Seven talented actors who deserve more leading roles

Underrated, under-appreciated, criminally-overlooked, call it what you will but the fact of the matter is, these actors deserve better! They are constantly relegated to supporting roles, and worse, playing second fiddle to actors whose talent aren’t even on par. Yet time and time again they almost always overshadow the lead with their charisma and on-screen presence, which make you wish they had been given more screen time. With that in mind, here are seven fine actors who not only deserve it, but are more than capable to carry a movie on their own:

  1. Rufus Sewell
    Yes, yes I know, predictable aren’t I? But seriously, the reason I mention this Brit a bazillion times in my blog is because he just doesn’t get enough recognition in Hollywood. I mean, you already know how I felt about his involvement… or lack thereof, in The Tourist. Nothing against Johnny Depp but I certainly think Rufus can do an equally smashing job in his place. He usually steal scenes in practically every movie he’s in anyway (as my buddy Prairiegirl outlined in her b’day tribute), why not just let him ‘own’ the whole darn thing? As Roisin from Sundryanco Blog said in her brilliant comment, “Who needs the former two, when you’ve got two acting legends.” Hear, hear!
  2. Minnie Driver
    I’ve been a fan of Minnie since her excellent turn in Circle of Friends. There’s an inherent likability about the London-based actress that it’s so easy to root for her. She makes for an engaging and lovely leading lady in Return to Me, which unsurprisingly is a rom-com most people have overlooked. I also love her comical role as the egotistical Carlotta in Phantom of the Opera. She had a brief stint in the acclaimed TV series The Riches with Eddie Izzard, and was seen recently in Conviction. I’d love to see her get one of Jennifer Aniston’s roles for once, as it’s likely going to be a more watchable movie with her in it.
  3. Jamie Bell
    The ‘playing second fiddle’ comment I said above was pretty much dedicated to this 24-year-old Brit, particularly in the movie Jumper. Even just from the trailer, you could tell he’s the better actor than Hayden Christensen (though to be fair, Christensen was quite good in Life As a House). The BAFTA-winning actor does get the lead role in the British indie Mister Foe, but in Hollywood, he seems to be relegated to supporting roles, i.e. in The Eagle (whilst the beefcake with feeble talent Channing Tatum got the lead) and later in Sam Worthington’s thriller Man on Ledge. He’ll be starring in Tintin and Jane Eyre both due out next year, and hopefully more lead roles are in store for him in the future.
  4. Marisa Tomei
    She won an Oscar nearly 2 decades ago for her supporting role in My Cousin Vinny, but since then she never seems to be ‘upgraded’ to leading lady status. Sure, many of her supporting turn are quite memorable and has won accolades (i.e. What Women WantThe Wrestler), but I’m curious what she’d do if she’s given a chance to ‘carry’ a movie on her own. She seems to have a knack for playing women with emotional issues, but she’s always comes across endearing, not annoying. I’d think she’d be a good option for roles that normally go to Julia Roberts or Sandra Bullock, as she’s obviously as equally attractive and talented as those two movie stars.
  5. Sophia Myles
    Most of you probably have no idea who she is, but her face probably looks familiar to you. She’s one half of Tristan + Isolde as James Franco’s besotted lover and most recently was in Outlander as Jim Caviezel’s love interest. I first saw her in Mansfield Park and remembered her for her uncanny resemblance to Kate Winslet. But her excellent turn as Beth in the prematurely-canceled vampire show Moonlight is really one of the best thing of the series that made me wonder why Hollywood hasn’t quite ‘discovered’ her. I guess she’s got a pretty good gig right now in BBC’s seriesMI-5 alongside Richard Armitage, but with her talent and beauty, she could easily play roles that would’ve gone to Scarlett Johansson or Michelle Williams.
  6. Steve Zahn
    I just realized Zahn is a Minnesota-native, but that’s not exactly the reason for his inclusion. Known mostly for playing the ‘funny best friend,’ Zahn is so much more capable than that and has proven he’s got range in Werner Herzog’s Rescue Dawn. He’s also willing to suffer for his art, a la his co-star Christian Bale, as he lost 40 pounds for the role in that movie. His affable and naturally um, zany personality makes him so fun to watch (i.e. he makes Sahara more bearable, probably even more so if he had as much screen time as Matthew McConaughey!). I’m hoping that his moment to shine isn’t too far away in the horizon.
  7. Matthew Goode
    You’d think someone with his good looks would have no trouble finding lead roles in Hollywood. But Goode is much more than mere eye candy, which makes it all the more frustrating when he’s underutilized as the love interest in a vapid rom-com (read: Leap Year). Lately he’s all over the net as the rumor mill was working overtime in placing him as yet another possible contender for Superman. You already know who I think would be perfect for the role, but the tall, dark haired Brit as a superhero is an idea I can get behind 🙂 Of course I’d rather see him play various characters, and I’d think he’s poised to take over any role that’d normally go to the overworked (and overused) Ryan Reynolds or Sam Worthington.

