A good script, good director, and a good crew are all elements of making a good movie – however, more than anything, good casting could bring it all together to make it a great cinematic experience. There are few movies that thrive on an actor carrying an entire film by himself – but when he does, the entire film becomes amazing.
In 1963, Andy Warhol experimented on the concept of anti-film in “Sleep” where all he did was take 321 minutes of footage of his friend sleeping during the entirety of the film. A year later, Sunil Dutt produced and acted in “Yaadein,” a film that went on into the Guinness Book of World Records for being the first Indian film with the fewest actors in a narrative.
However, the concept of a film being brought on by a single actor is becoming less unusual nowadays, and to prove that point, here are some movies where only one actor carried it in its entirety.
The Man Who Sleeps (1974)
The critically acclaimed French drama by Bernard Queysanne and Georges Perec is based on Perec’s 1967 novel A Man Asleep. The premise is simple: an alienated young student (Jecques Speisser) decided to abandon the world he knew and wandered along the streets of Paris. A woman narrates his innermost thoughts as he goes along, and the cinematography focuses on the student’s rituals as the audience follows him in what seems to be real-time as he wanders from place to place.
The utilization of black-and-white emphasizes on Queysanne’s love for exposure and contrast, but nothing in the film brings attention to itself. Instead, the viewers remain focused on the calm voice that relates the man’s thoughts and life in his silence.
A coffin, a man inside it, and a fistful of items that could save his life if he doesn’t run out of air. These are the only three things present in the film by Rodrigo Cortes, and only Ryan Reynolds appears on screen.
The story revolves around Paul Conroy, a truck driver working for a private contractor in Iraq. His truck was ambushed, and when he woke up, he was inside the blackness of what appears to be a coffin. He finds a cellphone, realizing that he has been kidnapped and is being held hostage. He speaks to other characters via the phone, but many of the people he tried to reach to for help are out, busy, or passing him along to someone else, and literally making him waste away his breaths.
Reynolds and the limited cinematography dictates the audience’s reactions to the film, but despite the limited space, the actor proved that he can hold his end up to a movie.
127 Hours (2010)
The biographical survival drama starring James Franco tells the story of how a man survived his trip to the chasm of an isolated slot canyon in Utah.
Based on a true story, Franco’s Ralston found himself literally between a rock and a hard place when he accidentally slips and falls while climbing down the canyon. His attempts at removing the boulder where his hand was lodged and his cry for help were of no avail, so he set on recording a video diary on his camera to record his fate.
While there are a few other characters in the film such as hikers he met, his girlfriend, and his sister, most of whom appear in flashbacks, the majority of the film focused on Franco’s character. His performance was nearly stellar too as he was nominated for six Academy Awards for the film, including Best Actor, and 127 Hours for the Best Picture.
Cast Away (2000)
There were a lot of people involved in the movie, but for two-thirds of it, Tom Hanks had to tell the story on his own, and that accounts for something.
Cast Away is about FedEx executive Chuck Noland who flies all over the world as he attempts to fix everyone’s problems. He hitched a ride on a FedEx flight across the Pacific, which was blown off-course and crashed after an on-board explosion. He was the only one to survive the crash, and to save himself, he held on to a life raft until he reached a deserted island. The only thing he could speak with during his time on the island was a volleyball, which became the plot device to illustrate his character’s alienation and need for companionship. Chuck then painted on a face and named it Wilson, and you would never remember another time where you cried over an inanimate object with no lines in a film.