"Almost every actor thinks he's an athlete," says Ron Shelton, "and almost none of them are." Shelton should know, being a creative force (director or writer or sometimes both) on such films as Bull Durham, Tin Cup, White Men Can't Jump, Blue Chips, Cobb, Play It to the Bone, The Best of Times and The Great White Hype. When an actor comes to his office to audition for a sports movie, Shelton, who played second base for five years in the Baltimore Orioles' organization, immediately tosses him the baseball that always sits on his desk. "You see right away how he handles it, catches it, how he feels with it," says Shelton, "and usually you're disappointed." Here are the actors who, in Shelton's opinion, have the physical ability to consistently and convincingly combine athletic and artistic prowess.
1 Kevin Costner (Bull Durham [below], Tin Cup, For Love of the Came, American Flyers): "It's remarkable how good Kevin is. Smooth and fluid, utterly believable in whatever he does."
2 Kurt Russell (The Best of Times): "He was a minor league ballplayer, and it shows. He could pull off any athletic role."
3 Robert Redford (Downhill Racer, The Natural): "Obviously, he's getting older, but he was a high school ballplayer, and he's looked good in the athletic parts he's had."
4 Wesley Snipes (white Men Can't Jump, Major League, Undisputed) and Woody Harrelson (White Men Can't Jump, Wildcats): "Wes isn't much of a basketball player, but he's great at everything you can't reach-jumping, running, quickness. Woody is basically a slow white guy, but he really knows how to play."
5 Nick Nolte (North Dallas Forty): "He played high school football, and that showed in North Dallas. He really captured the feel of that kind of player."