Lady Gaga has become more popular A star Is Born and House Gucci than for her discography, which makes it clear that a good performance is a good performance, regardless of professional acting experience. Audrey Hepburn, one of Hollywood’s greatest actresses, once said, “Nothing is impossible because the word itself says, ‘I am possible!'” a quote that highlights the incredible performances of real people with no formal training in the arts.
It’s not just Lady Gaga who has emerged as a real actor — it’s wrestlers, doctors, and kids on the street that directors use to make their films more authentic. Some of them even get Oscar nominations (and win!) for their performances, proving that acting without knowledge of the craft isn’t impossible.
Gary Poulter as Wade Jones (Joe)
In 2013, Nicolas Cage starred in an independent drama called joe, portrays an ex-con who tries to make a quiet living in the Oregon wilderness by poisoning trees for a lumber company. When he becomes an unlikely father to a job-seeking teenager, the boy’s father, an already malicious man accustomed to stealing his son’s wages and physically abusing him, is determined to destroy their two lives.
To play the boy’s father, Wade Jones, director David Gordon Green hired Gary Poulter, a homeless man from Austin, Texas. Poulter brought exactly the kind of authenticity the film needed after leading a life as tough as his character’s. Poulter’s ability to sometimes vacillate between whimsical, spiteful and creepy in a single scene is mesmerizing. He died shortly before yeah‘s release, and Green dedicated the film to him.
Roderick Toombs Nada (They Live)
By now everyone knows the success that wrestlers can find in Hollywood through the filmographies of Dwayne Johnson and Dave Bautista. They were preceded by Roderick Toombs, who starred in one of the finest sci-fi action films as the drifter known simply as “Nada.” she Life, about a man who discovers that certain ordinary people are in fact aliens intent on keeping the human race docile and complacent.
What is special about Piper’s performance is that unlike the wrestlers mentioned above, his size and physical condition are not the focus of his role. He’s an everyman who’s quick-thinking, resourceful, intelligent, and nowhere near as brash as his rowdy wrestling personality.
Haing S. Ngor – Dith Pran (The Killing Fields)
As versatile as actors can morph into other people, sometimes a person’s lived experiences cannot be replicated. That was certainly the case when Dr. Haing S. Ngor was cast for the role of journalist Dith Pran The Killing Fields. Ngor had actually experienced the real Killing Fields and proved that there is no substitute for the real deal.
Ngor recalled when the Khmer Rouge killed someone labeled an intellectual during the Cambodian civil war. According to VICE, when Ngor’s pregnant wife went into labor while incarcerated in one of the death camps, he was unable to give her the caesarean section that would have saved her life because his status as a doctor would have been discovered and would have been able to see her die. Ngor won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for his totally believable performance.
Abraham Attah – Agu (Beasts Of No Nation)
Imagine that one minute you’re playing soccer with your friends and the next minute you’re starring in a movie alongside Idris Elba. According to Indiewire, that’s exactly what happened to Abraham Attah, a normal teenager kicking a soccer ball around as a casting director beasts without a nation approached him about acting in the film.
Attah plays Agu, a boy in West Africa who finds himself caught up in a civil war and forced to become a child soldier. Forced to do truly unspeakable things, Agu’s innocence is slowly consumed with each act of atrocity, a metamorphosis that would be a challenge for any actor to successfully portray, let alone one with no acting experience.
Frank Silva – Bob (Twin Peaks)
That’s not surprising twin peaks, Provocative director David Lynch’s surreal mystery series features a villain made for nightmares. But the really surprising part? That he will be played by Frank Silva, who was the show’s set designer until he was cast for the role.
Bob is evil personified, and while Silva doesn’t have much to say, he makes the most of his very expressive face. Knowing how to emote effectively and twist his body in just the right haunting way ensured Silva made Bob iconic and contributed to the scariest scenes twin peaks.
Barkhad Abdi – Abduwali Muse (Captain Phillips)
“Look at me. I’m the captain now.” With this sentence, Barkhad Abdi left an indelible mark on the audience watching the intense thriller captain phillips, the true story of how Captain Richard Phillips was taken hostage by pirates off the Horn of Africa led by Abdi’s muse Abduwali.
Despite having no training as an actor, the ex-taxi driver manages to hold his own in tense scenes starring Tom Hanks as Captain Philips, and brings a confidence and intensity that really sells the Somali pirate menace. Abdi was even nominated for an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for his work.
Harold Russell – Homer Parrish (The Best Years of Our Lives)
year of construction 1946, The best years of our lives chronicles the various problems faced by three men after World War II as they attempt to reintegrate into civilian life, and one of them is played by real-life veteran Harold Russell. While it wasn’t uncommon for ’40s Hollywood actors to join the war, like James Stewart or Clark Gable, it wasn’t as common for veterans to go to Hollywood.
Harold Russell plays Homer Parrish, who is struggling to adjust to life after losing both hands. According to EW, in an accident involving TNT while training paratroopers, Russell lost his hands and chose hooks over prosthetics because of their functionality. His performance not only captures Parrish’s vulnerability and frustration, but also his delight in life’s simple pleasures that are worth fighting for, and he took home the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.
Ted Thin Elk – Grandpa Sam Reaches (Thunderheart)
In the fascinating mystery thunder heart, Based on the real-life FBI investigation into killings on a Native American reservation, Val Kilmer stars as Agent Levoi, whose Sioux heritage helps him gain the trust of his people. He shares many touching scenes with Grandpa Sam Reaches while working the case, a tribal elder played by Chief Ted Thin Elk.
Thin Elk, Sicangu Lakota Sioux from the Rosebud Indian Reservation, had never done a film until he was cast at the age of 72. He seems very comfortable in front of the camera and has just the right amount of cryptic charisma to add mystique to the film’s plot, he can’t help but be a scene thief.
Dean Brooks – John Spivey (One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest)
In 1975, Jack Nicholson made a small film called One flew over the cuckoo’s nest, In it he plays McMurphy, a man who tries to avoid jail time by committing himself to a mental institution. His assessment will be made by Dr. Spivey, the superintendent of the hospital and the real-life superintendent of Oregon State Hospital, where the film was filmed.
The authenticity of Dean Brooks’ portrayal makes Dr. Spivey to one of the best film psychiatrists. His lack of formal acting experience was more than made up for by his mental health experience, and he decided to interview McMurphy like any other patient, leading to a tour de force two-handed scene.
Dil (The Crying Game)
In the early ’90s, director Neil Jordan needed to find the perfect person to play the enigmatic and intriguing Dil, a young Londoner who was courted by an IRA freedom fighter after the death of her soldier friend. Although she had no acting experience, Jaye Davidson was cast The Wine Gamehe discovered was for the role of a transgender woman.
The casting would be different today, but Jaye Davidson’s performance was as honest as he could get and Dil is a resilient, strong and charming character that earned him a Best Supporting Actor nomination, the first ever British Person of Color to be nominated.
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