Sometimes when I can't sleep I run through lists of my "desert island movies," or the ten movies I would most prefer to have with me on a desert island (provided there was also a DVD player, flatscreen TV and electricity). It's an interesting game, because you get deeply into questions of what is good versus what is enjoyable. For example, Joel and Ethan Coen's new No Country for Old Men may be their best film, but it's not as much fun as Fargo or The Big Lebowski. The other night, I started playing another game: desert island movie star. If you could take the entire filmography of a single movie star to a desert island, whose would it be? (For the purposes of this column, I'm sticking to my usual realm: actors appearing in movies currently playing on 400 screens or less. Otherwise we could continue to play on into the length of a book.)
British actors are always a good choice, because they generally have a kind of old-fashioned work ethic; they're more interested in being a good worker than in crafting a certain type of career, so you've got more to choose from. Take Michael Caine, currently in Sleuth (7 screens). He's a double Oscar winner, but he's made a ton of movies worth looking at a second time, notably The Prestige, Batman Begins, Children of Men, The Man Who Would Be King, Hannah and Her Sisters, Get Carter and Dressed to Kill. On the downside, you'd also be stuck with stagnant award-winners like The Cider House Rules, as well as turkeys like Jaws: The Revenge and On Deadly Ground and Bewitched. But at least you'd have more than 100 to choose from.