Does America Have a Favorite Actor?

Photo Credit: Warner Bros.
April 21st, 2012

There are only a handful of actors that are considered to be household names in the United States. Among them are such stars as Will Smith, Tom Hanks, Brad Pitt, George Clooney and Johnny Depp. These actors are so famous that even when they put out a small independent film, people show up to buy tickets. Through their box office records and the amount of attention they get in the press, one can see that these are truly America's favorite actors. The question then remains, is one more heavily favored than the others?

A case could be made that Will Smith is America's favorite actor. His movies are almost always blockbusters that easily make hundreds of millions of dollars at the box office. Though he is known for his comedic roles, he showed range with his Academy Award nomination for "Ali." Wherever he goes, the paparazzi follow because they know they will get big paychecks for any pictures they get of him. The public even loves his kids, since two of them have now started careers in the public eye. His solid marriage to wife Jada is the envy of many. It's almost as if he can do no wrong.

The same could be said of Tom Hanks. After winnings two Academy Awards in the 1990s for "Forrest Gump" and "Philadelphia," he seemed to be the country's favorite actor. Since then, he has remained enormously popular, although some of his films have underperformed. It does not help that a few of them like "Larry Crowne" and "Charlie Wilson's War" were critically maligned. Despite the recent string of money-losing movies, Hanks is still a household name and is considered to be one of the nicest people in a business known for being cutthroat. An argument could still be made for him being America's favorite.

Brad Pitt is another enormously popular actor who is the subject of as much attention for his personal life as he is for his work. His movies are generally well-reviewed, and he has received Academy Award nominations in the lead actor category. Most of his films do well at the box office, though a few like "Burn After Reading" starring real-life best friend George Clooney did not do so well.

Speaking of George Clooney, a case could be made for him being the country's favorite actor. He is enormously popular but, like Pitt, suffers from too much attention to his personal life. The confirmed bachelor always draws as much interest for who he's dating as he does for his movies. Still, his Oscar win for "Syriana" and other nominations including Best Director and Best Actor show he is a serious actor who just happens to have a serious fan following as well.

For years, Johnny Depp was more of a marginal actor in quirky films like "Crybaby." It wasn't until he became Captain Jack Sparrow in the "Pirates of the Caribbean" franchise that he truly became a household name. Now, no matter how quirky, dark or offbeat his films are, they always draw huge interest. Unlike Clooney and Pitt, there is not as much attention on his home life, and he stays out of the spotlight when he isn't promoting his films.

The fact that many of Depp's movies like "Rango" are also kid-friendly means his appeal goes beyond just adults. That alone may put him over the top as America's favorite actor. Of course, choosing one as the most favored is somewhat subjective. The selection may also be temporary, as the favorite could change as new movies come out or as personal circumstances change the public's perception of the actor.

A good example of public perception changing is Mel Gibson. He was in many huge movie hits like the "Lethal Weapon" series and "Braveheart." Even though he was from Australia, America embraced him like one of its own. He was arguably the country's favorite actor until his arrest for DUI. During his arrest, he hurled several racial epithets at the arresting officers. There were also some very public images of his exgirlfriend after he hit her that were later released. In addition, some voicemail messages that were released to the press were full of more racial slurs. It soured his image in the public and he would definitely not be on any favorites list.

There has been no such public relations disaster for Hanks, Depp, Pitt, Clooney or Smith. Should one happen, their status of one of the favorite actors in the country could easily change. Though the title could be passed from one of these actors to another, they all still remain contenders.