Btw, you’re probably wondering why I didn’t put Timothy Dalton on this list, but I think I’ve made my feeling about him quite known all over this blog and especially this post. Besides, I’m planning on creating a dedicated list for seasoned actor of his stature sometime in the future.


Well, do you agree/disagree with my list? And while you’re at it, do share which actor(s) you think deserve to get top billing for a change.

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50 thoughts on “Seven talented actors who deserve more leading roles

  1. PrairieGirl

    Well, if you’re predictable, what am I? ;-). Of course Rufus should be at the top of this list. Love Minnie and Marisa too, agree with you very much on them too. Come to think of it, I do remember Steve Zahn from Sahara (a movie I rather liked, unlike you and many others). I thought he was a great partner to MM, but never thought about him in a leading role. I will now officially reconsider!

    1. Well, the list is in random order, but safe to say he’d be at the top otherwise 🙂

      Re: Sahara, I just can’t stand MM… he’s always so concerned about taking his shirt off, ugh!

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  3. univarn

    A lot of these seem to be going around. I did one a few weeks back on my most underappreciated actors. I like most of your choices here. However, I’ve never been a big Zahn fan. So in that respect I’ll just smile and nod.

      1. Ha, glad Univarn commented about his list because his list actually made me think of creating my own, but I’ve been so busy and I ended up putting it off. I like how it’s turned into a quasi-blogathon (I have to get on it some time soon).

        Love, love, LOVE the mention of Marisa Tomei. She’s phenomenal in MY COUSIN VINNY and IN THE BEDROOM and the likes, but she never gets the chance to lead. So very weird, a bit like Christopher Walken now that I think of it. Has he ever been the lead in a film?

        1. I know, Andrew! I’ve been inspired by other bloggers so many times but then kept getting distracted by other things that I never got around to do anything about it.

          I’m just puzzled that people who have screen presence AND talent just aren’t utilized to their full potential. The so-so talent seem to be getting more luck as lead for whatever reason.

          Hmmm, no I don’t think Walken’s been cast as a lead… he might have the most screen time in an ensemble but it’s not a one-man show type of flick. And talk about screen presence, Walken’s got oodles of charisma!

  4. ah, you know who’s my absolute favourite on that list 🙂 Matthew Goode off course. Love him heaps. And then some more 🙂
    The only one I wouldn’t agree with you on is Marisa Tomei. I’ve never actually understood why she got an Oscar in the first place.
    I loved Sophia Miles in OUTLANDER and in some other roles and I think she is gorgeous, but I didn’t quite like her in TRISTAN AND ISOLDE, she was the weak link for me in that lovely film.
    And you know my feelings on RufRuf 🙂

    You know that my list would include Urban, Patrick Wilson, James Marsden, Rebbeca Romejn, Ewan McGregor….

    1. I actually haven’t seen Outlander, just the trailer. But I like Caviezel so I really should give it a watch. As for your list… I think Ewan’s got his fair share of leading roles already, but the rest, I totally agree. I was going to put Marsden on my list but Castor’s already put him down and I want to keep my list to 7 (as today’s the 7th :D)

      1. you can watch OUTLANDER but don’t expect any depth off course 🙂 it’s just a super dynamic action epic. But I loved the setting and it kinda reminded me on Antonio Banderas’ THE 13 WARRIOR and our Karl Urban’s PATHFINDER 🙂

        1. Ok, duly noted. Sometimes when you don’t expect much, you actually enjoy it more. I actually saw Pathfinder trailer but I didn’t care for Urban’s look in that one.

  5. Hey Ruth, interesting post. I always liked Marisa Tomei, I remember her for that scream she lets out when that kid gets shot in In the Bedroom. Love that header image. How did you put that together? Which did program did you use?

    1. Ohhhh, spoiler alert… I haven’t seen In the Bedroom! 🙂

      Glad you dig it. I actually found the film reel template on Google but it has different photos inside the reel, so I just swap ’em out. I use Photoshop which is what I use for work every day 😀

  6. Ted S.

    I think Mathew Goode is a leading man waiting to happen, he just need that one big hit like say the new Superman flick. Remember Daniel Craig didn’t become the “it” guy until he became James Bond. Have you seen The Lookout? He was the villain in that film and he was quite good in it.

