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How many actors does it take to make a great movie?

Friday 7 May 2010, 12:33

Mark Kermode Mark Kermode

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Is it true that all you need for cinematic success is a big two-hander (insert your own "Kermode mitts" gag here), or even a three-hander, or does that only work if you have the likes of Gemma Arterton and the wonderful Eddie Marsan, as in The Disappearance of Alice Creed?

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    Comment number 1.

    Haven't caught the Disappearance of Alice Creed yet but,

    I would like to add Hard Candy. Aside from 2 or 3 very small parts the entire film is excellently carried by Patrick Wilson and Ellen Page. Not only that, but they spend almost the entirety of the film in facial close ups. An accomplishment to say the least.

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    Comment number 2.

    The Australian film The Interview (1998) is a wonderful two or three-hander with Hugo Weaving and Tony Martin. A Kafkaesque psychological drama set almost entirely in a police interrogation room, it manages to weave tension all the way through to the end.

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    Comment number 3.

    I would argue that Rear Window (the Hitchcock version) is basically a two and a couple of bits hander.

    Failing that, the original Planet of the Apes after the first firteen minutes has only got one human speaking part, the rest are monkeys!!

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    Comment number 4.

    A brilliant recent example is Antichrist - which focuses on Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg for the entire movie, there's barely a frame without one of them in it and their performances are amazing.
    One of my favorite examples is Sleuth, the original 1972 thriller with Michael Caine and Laurence Olivier. It was just over two hours of them talking, with no other characters. I was completely gripped for that whole time. A sublime piece of work.
    When Harry Met Sally does have two strong supporting actors but I think we can all agree that the success of that movie lies in the chemistry between Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal, who totally carry the movie.
    Bruce Campbell provides a one man show for pretty much the entire running time of Evil Dead II and that's an absolutely magnificent film.
    Could we also make a case for Mike Leigh's Naked? Again, there are some strong supporting characters but that film completely RELIES on David Thewlis rampaging through pages of dialogue at the expense of our senses. It's a magnificent performance, without him its power would be lost.

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    Comment number 5.

    God! And how could I forget two of my all time favorite movies - Richard Linklater's Before Sunrise and Before Sunset. Two funny, intelligent, deeply moving films with pitch-perfect performances.
    Nope. The size of a cast doesn't matter. Two people can make a movie.


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