The term “perfect” is always met with opposition. If we are talking about a meal, a human body, a sunset, or a film – there are going to be some differences of opinion and hopefully some altercations. God, we all love a good altercation.
There is nothing better than a solid upper cut or a stretched out collar on a brand new cashmere sweater. Yes. When it comes to film, we tend to get a little heated about our opinions, since the films we are passionate about have affected us in a positive way.
In the spirit of calling out these 10 films for having a perfect cast, here are some things to mull over. These films may be considered perfect for numerous reasons. It could be the film was nominated for several academy awards for performances.
It could be for nostalgic reasons, since films tend to be better if appreciated at a younger age. It could be for the fact you can’t imagine anybody else playing that iconic role. Whatever it is, these films have arguably the perfect cast. The acting doesn’t have to be perfect, but it just all comes together like an incestuous polygamist family.
1. One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest – 1975
The brilliant casting director for this film is Jane Feinberg. Oh, you’re not familiar with her work? She’s a fucking beast. Feinberg did the casting for The Godfather: Part 2, Back to the Future, Aliens, and Blade Runner. She was just warming up in her career to cast the best bunch of loveable goofballs you’ve ever seen on film.
One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest is loaded with talented actors that really hadn’t been discovered, yet. This was the film debut of many actors including: Brad Dourif, Christopher Lloyd and Will Sampson (Chief). The story of how Will Sampson was discovered is pretty remarkable. A complete fluke. Most of the extras were genuinely nuts and made the film more authentic. Who the hell was Danny DeVito at this time?
Also, we have the man with the marfan – Vincent Schiavelli. Along with Scatman Crothers, Sydney Lassick as Cheswick, and the great Michael Berryman. Berryman is a great staple in so many films, but wouldn’t have been if it weren’t for Cuckoo’s Nest. The following year he was cast to play in Craven’s The Hills Have Eyes.
There isn’t a character in that film that could or should be replaced by any other actors. Jack Nicholson as Randall P. McMurphy and Louise Fletcher as Nurse Ratched are perfect. Arnold Schwarzenegger said he watched Nurse Ratched get strangled over 100 times while preparing for his role in Total Recall. His eyes definitely bulged out a little more than Louise Fletcher’s, but she’s still the original.
Cuckoo’s Nest took home 2 Oscars for Best Actor and Actress, while Brad Dourif was nominated for his staggering stammering performance. It would have been a strange acceptance speech for Ba-ba-ba-Billy Bi-bi-bi-bibbitt.
2. The Big Lebowski – 1998
From the introduction of The Dude writing a check in a bathrobe for $0.67 to buy a carton of milk to splash into his White Russian’s – Jeff Bridges was born to play that role. Using his own personal wardrobe, the famous Pendleton Westerly sweater and clear Jellies sandals, it was a perfect casting decision.
The Coen Brothers had written the screenplay with Jeff Bridges, John Goodman, Steve Buscemi, and Sam Elliott in mind. This is why every single role is clearly defined for these actors. They just had to show up and read the fucking script, man.
This film also cast Julianne Moore and John Turturro. Julianne Moore fits the role of Maude as an apathetic and eloquently spoken artist. Turturro in a purple onesie, loaded with accessories next to his long coke crusted pinky-nail, is one Jesus you don’t want to fuck with – especially if you’re an 8 year old. He’s a pederass, dude.
Also, we can’t move forward with this article without talking about John Goodman as Walter. With constant mood swings, he’s anything but “perfectly calm”. Seeing the world through yellow-tinted glasses, it’s no wonder he keeps referring back to Vietnam. John Goodman sporting his flattop and military vest will always be known as Walter.
There won’t ever be another film like the Big Lebowski for its flawless characters, perfect casting choices, and quotable lines. To start a Homer-like Odyssey narrative looking for a rug that really tied the room together is pure brilliance. The Big Lebowski abides and will remain timeless in an ever changing world.
3. Glengarry Glen Ross – 1992
Here is another film with the perfect cast. You have to give credit to David Mamet for writing a bulletproof script. The dialogue is so sharp, it could cut through any criticism. This film consists of Jack Lemmon, Al Pacino, Alec Baldwin, Alan Arkin, Ed Harris, and Kevin Spacey. Every character is well defined and perfectly executed by the actors. There was such a camaraderie on set, the actors off-screen would show up and watch the other performances on their days off. Jack Lemmon claimed, “the cast was the greatest acting ensemble he had ever been part of.”
