Tom Hardy

Tom Hardy’s career has been a hidden success. The world still doesn’t know his name, but it should. He started off strong with small roles in Black Hawk Down and HBO’s Band of Brothers. Star Trek fans will recognize him as Praetor Shinzon in Star Trek: Nemesis. But then he did a string of films in his homeland of England. His variety of characters was intriguing to watch in films like Layer Cake, Marie Antoinette and RocknRolla. But then his most unbelievably brilliant performance came.

In 2008, Hardy packed on 42 pounds in five weeks to portray Charles Bronson, the most notorious prisoner in England. The titular character of the film Bronson gave Hardy an opportunity to be unrestricted on-screen. While the film is still relatively unknown across the globe, anybody who sees it becomes completely engrossed by Hardy’s performance. He strips himself, covers himself in grease and goes all-out in a battle with himself and those around him. Watching this film will make you wonder why he hasn’t already been cast as a Batman villain or James Bond (though he will be replacing Mel Gibson as the new Mad Max). Tom Hardy’s charisma is truly endless – a fact our own Rob Keyes says is undeniable in Inception.

Ellen Page

It’s no secret that Juno was Ellen Page’s step into movie stardom. But her road to it was filled with small indies and other riveting performances. As Shadowcat in X-Men: The Last Stand, she didn’t stretch her acting ability, but proved she can handle action sequences like the ones she would later perform in Inception. Really, the must-see film of her career is Hard Candy. If you want an idea of her on-screen talent, watch her play the twisted girl who is always in charge, but never looks it.

Yet, obviously her performance in the quirky Juno catapulted her to the worldwide name she is today. While Page has screenwriter Diablo Cody to thank for that, she was ultimately believable and spontaneous in the titular role of Juno MacGuff. She earned herself that Oscar nomination. Just don’t expect anything like Juno in Inception.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt

We’ve known about Joseph Gordon-Levitt for quite some time. Many still remember him as a young boy waving his arms at Danny Glover when he saw an angel in Angels in the Outfield. One of his most widely-appreciated films came five years later with 10 Things I Hate About You. But both of those still held back the clearly talented actor.

After over a decade of weaving his way through the indie circuit, people began to take notice of his ability. Gordon-Levitt hid behind the flashy lights of Hollywood and stuck to films he cared about on a personal level. But last year, he broke out into the limelight for all to see. Alongside Zooey Deschanel, he shined in Marc Webb’s (500) Days of Summer. The film’s non-linear narrative structure put his ability to believably play multiple emotions on display. The film made him a star and earned him a Golden Globe nomination.

But none of those films are a true testament to his skills in front of the camera. Brick gave Gordon-Levitt a chance to portray a dark and emotionally-driven character. The story revolves around his character, an amateur gumshoe who sinks to the murky depths of a high school crime ring to personally uncover the secrets behind his ex-girlfriend’s disappearance. Brick‘s Noir atmosphere and and stylized language showed that Gordon-Levitt shared the creative spark you hope for in an actor willing to take risks (ultimately to his reward). It also showed why he’s perfect for Inception.

Leonardo DiCaprio

Titanic made him a superstar, but it was the film’s box office success that sprouted his international fame. DiCaprio has been nominated for an acting Oscar three times, and one of them is his best performance. In Blood Diamond he sported a South African accent and gave us a heart-wrenching character arc. But the “bling-bang” character was not his best. In The Aviator, DiCaprio sported the famous mustache of Howard Hughes in Martin Scorsese’s epic biopic. The film was a beautiful display of history and charisma, pushing DiCaprio into a darker place than he had ever been before. But it was not his best.

It was DiCaprio’s Oscar-nominated supporting role that stands out as his most memorable work. Anybody who can show up Johnny Depp in a film named for Depp’s character is someone to remember. As Arnie Grape in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape?, DiCaprio presented a timeless depiction of the mentally challenged teenager whose family could never quite understand him. It was more than the character that allowed DiCaprio to explore his acting prowess. His ability to completely embody Arnie Grape was as mesmerizing as it was tragic. At such a young age, the actor put away any ego or fear and tackled the character with the confidence of a grizzled veteran. Ever since, he has continued to challenge himself with multi-layered characters, despite the occasional box office-friendly role.

The Inception cast is something to behold, but according to the reviews, Christopher Nolan has assembled a cast where the viewer can pick any actor and find individual greatness in their performance. With a respected history behind each actor, it’s no surprise they bring an extra element to their characters.

Feel free to share your opinions on each actor’s best role, but remember to keep it clean. If you think I am way off on one of them, let us know why and what made another performance better.

Inception hits theaters and IMAX on July 16th, 2010.

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