With the recent news about Robin Williams it got me thinking about all the great movies I grew up watching and all the great actors who helped shape me as a person. Some of these actors had almost as much to do with me becoming who I am as a person as my own parents. Needless to say I watched a lot of tv as a kid. Not to say I never went outside or anything. I was actually quite an active child, but tv has always held a special place in my heart. I thought the perfect way to pay respect to Robin Williams would be to talk about him and the other actors whose hard work and dedication did not go unnoticed by me.
Although all these actors were popular while I was young, some of them are no longer in the public eye. Whether it be due to death, failing career or simply quitting Hollywood on their own accord. Regardless of where they have ended up they mean something to me still thanks to their contributions.
16. The Lawrence Brothers
Both collectively or as individuals Joey, Matthew and Andrew have casually popped up throughout my childhood. Most notably was their collaboration as the Roman brothers in Brotherly Love, but I also recall Joey Lawrence from Blossom and his brother Matt from the final seasons of Boy Meets World and Mrs. Doubtfire. Their younger brother Andrew is another story. He spent years influencing me without my knowledge. While I fondly remember his appearances in made for tv films like Going To The Mat (where he plays a blind wrestler) or The Other Me (where he clones himself) his biggest role came in the form of voice acting; where he played none other than Recess's TJ Detweiler. It was a show I used to watch almost daily when I first got home from school. Andrews brother Joey even guest starred on Recess, giving his voice to one of my favourite guest characters Franklin "The Dude" Dudikoff. Sadly none of the Lawrence brothers are that popular anymore. Aside from Joey's newest project Melissa + Joey, which both his brothers have guest starred on, the appearances of all three Lawrence brothers have been sparse to non-existent.
15. Chris Farley
Chris Farley is probably best known for his role as part of the SNL cast, bringing joy to all with, what I feel, were some of the best skits of their time. The first role I ever saw him in was the Bus Driver from Billy Madison. Eating childrens lunches and screaming at students in a manor that might have seemed more cruel than funny, had anyone else played the part. I credit Tommy Boy as my favourite role of his, due to its sweet natured charm and childish antics. Unfortunately, Chris Farley passed away in 1997 after overdosing on cocaine. A death very similar to that of John Belushi, who also passed away from a drug overdose in his 33rd year. Chris was definitely a man who lost the battle with his demons. The last person to see him alive was a woman he had paid to spend time with him. It's reported that his last words were "Don't leave me."
If you were alive in the 90's you saw Andrew Keegans performance in 10 Things I Hate About You. Well that or you were living under a rock because come on everyone has seen that movie. You might also remember him from Independence Day. The role that I associate most with him though is Camp Nowhere. His character Zack Bell teamed up with Mud, Gaby and Trish to invent fake summer camps so that they could spend their summer in peace rather then be forced into the paths their parents chose for them. Obviously, other neighbourhood kids find out and it becomes a huge out of hand conspiracy. They even go so far as to blackmail a former drama teacher (Christopher Lloyd) into helping them with their plan. It was a fun, endearing movie and to this day I can still watch it without feeling disappointed, unlike other movies from my childhood that just didn't hold up now that I'm an adult. Over the course of his career he has made appearances on shows such as Baywatch, Boy Meets World, 7th Heaven, House and CSI. Other then a brief uncredited appearance as a Gotham police officer in Christopher Nolans third and final Batman movie The Dark Knight Rises, Andrew has been inactive in the last couple years. He has a few roles booked for later this year into 2015. We will see what comes of it.
13. Charlie Sheen
These days he is mostly associated with his former role as Charlie Harper on Two and a Half Men, or simply the crazy "winning" guy who got fired from Two and a Half Men, but before all the controversy that resulted a few years back he was and still is (in my opinion) a great actor. If you don't agree just take a look at his work from the 80's and 90's. Platoon, Wall Street, Young Guns, Major League, Hot Shots!, even The Three Musketeers. Like most films they weren't without faults, but you can't tell me Charlie Sheen didn't do a good job. Even his brief appearance in Ferris Bueller, which to this day, might be my favourite performance of his. Charlie typically plays characters named Charlie. Like when he played Charlie Crawford; taking over as the lead for seasons 5 & 6 of Spin City after Michael J. Fox stepped down due to his health. He went on the pretty much play a version of himself on Two and a Half Men, but after 8 seasons, drugs and an argument with show creator Chuck Lorre ended with his dismissal. Unfortunately for Chuck the show has been a piece of crap ever since and Charlie went on to star in a new show on FX. I am sad to say I do not find episodes of Anger Management to be as enjoyable as his stint on Two and a Half Men, however they are still better then half the crap that I find on tv so I'll continue to watch, just in a more casual, non-committed manner.
