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Film

Steven Spielberg named the five greatest actors of all time

Over the course of his illustrious career, Steven Spielberg has collaborated with some of the finest acting talents of the modern era. Ranging from Daniel Day-Lewis to Harrison Ford, Spielberg has worked with the very best which would lead many people to believe that his favourite actors were some of his own colleagues who contributed to the creation of cinematic magic in his projects.

However, Spielberg only came up with a definitive list of the greatest actors to have ever existed in a conversation with Stanley Kubrick. After watching a screening of The Shining, Kubrick asked Spielberg what he thought of this latest horror project. The American auteur had always loved Spielberg’s cinema and even chose him to direct the iconic sci-fi film A.I. Artificial Intelligence that would become an indispensable part of popular culture.

While recalling the interaction, Spielberg confessed that he hadn’t liked The Shining when he first saw it. Even though he tried to tell Kubrick about the elements he enjoyed, the ageing master immediately understood that Spielberg hadn’t liked the film and said: “Well, Steven, obviously you didn’t like my picture very much”.

Spielberg initially felt that Jack Nicholson’s performance was over-the-top and compared it to the exaggerated stylisations of the Japanese kabuki performances. When Kubrick heard this comparison, he calmly asked Spielberg to make his own list of the greatest actors of all time without deliberating on it too much.

Check the full list below.

The five greatest actors of all time, according to Steven Spielberg:

  • Spencer Tracy
  • Henry Fonda
  • Jimmy Stewart
  • Cary Grant
  • Clark Gable

When Spielberg finished naming the greatest actors in the history of cinema, Kubrick asked him: “Where was James Cagney up on that list?” Spielberg loved Cagney as well but did not consider him to be in his top five whereas Kubrick did which is why Kubrick thought of Jack Nicholson’s performance as a fantastic interpretation.

“Kubrick films tend to grow on you,” Spielberg said. “You have to see them more than once.” That is why, after repeatedly watching The Shining throughout the years, Kubrick’s enigmatic interpretation of the horror genre has now become one of Spielberg’s favourite films of all time.

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