    As for your favorite Rufus, he was the leading man in Dark City but of course you know no one saw that film. After that he got cast mostly as villain or supporting role.

    As for the other actors/actresses you mentioned, I think they just don’t have that “it” factor. Also, I’m gonna have to disagree with you on Steve Zahn, I just don’t see him as a leading man. He’s perfect as a sidekick and yes comedies. Although I thought he was very good in Out of Sight as the loser wimpy type, maybe he should try doing those kind of roles more. I did see A Perfect Getaway where he was the leading man but that film has the most ridiculous twist I’ve ever seen. If you saw the film then you know what I mean.

    1. I think the purpose of these list are to showcase actors who deserves “more”, not necessarily to become mega-movie stars but in most case, just better roles even if they are supporting ones.

      1. @Castor – Yep, even if they don’t carry the movie on their own a la Wil Smith in I AM LEGEND, they deserve better prominent roles and more screen time in movies. Movie stars actually tend to lose their credibility once you see ’em on screen. Only a handful of them manage to retain their ‘believability’ as they can disappear in their roles despite their fame. Case in point: Russell Crowe.

    2. Hi Ted, I hope you’re right about Goode. I don’t know if he’ll be cast as Supes as it’s all just a rumor but he’s so versatile that he can pretty much do any genre. Oh yeah I was always curious to see The Lookout because of Gordon-Levitt but with Goode in it I should put it on the queue right now 🙂

      I see what you mean about ‘it’ factor, but sometimes these actors just need to be given an opportunity to shine y’know. I don’t know about the loser wimpy type, I’d say Zahn can probably fit in some roles that Shia LeBouf are getting… not Transformers, more like Disturbia. Nah, I have zero interest in seeing A Perfect Getaway.

      1. Oh yes, watch the Lookout. Goode was soo good at playing the bad guy in it. A change coz isn’t he almost always playing a good guy. And you forget he’s British in it too.

        I first saw Sophia Myles in Mansfield Park too. Then there was the 2001 Nicholas Nickleby, the series was soo much better than the 2002 movie with Anne Hathaway, and Myles play the character better than Hathaway too. And I keep hearing bout this Moonlight series, have got to check it out.

        1. Ok, ok, it’s in my queue. So he’s playing American in that one? WOW, seems like there are more Brits playing believable Americans than the other way around.

          Oh I gotta check out the Nickerby series. Is that on BBC? I hope it’s available on Netflix. Well I think Myles is arguably a better actress than Hathaway, she just needs more opportunities to prove it.

          Moonlight should be available on Netflix. It’s a guilty pleasure show of mine… the writing isn’t the greatest unfortunately, but I like the main guy and he & Sophia have a wonderful chemistry 🙂

  7. I think you’ve convinced me to watch some Rufus and TImothy stuff at some point. Hopefully when i get done with this school semester i will have time to netflix some of there stuff

    The rest of your list i am not too familiar with honestly

    For me, one actress that comes to mind as underrated/underused is Gabrielle Union. I wasn’t a fan of hers until i saw Cadilac records, where she imo gave a standout performance. But for whatever reason she seems relegated to goofy roles, and after seeing Cadilac records is think she can do much more than that

    And of course AMy Acker is another choice. Although, i will admit that i didn’t become a major fan of hers when i first saw her(or at least not as major a fan as i am now). I gradually became a fan of hers after seeing more of her stuff(most recently Dollhouse). But i became a die hard fan of hers when i was thinking of people to feature in a blog post on sci-fi actors that i still haven’t gotten around to posting. It was then that i realized that in just 2 shows(ANgel and Dollhouse) she played 5 different roles(due to fantasy and sci-fi tv shows allowing 1 actor to play multiple roles due to demonic possesion and stuff like that, which is partially why i wanted to do a blog on sci-fi/fantasy actors in the first place). And that is when i realized how versatile of a actress she is. But for whatever reason, she hasn’t been able to cross over into the mainstream like say Tricia Helfer or SUmmer Glau(Both fine actress’s, but i think Amy has just as much talent)

    Isabelle Furhman is another actress who i don’t see nearly enough as i would like. Her performance in Orphan was outstanding( and imo the best thing about that movie), and after that i was hoping to see her in more roles. But i remember her having some stuff on her imdb page, so maybe that will change

    Thomas Decker is another actor who i think doesn’t get enough leading roles(that, or he may shy away from mainstream movies, since the only 2 of the movies he’s been in haven’t found distributers). Either way, he is a actor i would like to see more off

    And i know you have no interest in this actor, but i think Michael Cera isn’t given enough chances to show his versatility. I loved his performance as Francois in Youth in Revolt, and i would love to see him take more roles like that.