12. Emilio Estevez
The brother of Charlie Sheen, Emilio Estevez is probably the most successful of the "Brat Pack." Attending high school along side his brother Charlie, Sean and Chris Penn and Rob Lowe, Emilio grew up making short films. He went on to star in the two best things to come out of the year 1985, Breakfast Club and St. Elmo's Fire. He's also appeared in the majority of the films based on the works of S.E. Hinton. Tex, The Outsider and That Was Then... This Is Now all featured Emilio; Rumble Fish being the exemption. He also played Billy the kid in the Young Gun series and lead the cast of the Mighty Ducks trilogy. I think of all his films St. Elmo's Fire and Breakfast Club had the greatest effect on me. They were both movies that I felt a deeper and deeper connection with each viewing. While I enjoyed them as a child it was as I got older that I began to connect in a more profound manner. One dealt with the trials of stereotypes and fitting in, while the other dealt with the trials of finding direction in life. Both are things that every person struggles with at one point or another. While he has tried his hand at both writing and directing he has been mostly inactive since 2010.
11. Devon Sawa
Devon Sawa was one of the little giants. A movie I watched almost as religiously as I did 101 Dalmations. I didn't even own the movie growing up. A neighbour first suggested it to me while I was being baby sat, and from then until they moved away I think their copy of Little Giants spent more time in my house then theirs. I was always a little jealous of Devon Sawa's character because I had quite a crush on Icebox, but I didn't hold it against him. More people might remember him as Casper the friendly ghost, but I wasn't really a fan of ghosts at that age. He also played Mark in Wild America; a character who I always liked despite the fact that he was pretty awful to his little brother at times. There was a strong theme of family in that movie though. It drove home the point that while you might disagree your family should always try to be there for each other. (Even if your son wants to leave the family business to film wildlife.) I think the reason Wild America resonated with me the most out of Devon Sawas roles is that it was based on true events. I also watched him in things like Idle Hands, and Final Destination, but Little Giants and Wild America were definitely the most prominent. He currently stars on the show Nikita, which I haven't watched yet. (Mostly because I only found out about him being in it about 4 minutes ago when I looked him up.)
10. Joseph Gordon-Levitt
Joseph Gordon Levitt is probably one of the few on this list whos career has sky rocketed since the days of my childhood. I mean people knew him back then, but he's practically a household name now. I could go on about him at length; as he is one of my favourite actors, but for now I'm mostly going to ignore his current career choices and focus more on his past. The first movie of his I saw was Angels In The Outfield. As a child I didn't connect the dots and realize he was the same kid from 3rd Rock From The Sun. I did recognize him when he guest starred on That 70's Show though, so maybe it was the long hair that threw me. His appearance on That 70's Show was my first real exposure to homosexuality. I remember wondering why he was trying to kiss Eric. Thankfully because my mother supports gay marriage my questions were met with logical tolerant answers rather than hateful nonsense, but I credit Joseph Gordon Levitt for helping me become aware of the subject. He also appeared in 10 Things I Hate About You, which I enjoy to no end. Like I said before, his career has done nothing but grow in recent years, and I am grateful for that because he's such a talented guy.
9. Adam Sandler
Obviously Adam Sandler had to make this list. Billy Madison, Happy Gilmore, Water boy, Mr. Deeds. All hilarious milestones of my childhood. Even more endearing films such as Big Daddy, were nothing short of enjoyable. He just played that childish adult role very well. He emphasized the fact that you had to eventually grow up. Never completely, but enough to take care of yourself, because you can only act like an idiot for so many years before people stop taking you seriously all together. It's really unfortunate that Adam Sandlers recent films haven't held up against his prior work. I mean Blended? Jack & Jill? Awful. And while Grown Ups wasn't terrible I couldn't help but feel it only provided a glimpse at the comedy of his earlier work rather then submerse us in hilarity equal to that of his past.