None of the roles in the film were auditioned. The actors were all offered their individual roles. Alec Baldwin seems all too comfortable belittling other men and making them feel like pieces of shit. Nobody else could pull off the brief, but powerful fire spitting monologue. He was born to play the role of Blake. Al Pacino as Ricky Roma has one of the best lines of his career with, “you ever take a dump that made you feel like you’d just slept for 12 hours?”
After watching Glengarry Glen Ross, it feels like you just knocked doors all night with these poor bastards. The urgency created to survive this hostile environment is totally believable, where you empathize with each and every salesman. Every performance is so genuine and perfectly executed. Kevin Spacey is able to pull back on the reigns and allow his emotions to undulate with the other actors, until he eventually grows a spine.
It’s a subtle performance, but still one of his stronger ones. However, this film belongs to the fast talking and quick biting Shelley Levene played by Jack Lemmon. From the nervous chuckles to the manipulative nets he throws around, it is a perfect performance and a perfect ensemble cast.
4. Network – 1976
If you don’t know who Paddy Chayefsky is, then you should stop reading this article and do some research. What started out as a comedy turned into one of the most prophetic satire pieces of all-time. Chayefsky had some actors in mind to play Howard Beale (Henry Fonda, Cary Grant, James Stewart, Paul Newman, George C. Scott, and Glenn Ford), but it eventually went to Peter Finch. Finch had some great performances in his career, but none as powerful or memorable as Howard Beale. He won an Oscar and died shortly after. It wasn’t on national television, but it seems like “…he wasn’t going to take this anymore.”
Which brings us to William Holden. Have you ever seen him in such a charged role? With most of his career defining roles, he’s the laid back guy with a cigar and an intelligent one-liner. In Network he seems like one big screaming and throbbing neck vein ready to burst. With all of the yelling, he must’ve cleared out 40 years of cigar smoking. However, he also delivers some cutting words with a whisper. A brilliant dance by Holden. He put everything out there on the table and was probably still hoarse from this performance when he died shortly after.
Robert Duvall has always been one tiny concentrated ball of testosterone. He could’ve only been three things in life: a baseball coach, a high school gym teacher, or an actor. He chose wisely with channeling his anger and passion into acting. He was perfectly placed in this film to add more electricity to the film.
Faye Dunaway, model turned actress, is a crucial role in this film. Diana Christensen is “television incarnate. Indifferent to suffering; insensitive to joy.” Even in her brisk walk across the office, she seems completely disconnected from those around her. Hyper-focused on nothing but the next best thing. It’s a role that allowed Dunaway to spread her wings and she soared.
Last, but not least is Ned Beatty. He delivers a speech as true now as it was back then. Finally healing emotionally from being a victim over a log, Beatty was able to capture a Shakespearean speech which fluctuates in all the right places. We almost didn’t recognize you with that mustache. Well done, sir.
The pendulum swings to both extreme emotional sides in Network and the cast was spot on with the chops to handle it. Oscar nominations galore.
5. The Godfather – 1972
Are you sick of hearing about how great the Godfather is? All of your Italian friends scratching at their throats and talking about cannoli. But, it’s damn near impossible to say the cast isn’t as close to perfect as they come. From every fat fuck to thick-haired numbskull, the cast is outstanding. Louis DiGiamo was the casting director and grew up near the most concentrated Italian city in the country, so he knew what he was looking for. Also, it was the casting director’s first fucking project. It is pretty impressive.
Marlon Brando IS the Godfather. There is no second choice for Don Vito Corleone. The list would be as thin as his hair or pencil mustache. His gravelly whisper is so iconic and mimicked any time someone is welcomed into a new family. Marlon Brando is able to harness so much formidable power into a mutter. His father was a mutter, his mother was a mutter.
Al Pacino shoots it like a sniper rifle in his performance as Michael Corleone. It was DiGiamo that found him shooting up heroin in Needle Park, gave him a suit, a haircut, and a job. Pacino paved his future with gold in the shadow of Brando. Fortunately, the effects of heroin didn’t reveal themselves until later in his career when he became the “hoo-ha!” yelling little squirt. Pacino was meant to be in this film.
James Caan is perfect as Sonny. Nobody speed walks better than James Caan. It’s what keeps him in such great shape. Also, he sold the shit out of taking over 900 bullets to the body. Sterling Hayden, Diane Keaton, and even Abe Vigoda were all great casting choices.