6 Cheap Acting Tricks That Fool The Critics Every Time

#3. The Outsider Who Inspires a Ragtag Group of Kids

Everybody needs a little inspiration from time to time. Some people (us) draw their inspiration from the magic of Jagermeister and truck stop speed. For those with slightly more concern for the well-being of their liver, nothing is quite as inspiring as a tale of long odds overcome, courtesy of a teacher or principal who is out of his element.

Also, for whatever reason, it seems to help if the teacher in question has his own naturally occurring dermatological challenge to overcome. Hey, we don't make up the rules people.

For Example:

Before making the leap to the silver screen, acne scarred Edward James Olmos was already pretty well respected as an actor. In 1985, he won a Golden Globe and an Emmy for his portrayal of Lieutenant Martin Castillo, the only non-hilarious character on Miami Vice. But as Don Johnson would soon learn, it's a long road from television star to film star. That road is littered with bumps, potholes and unintentionally hilarious movie posters.

But Olmos was not fucking around. Olmos cemented his place as a respected actor with his role in the 1988 film Stand and Deliver. His portrayal of Jaime Escalante, a math teacher who turns a rebellious group of East L.A. school kids into calculus wizards, earned him a Best Actor nomination.

He would go on to enjoy a career filled with well respected roles in films like American Me, My Family/Mi Familia and Selena. Granted, it's no Nash Bridges, but it's a living.

Other Famous Examples Include:

Robin Williams's chest hair in Dead Poets Society

The weird stuff on Morgan Freeman's face in Lean on Me (the role which took him from soap operas to Driving Miss Daisy)

The Exception That Proves the Rule :

Like an inverted version of rule five, the less people want to have sex with you, the better this role works. Meryl Streep managed to get an Oscar nod for Music of the Heart, when she was well past the age that anyone wanted to see her naked. Antonio Banderas got laughed out of theaters in Take the Lead. Everybody was pretty sure Freedom Writers was terrible, which is about how certain most people are that they'd have sex with its star Hillary Swank. And the one objectively hot actress who tried it made Dangerous Minds, one of the most objectively ridiculous movies of the 90s.

It should be noted that, just as we expect our good looking actors to actually disfigure their bodies, we expect our ugly actors playing teachers to actually have weird shit going on with their skin.

"I will teach you to pay it forward with my face burns."

#2. Get Retarded!

Movie goers love the mentally challenged. Or rather, the quirky, innocent versions who show up in one inspirational movie after another. This is most likely because rooting for them on screen makes us feel better for avoiding them at all costs in real life.

For Example:

Before building a successful career playing himself in a string of blockbuster films, Billy Bob Thornton actually stretched a bit to play the role of Karl Childers, a mentally impaired man who befriends a young boy in Sling Blade. Not only did Thornton get nominated for Best Actor, he also won an Oscar for Best Screenplay and nailed Angelina Jolie. Repeatedly! And he didn't even have to adopt a fleet of kids to do it. Now that is success.

Meanwhile the annals of Academy Award history are littered with actors who earned buku actor cred by playing mentally handicapped characters. Dustin Hoffmann won a Best Actor Oscar for his role in Rainman. Tom Hanks did the same with his role in Forrest Gump. Even the women got in on the act when Jodie Foster was nominated for her lead role in Nell. You 'member dat?

Other Famous Examples Include:

Leonardo DiCaprio in What's Eating Gilbert Grape

Giovanni Ribisi in The Other Sister

John Malkovich in Of Mice and Men

The Exception That Proves the Rule :

In 2001's I Am Sam, Sean Penn swung for the retard fences and came up short. Was his portrayal of a mentally retarded man accurate? Hell yes. If you met him on the street, you'd be fooled. Come to think of it, if you met Sean Penn on the street out of character you'd get the same result. But that's beside the point. Even though he was nominated, Penn still went home with no award.

Why? As Robert Downey, Jr. famously warned in the comedy Tropic Thunder, taking on the role of a mentally handicapped person is tricky ("Never go full retard!"). To take home the gold you need to play the kind of mental handicap that just makes you quirky--or even better, gives you special powers somehow. You can't actually show audiences what life is like for these people. Who the fuck wants that?

#1. When All Else Fails... Go Gay

Being the kind of movie star who can do both blockbusters and award-winners means treading a fine line. You need to go edgy, in the sense that your roles will touch on controversial subjects, but not so edgy that it will turn off middle-America. So you can't do two hours of you in a dark room, shitting on an American flag while off in one corner a robot molests a child, for instance.

Or can you?

Instead, you need to hit that controversial sweet spot where you're challenging the beliefs of some people out there, but not so many that you can't still fill many theaters with people who agree with you (and who will purchase a ticket as a means of congratulating themselves for being so enlightened). Once upon a time it was racism, and then abortion. But right now, gay rights are where it's at.

For Example:

Who the fuck is Hilary Swank? That's probably what most people were asking when word of mouth spread that they should probably check out this Boys Don't Cry flick. Before that, Swank had a brief run on Beverly Hills 90210 and starred in Karate Kid Pt. 4, a film that we're pretty sure doesn't actually exist.

Except that there's evidence.

She was paid a total of $3,000 dollars for her work in Boys Don't Cry, but the notoriety gained by playing a homely looking dude was priceless. Overnight, Swank went from nobody to Academy Award winning actress. Her immediate success can be attributed to the fact that she is one of the first to stack the above techniques by going gay, biopic and ugly in the same role.

Holy shit, we're surprised they didn't just rename the Oscar after her.

The Exception That Proves the Rule :

Who are we kidding?





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For careers that were destroyed after winning the big one, check out 5 Great Careers Destroyed By The Post-Oscar Curse. Or find out about some movies that were likely cursed, in The Insane True Stories Behind 6 Cursed Movies.

And stop by our Top Picks to see Swaim's first gay role (he didn't know the cameras were on).

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