8. Will Smith
The Fresh Prince himself Will Smith. I watched this show A LOT. Mostly because between it and the Magic School Bus it came in the clearest on my tv. It's strange to think that some of the shows I watched depended on which of my five channels came in the best that day. Never the less I enjoyed the show and like most of you I could still sing the theme song in its entirety if I were asked to. Will Smith has some pretty good range and despite a few miss steps, *cough* After Earth *cough* his career is still going well. He can make you laugh, but he can also play more emotional roles. Seven Pounds and Pursuit of Happiness definitely know how to tug at your heart strings. Obviously, as a kid it was his role of Fresh Prince of Bel Air that I enjoyed best, but that's mostly because some of his best movies didn't come out until I was a little older. As long as he and his son keep their careers separate from here on out, I expect a few more hits from him.
7. Jonathan Taylor Thomas
I watched quite a few retellings of Shakespearean plays while I was growing up, but The Lion King was probably my favourite. It just had such great songs and characters. Jonathan Taylor Thomas voiced the young version of Simba in the film. He also appeared in Home Improvement, Tom and Huck, and Wild America. Just hearing the title Tom and Huck is enough to spark the memory of the scene where everyone things Tom is dead, but he's just hiding up in the rafters instead. Huck proceeds to shove him off, and he lands in front of everyone, only to be slugged in the face by Becky for letting her believe he died. Good Times. I also fondly remember his line from Wild America, when he crashes the van. "One minute I'm saving them from a cave of hungry bears, Two mail boxes and one sign later, I'm back to zero." To be fair I could quote that entire movie from start to finish. Jonathan Taylor Thomas was kind of a huge deal back then, but recently he's been absent from the spotlight. He quit Hollywood for several years to attend school. Since then he has guest starred alongside his old Home Improvement co-star Tim Allen in Tims latest show Last Man Standing. As of now it doesn't sound like he is planning a big return to acting so his appearance on Last Man Standing might be all we get.
6. Eddie Murphy
I think I spent more time watching Eddie Murphy in the Beverly Hills Cop series than I did Dr. Dolittle or Nutty Professor. My parents probably wouldn't be to happy to hear that but I'm an adult now and what they don't know won't hurt them. I think I was about eight when I first watched Beverly Hills Cop. It was always set aside in the "You're not old enough to watch this" pile, so naturally I would wait until my parents were busy at the barn and then head straight for the off limits movies. It was probably the most child friendly of the options seeing as I don't recall their being any nudity; just language and violence. Maybe there was nudity and I just don't remember. It's been a couple years since I've seen the film and at age eight boobs didn't interest me nearly as much. While I still enjoy Beverly Hills Cop it was in the form of animated films that Eddie Murphy entertained me best. Specifically his roles as Mushu in Mulan and Donkey in Shrek. I don't know what it is about his voice, but it's perfect for animated film. He just brings the characters alive. While his recent films haven't been horrible... well A Thousand Words was pretty horrible I suppose. Aside from that, they've been okay. Tower Heist was somewhat enjoyable, but his current work seems a tad lackluster in comparison to his earlier projects.
5. Robert Downey Jr.
You have got to give this guy credit. He was able to save himself from losing his career to drug addiction. Not an easy task. I mean usually once you reach that point in your addiction your career goes the way of those like Lindsay Lohan, where every project you attach yourself to just bombs. That wasn't the case with Robert Downey Jr. After several stints in rehab and some jail time he has not only made a come back but become one of Hollywoods biggest names. Back when he started out he was in things like Weird Science and The Pick-up Artist. He's also done artsier flicks like Chaplin or Natural Born Killers. It was Weird Science that first brought him to my attention though and The Pick-up Artist that made me admire him as an actor. It's hard to pick a favourite film of his. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, Scanner Darkly, Zodiac, A Guide To Recognizing Your Saints and Charlie Bartlett are all up there though. Luckily, he has been clean since 2003 and has won most of the world over with his performance as Tony Stark. He's the definition of a success story.
4. Heath Ledger
Iconically remembered for his brilliant portrayal of the Joker in the Dark Knight Heath Ledger is an actor I've always felt admiration for. Like fellow listed actors Andrew Keegan and Joseph Gordon Levitt, Heath Ledger was one of the stars of 10 Things I Hate About You. The main star in my opinion. Him and Julia Stiles where terrific, and despite how she was portrayed did anyone else find Stiles character more appealing than her sister or was that just me?