    1. Hey, cool. You can go to that Prairiegirl b’day post if you want recommendations about Rufus. But as for Mr. Dalton, I suggest you watch Framed (it was a UK miniseries but it’s available on Netflix: http://movies.netflix.com/Movie/Framed/60001141?strackid=37801b1a46651d5b_1_srl&strkid=1299336562_1_0&trkid=222336) I think you’ll enjoy that one. Smartly written and Dalton had a good rapport with David Morrissey.

      I think you’ve mentioned these actors once or twice before, I’ll take your word for it about Amy as I don’t watch that much TV. Fuhrman is still young so she might still be getting prominent roles later in the future. I can see Dekker be a good alternative for roles that normally go to Zac Effron. It could be like you said that it’s his choice to do more low profile movies. Well as you requested, I’ll disregard your comment about Cera… he obviously has had plenty of opportunities to headline a movie.

      1. If it is on netflix i will most likely watch it.

        Unfortunately there aren’t a lot of clips of Acker, unlike with say Deborah(who i didn’t mention because judging from her imdb list it seems he has caught the atention of the mainstream)

        And i hope your right about Fuhrman.

        I made a small typo about Decker. He was in the friday the 13th remake, so he has been in at least one mainstream movie. But the 2 where he is the lead haven’t found distributers. When i told my dad about it he said maybe he is going the Johney Depp route.

        1. Oh right, I did remember seeing some stills of Decker in that 13th remake, but the real star of movies like that is the monsters. Well if he’s got the same charisma/talent as Depp, then he still has a long way ahead of him to have a good career. All he needs is one hit (look at Rob Pattinson) and suddenly all doors are open for him.

          1. I didn’t know jamie was in Defiance. And i remember gravitating to his character when i saw it. Then again i didn’t realize Mila Kunis was in Book of Eli until a few days ago(which i suppose means she gave a good performance).

  8. I second your choice for Jamie Bell 🙂
    I don’t know much about the others so I can’t say anything.
    I’d propose Cillian but he’s been getting good part now. So I propose Paul Bettany, he is really good but he doesn’t appear that much.

    1. Yeah, I’m glad I don’t have to include Cillian in this list as he’s been getting leading roles now, yay! Bettany has gotten a few leading roles as well I think, but none of them have hit it big. He’s in The Tourist also but at least he seems to be getting more screen time than Rufus or Timothy.

  9. Jamie Bell and Matthew Goode are known to have unprofessional attitudes both on set and on publicity tours (Bell being late/ditching A Single Man, Goode being bitchy when his movies don’t get Oscar noms/box office returns), so yeah, not gonna happen for those two.

    And the fact that Marisa Tomei isn’t back on the leading pack yet is ridiculous. She’s awesome as well as her CV for the past nine years.

    1. Hmmm, I didn’t know that about Bell & Goode… if you’re referring to what he said about Leap Year (that he agreed it was a terrible movie) I don’t think that counts as being bitchy, just honest.

      Yes, Tomei is probably the most deserving of this pack. Hopefully that’ll change one day.

      1. Goode dissed how Weinsten handled ‘A Single Man’ too. I wanna see more of the guy’s stuff and know whether or not he’s star-worthy. I feel like it’s gonna be difficult for him to get that chance now.

  10. I just had to left when I saw your RS plug!! haha. I think that Marisa Tomei is one that definitely belongs on this list. I agree!
    Interesting that Anomalous Material and you had similar posts this week. I posted there that I felt that David Morse, along with a couple others are overlooked too often as well.
    I know you’re a Jamie Bell fan, but he seems to popping up here and there lately! I think he’s not being overlooked, but that he is still up and coming! He is a great supporting actor, and sometimes, that has great value!
    Fun list, Ruth!

    1. Oh David Morse is a good one! Yes, that guy is very good. He was sooo creepy in Disturbia and was excellent in Proof of Life as well. I hope one day he gets his dues!

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  12. Zahn is such a likeable actor. And Goode is so very very Good(e):P

    They both really should get more parts but I think Zahn is typecast as a goofy guy playing young parts (he’s over 40!). Goode on the other hand, while great in The Watchmen and The Lookout still needs one more great before people begin to think of him more often. He’s great at being the unexpected bad guy. So sly and devious!

    1. Well Zahn’s got such boyish look to him, he could pass for a 20 year old! He is indeed likable.

      Goode needs a real meaty role to show people what he’s capable of. I think actors who are really good looking kinda have to work harder to prove their chops but from what I’ve seen him in, he’s more than a pretty face. I really need to see The Lookout soon.

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