30 Toughest Movie Actors

Real life badasses

Steve Buscemi

Why So Tough: He might not look like a typical tough guy, but as well as working as a fireman before his break in Hollywood (an occupation he briefly revived in order to help the city of New York post-9/11),

Buscemi was also repeatedly stabbed while trying to break up a bar fight between Vince Vaughn and some local boozers.

How It Translates Onscreen:
Buscemi had never really played the tough guy until Boardwalk Empire came along… suddenly, he seems to have the old intimidation routine down pat!

James Earl Jones

Why So Tough: Having already overcome a difficult childhood in which he remained functionally mute for the first eight years of his life, Jones joined the Reserve Officer Corps whilst at college and excelled.

He was called up to the full army during the Korean war, and eventually progressed to the rank of first lieutenant before eventually being discharged.

And they don’t hand that out to any old softy…

How It Translates Onscreen: As a menacing sense of authority, as best exemplified by one Darth Vader.

Rowan Atkinson

Why So Tough: Not so much tough as incredibly brave, Atkinson showed off his heroic side by pulling off a mid-air rescue when the pilot of the Cessna 202 carrying he and his family suddenly passed out.

Atkinson burst into the cockpit, managed to stabilise the plane and repeatedly slapped the pilot until he regained consciousness.

How It Translates Onscreen:
The above does sound a little like an episode of Mr. Bean , but we assure you, it was no laughing matter.

Brian Blessed

Why So Tough: Perhaps not as proficient in the barroom brawl stakes as some others on this list, but anyone who can climb 28,000 feet up Everest at the ripe old age of 55 (without using any oxygen lest we forget) surely has to be considered a tough old sort.

And he could knock you over just by saying hello…

How It Translates Onscreen: Largely into excessive bonhomie, with the occasional villainous turn thrown in for good measure.

Robert Duvall

Why So Tough: Robert Duvall is a military man through and through.

He’s a distant relative of renowned Civil War General Robert E. Lee, his father was a US Navy Admiral and he group up moving from one military base to another.

He served in the army himself, which just so happened to be where he did his first acting, in the services’ am-dram production of Room Service. So now you know.

How It Translates Onscreen: It largely translates as a quiet authority.

Or not so quiet, depending on the ready availability of a loud-hailer.

Mickey Rourke

Why So Tough: An amateur boxer during his teenage years, Rourke famously walked away from acting in the early ‘90s, in order to become a professional fighter.

He ended up undefeated after eight fights, but picked up a fair few bumps for his trouble, including a broken nose, toe and ribs as well as a split tongue.

How It Translates Onscreen: The Wrestler could double as a biopic of the latter period of Rourke’s career, as a broken-down tough guy has one last tilt at the big time.

Clint Eastwood

Why So Tough: Clint was drafted into the US Army as a 20-year-old during the Korean war, although it was an incident that occurred while he was on leave that really established his tough-guy credentials.

Clint was a passenger in a Douglas bomber that ran out of fuel and was forced to crash-land in the ocean below.

Not to be flustered, Eastwood managed to extricate himself from the craft and calmly swan the remaining three miles into shore.

What were you worried about?

How It Translates Onscreen:
They don’t make grizzled, tough-guy cops much badder than Clint.

Or grizzled, tough-guy cowboys for that matter.

Daniel Day-Lewis

Why So Tough: A notorious enthusiast of method acting, Day-Lewis’ preparation for The Boxer saw him train extensively with professional pugilist Barry McGuigan.

However, Day-Lewis went beyond simply learning a few steps, and utterly immersed himself in the discipline of the sport. McGuigan would go on to remark that the actor could have turned pro, had the desire taken him.

How It Translates Onscreen: Unsurprisingly, Day-Lewis’ performance in The Boxer is utterly convincing.

You wouldn’t want to get into the ring with him.

Harrison Ford

Why So Tough: Famed for playing onscreen heroes, Ford has made a habit of saving the day in his spare time too, using his skills as a helicopter pilot to assist with search and rescue missions.

Now, you might think that piloting a helicopter could be dangerous, but that’s not the case for Ford.

He even crashed one once, but walked away from the wreckage without a scratch.

Bone hard.

How It Translates Onscreen:
If it’s whip-cracking heroism you’re after, Harrison Ford is your man.

Christian Bale

Why So Tough: Quite aside from his semi-masochistic tendency to push his body to the absolute limit in order to prepare for a role, Bale isn’t afraid to put himself in danger in order to stand up for his beliefs.

While promoting The Flowers Of War , Bale visited imprisoned civil rights activist Chen Guangcheng and ended up in a fistfight with his guards.

Probably not the best idea in any country, but in China?

How It Translates Onscreen: As the limb-snapping, perma-growling embodiment of fear known as the Batman.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

George is GR's resident movie news person, based out of London. He understands that all men must die, but he'd rather not think about it.
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