Ledger wasn't just a part of my younger years with his performances in 10 Things I Hate About You, The Patriot and Monster Ball. He continued to be in great films through out my entire childhood. A Knights Tale, Brothers Grimm, Lords of Dogtown and Brokeback Mountain all paved the way to his iconic representation of the Joker. It was heartbreaking to hear he accidentally overdosed on prescription meds back in 2008. He was only 28 at the time and I can't help but imagine how big of a name he would be right now had he not passed away. The only positive to come out of the ordeal was watching Johnny Depp, Colin Farrell and Jude Law come together to help finish their friends final film The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus. It showed how loved he was and what a talented man we lost.
3. Jackie Chan
While other actors were hiring stuntmen for some of the most basic stunts here was Jackie Chan scaling walls and fighting on moving vehicles. He was doing parkour before it was cool. I was always so invested in his work, like Rush Hour, The Tuxedo, and The Medallion. To be honest one of my favourite films of his is Drunken Master. I don't even think Jackie Chan had learned English yet at that point as I watched the entire thing with subtitles. It is a terrible cheesy film, but entertaining none the less. The Shanghai and Rush Hour series are probably his best work. I would love to see him add at least one additional film to each series. I know a fourth Rush Hour was in talks at one point, but its a squeal to Shanghai Knights that would really make my day. Recently Jackie Chan's stated that he's going to be taking things a little easier with his future roles. To be fair I'm not surprised. Anyone who has seen the outtakes from Rush Hour knows that Jackie has had some pretty nasty wipe-outs while filming, and the older you get the longer it takes for such things to heal. This doesn't mean he will be quitting acting it just means he will be scaling a few less building in future projects.
2. Jim Carrey
Jim Carrey, the man who made sure I never forget how to spell the word beautiful, is one of the funniest men in existence. Any time you are feeling down you just pick up any movie that Jim Carry appeared in between 1994 and 2004 and you will laugh none-stop guaranteed. Liar Liar and Bruce Almighty are probably my favourites. They are quite clever concepts and the jokes never get old. Since 2004 he's been in some good movies, like Number 23 and Yes Man, but the last three years in particular haven't been the most beneficial for his career. Comedy has changed since the nineties and sadly the attempts to recapture the same humor of films like Ace Ventura have ended with things like Mr. Poppers Penguins. My hope is that Jim Carrey's current project, Dumb and Dumber To, will be enough to jump start his career again. I'd love to see him get back to some of the humor that started his career, like the comedies I watched over and over as a child. With the proper writers he could definitely prove he is still a significant force in the comedy world.
1. Robin Williams
Last, but certainly not least we have Robin Williams. Never has a man made me laugh harder growing up them he did. But that wasn't what made him so great. It was his ability to balance drama and comedy in a seamlessly straight forward way. Look at Mrs. Doubtfire. Sure it was a funny movie, but it was also very heartfelt. It was about a man willing to pretty much do anything to spend time with his children. It was amusing and beautiful all in one. Or the movie Jack. I use to laugh so much during that movie only to cry at the end of it, because despite its humor there was a seriousness to it. That was the case with most of his films. Patch Adams, Good Morning Vietnam, even Hook. I think that is what made him such a great actor. There are other great actors, but Robin Williams has always been in his own category. He was always special. It's probably why, despite the fact that I never met the man, I felt like I've lost a friend. He WAS my childhood and he's taught me things and changed me in ways most normal movie stars never do. I always said that there where two actors who's passing would affect me more than any others and those two are Jim Carrey and Robin Williams. They are two very great men and if anything Robin Williams passing has only cemented my feelings of their greatness. It wasn't just them as actors, but as themselves too. It's no secret that both have struggled with demons in their life, but if anything that brought me to admire them more. I felt more connected. No matter who we are we all have our inner battles. While Robin Williams might have lost his that won't be the part I remember about him. It will be the tremendous gift of knowing that we all struggle but despite that struggle we can do great things in out time and influence people in ways we never thought we could. He influenced a lot of people and I'll never be more grateful for that. R.I.P. Robin Williams and thank you.
Now I understand that some of you might not care about half these actors and that's fine. We have all been influenced by different people and these are some of the most important to me. Who has influenced you growing up? Let me know in the comments.