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Readers' List: Best acting performances by athletes
From the Page 2 mailbag
It's not quite the Oscars, but Page 2 readers have cast their votes to recognize some outstanding acting performances.
1. Brett Favre in "There's Something About Mary" (67 letters)
You guys missed the tour-de-force of performances by athlete-thespians, Brett Farve's moving portrayal of himself in "There's Something About Mary." Farve was cool, detached and calculating as the wrongly-scorned former lover. When he leaned in to kiss Cameron Diaz, well, you could see the longing in his Mississippi eyes. Magic, just magic. Note: This movie-reviewer also enjoyed "Ishtar."
Brett Fav-ruh in "There's Something Abut Mary" -- sure, he was playing himself, but technically so was Kareem in "Airplane!", and Favre apparently was a last minute call-up when Steve Young wasn't available. Would have been nice to hear, "You try putting together a drive with Warren Sapp breathing down your neck!" but you take what you can get.
2. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in "Airplane!" (59 letters)
I see it listed under honorable mention, but I think that Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's role in "Airplane!" should be in your Top 5. When Joey tells Kareem that his dad thinks he's declining, and Kareem replies, "You try dragging Walton and Lanier up and down the floor for 48 minutes", I still laugh just thinking about it. And when they pull him out of the cockpit and he's dressed in his uniform, that's a classic.
Kareem's ability -- along with some very clever screenwriting -- allowed him to toe the line between his role as Roger Murdock and his real-life identity brilliantly. Yes, Joey, he didn't play defense very hard, but he sure could make us laugh out loud.
He is the only person who kept a straight face when Peter Graves asked Bobby about gladiator movies and naked men. Now that's acting.
3. Ray Allen in "He Got Game" (55 letters)
With all the attention that hoopsters like Shaq and Rodman get for their faux-"acting", way too little attention has been paid to Ray Allen's portrayal of burgeoning b-ball stud Jesus Shuttlesworth. If you didn't know Ray was a pro basketball player, there's no way you could watch "He Got Game" and think Allen's day-job was anything other than actor. Amazing job, great depth, great hoops and a complete lack of the lessons from The Rodman-Shaq School of Acting Like a Fool.
4. Carl Weathers in "Rocky" (48 letters)
Carl Weathers, a k a Apollo Creed, as the likable antagonist in the "Rocky" films, was unprecedented in cinematic history. Never before has the hero's opponent ever had a multi-dimensional character in sports films until this. Prior to "Rocky," they were just big, tough, one-dimensional bad guys who had no life outside of their role. The producers made the right call by giving the role to the right man.
Carl Weathers as Apollo Creed was excellent. He embodied the bragadocia and bluster of the person his character was modeled after -- Muhammed Ali. He played Ali, and he did it better.
5. Fred Dryer in "Hunter" (44 letters)
You are insane not to include Fred Dryer's scintillating career as a thespian on your list. He set the standard for hard-boiled TV detectives with his stoic, moving portrayal of Detective Sgt. Rick Hunter. Not even Hollywood hall-of-famer William Shatner's T.J. Hooker character held a candle to Dryer's Hunter. In fact, Dryer so convincingly tackled the role of Hunter that he was runner-up for the Sam Malone role on "Cheers." That the producers of "Cheers" chose Ted Danson (an incorrect choice, I opine) certainly doesn't tarnish Dryer's otherwise glowing acting care.
For six seasons, this was the best cop show around. It's just too bad that he never hooked up with Dee Dee.
6. Dan Marino in "Ace Ventura: Pet Detective" (39 letters)
He stuck with his acting roots (Isotoner comertials), moved up to acting as a famous football star (himself), and even up to the gay kiss (Lt. Einhorn was a man, baby!), all in one movie!! Way to go, Dan!
How can you not go with Dan Marino in "Ace Ventura." C'mon -- "Laces out, Dan! Laces out!" Sheesh.
Ann Arbor, Mich.
7. Bob Uecker in "Major League" (32 letters)
Bar none, he delivers. Even if you don't like baseball, you have to love his play-by-play in "Major League." Who didn't bust a gut when Uecker swears, which leads to:
How could you ever forget the man who voiced the classic line "Juuuuuuuuust a bit outside," as well as "If you turn this thing around, I'd be in the front row." Not to mention his incredible work in "Mr. Belvedere." No reason Uecker shouldn't be in the Top 10.
8. Alex Karras in "Blazing Saddles" (27 letters)
He rides into town on a bull, punches out a horse, gets blown up by a candy-gram, and utters the poignant line, "Mongo only pawn in game of life." Not even Olivier could pull that role off!
The Colony, Texas
9. O.J. Simpson in "Naked Gun" (24 letters)
You gotta give it to the Juice. He's the only one who doesn't rely at all on his athletic talent. Jim Brown, Ah-nold, they all just take imposing figures and incredible strength, put them on the silver screen, and call it acting. Hell, O.J. spent most of "Naked Gun" in a bandages, and was still hilarious. On another note, that baseball game is the single greatest sports scene in movie history, and O.J. deserves recognition purely by association.
10. Andre the Giant in "The Princess Bride" (23 letters)
If you are going to include wrestlers such as The Rock, then you can't overlook the brilliant performance of Andre the Giant in "The Princess Bride." No other person on earth could have played the gentle giant Fezzik as well as Andre did. The single best line of the film is when he says to Mandy Patinkin, "Indigo. (Yes, Fezzik) I hope we win." Leaving him off the list? Inconceivable!
Jim Brown in "The Dirty Dozen," Roger Clemens in "Kingpin," Bubba Smith in "Police Academy," Burt Reynolds in "The Longest Yard," Lawrence Taylor in "Any Given Sunday," Cam Neely in "Dumb and Dumber," The Hanson Brothers in "Slapshot," and John Matuszak in "Goonies."
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