Actors answer the question, 'Who inspires you?'


Paul Bettany
Charles Darwin in "Creation"

"The person I really, really, really want to say is difficult to talk about -- it's a bit embarrassing because it's my wife (Jennifer Connelly). It's difficult to say that because it sounds so sweet to the point of being saccharine. She absolutely brings extra­­ordinary focus to the set. She's also so beautiful it's easy to forget how gifted she is. At the denouement of ("Creation") there's an argument, and the director wanted to not place the argument in one room and be able to travel through the house; consequently it took two days to shoot. It's one thing when it's made simple to be that raw and torn apart for the camera -- it's another thing entirely when it's two days of keeping that up. It's really why I think she is a cut above the rest."

Sharlto Copley
Sharlto Copley
Wikus Van De Merwe in "District 9"

"Robin Williams. I remember watching 'Good Morning, Vietnam,' and I actually did a whole project for school doing 'Good Morning, South Africa,' copying a whole bunch of the routines. What struck me with Robin in general is he's able to bring a lightness and humor to something that is very painful, and war, that's as painful a topic as you get. I was attracted to his combination of heart and comedic ability. If I had to pick a scene in a movie that has the most impact on me as a human being, it's the scene in 'Dead Poets Society' where he shows the black and white photo, and he does the whole seize the day, make your life extraordinary (speech). I went to a British private school and we had pictures exactly like that on our walls and I could never look at those the same again."

Hugh Dancy
Hugh Dancy
Adam Raki in "Adam"

"The person that really came to mind is John Hurt. I made a film with him in 2004, 'Beyond the Gates.' We were filming in Rwanda. What I really admired most about John was he approached that job with as much anxiety and openness and commitment as if it was the first movie he'd ever done. He was perhaps more contained, but he had the same nerves and uncertainty that I did, and I found that in a strange way inspiring that he could, after such a long an illustrious career as his, be that committed and fresh. I do remember one particular scene I had to reach a certain pitch of emotion and struggling to get there and John saying very simply but very kindly, 'be honest.' It was more the spirit of generosity as much the message itself that meant a lot to me."

Anthony Mackie
Sgt. JT Sanborn in "The Hurt Locker"

"While shooting 'The Hurt Locker,' we'd often find ourselves in very difficult situations, situations that didn't exactly allow us to focus. One long night we were shooting a sequence involving a blown-up fuel tanker. In the middle of shooting that scene, a smoking goat ran by us. It was one of the funniest things I'd ever seen. In that moment Jeremy (Renner) looked at me and said that we had to just focus on each other and not deal with the craziness around us. We had to really listen to the actor next to us and be honest in our reply. You talk to anyone who's worked with Jeremy and they'll tell you, he's an actor's actor. It's that level of focus that makes other actors love working with him."

Jeremy Renner
Jeremy Renner
Staff Sgt. William James in "The Hurt Locker"

"In the 'The Hurt Locker' (we did) a sniper scene. We were all pinned down in the desert for literally a week. There was something really delicate about that. Another actor can inform you and then you can just react. I remember Brian (Geraghty) being so vulnerable in that scene. Maybe if he didn't play it vulnerable, it would be completely different. Then because of him being so vulnerable and struggling with the bullets and the blood, that informed me in a way. It wasn't planned out to where I go down there and help him and we clean the blood off together. It just happened to be that way. It's a constant reminder of how someone lives in the skin of their character. It informed my character, and I thought, wow, maybe James is very nurturing. It's just really great to work off somebody."

Michael Stuhlbarg
Michael Stuhlbarg
Larry Gopnick in "A Serious Man"

"I got to work with Ed Harris back in 1996 in a play called 'Taking Sides.' He took nothing for granted in his work on the character he was creating, and I thought that was wonderful. Things I thought would have been thrown away, he considered every moment in every bit of dialogue he was given, and it was a great acting lesson for me. He was alternately intense and gentle and sweet. It was like being on a team with somebody. You didn't want to let him down. He was like the quarterback. I felt that I had to step up my game when I stepped up to work with him. When something went well you knew it, you didn't have to talk about it afterward. There was a quiet assuredness about what he did. I have such admiration for him and it was a tremendous opportunity for a young actor."

Mark Wahlberg
Jack Salmon in "The Lovely Bones"

"I wanted (director Peter Jackson) to just communicate with me, and not to worry about offending me, and allow me to give it to him and not tiptoe around it."

-- Compiled by Christopher Lisotta