillos together. Also, Sinbad might have been the best professor/D-line combo in movie history.
Billy Crudup- Without Limits, known throughout the running world as prabably the best running movie of all time. Ray Liotta- while not a fan of him as an actor he played a great Shoeless Joe Jackson, lots of mystique.
Any "best of" list that includes Kevin Costner should automatically be discredited. He is without question the worst actor to ever be on the silverscreen. How that guy keeps getting work is baffling to me.
Hey, the article isn't about athletes as actors, it's about actors portraying athletes. That said, DeNiro in Raging Bull and Costner in Bull Durham are my favorite performances. Worst performance; John Goodman as the Babe. An interesting note about Gary Cooper in Pride of the Yankees; Cooper was righthanded so in order to believably portray Gehrig, who was lefty, the director dressed him in a uniform with the lettering and logo backwards, then reversed the frames in the lab during editing so Cooper appeared lefty. No big deal today, but great special effects for 1942.
William Peterson played Stud Cantrell, a hilarious minor-leaguer in 1987's "Long Gone". I liked it better than Bull Durham. Virginia Madsen was the sultry "Dixie Lee Boxx" and there are other well-known actors who will surprise you. Rent it, if you can find it.
Acting aside; for sheer athleticism and believability I gotta go with Charlie Sheen in Major League and Carl Weathers in Rocky. Sheen, by the way, was a pro prospect with a 90 mph heater in high school before injuring his arm. A shout-out to Will Smith as Ali, Russell Crowe as James J. Braddock, and Hillary Swank in Million Dollar Baby.
Babe Ruth as Babe Ruth in "Pride of the Yankees"...it's almost as if he "became" Babe Ruth!
Other than that rather obvious "typcasting", kudos go to Mac Davis as Seth Maxwell (think Dandy Don Meredith) in "North Dallas Forty", Ryan Hurst as Gary Berthier in "Remember the Titans", Steve McQueen and Siegfried Rausch in "LeMans", and Adolfo Celli as Signor Manetta (think Enzo Ferrari) in "Grand Prix".
The kid who played Carp in "The Mighty Ducks". Or Peter Dante pulling off one of the best on screen performences I've seen in a while as the quarterback in "The Waterboy". Also I would like to nominate Ted Danson, he was pretty good in Cheers.
It's all about the Mighty Ducks: Emilio Estevez and Gordon "The Minnesota Miracle Man" Bombay Joshua Jackson as Charlie "I can never forget about the Ducks" Conway And Jans and Hans These are classic characters
Wesley and Woody in "White Men Can't Jump". They took their on court chemistry and decided to win back Gloria and move out of the hood by robbing the 'money train' controlled by Baretta himself! Now that is a wonderful pick-n-roll.
This is perhaps the greatest list that you have ever put out there for us....
Craig T. Nelson as the coach of Ampipe High School in "All The Right Moves" - you could put Tom Cruise as Stef Georgeovich on the list too.....
John Voit as Bud Kilmer in Varsity Blues - Scott Cahn as Charlie Tweeter was pretty good too - and dispite the lack of a creek - Dawson didn't do too bad himself.
Costner as Tin Cup, Costner as Billy Chapel (For Love of the Game), Costner as Crash Davis.......Costner is the best "Sports movie" actor of all time....take sports out of the plot - and the movie sucks.
Two Words....(both first names).......Ricky Bobby!
I could go on for days - but I don't want to crash your servers....