One of our readers named Magnus asked if I had some recommendations for actors to watch, specifically paying attention to their ability to deliver dialogue that looks like they are thinking it up on the spot. Here are a few of my favorite contemporary actors:
Ryan Gosling - Young Hercules has a knack for the quip. You never see the line in his face before it's delivered. Watch for his thought process in Half Nelson. Lars and the Real Girl is a little out there, but still good reference.
Mark Ruffalo - Didn't even know who this guy was until Eternal Sunshine, again look for the thinking process in his face, he only thinks if his character would be thinking.
Phillip Seymour Hoffman - From humble character-acting in Twister, this guy has proven time and again that he is a master of dialogue. Check him out in Doubt, Charlie Wilson's War, and Capote. Skip MI3.
Sean Penn - The man needs no introduction. Milk, Mystic River, Dead Man Walking. Get the tissues.
Robert Downey Jr. - To me, RDJ is better at the off-the-cuff deliveries, more so than the deep thought process dialogue that some of the above actors are great at. So watch him more for the jokes, the quips, and the knee-jerk responses.
On the ladies side I've always loved Laura Linney, she did amazing in the "John Adams" HBO miniseries, and also in Kinsey.
Meryl Streep is an easy pick - almost anything you see her in you know what you are getting.
Bonnie Hunt is very underrated. She is also a master of the quip, maybe more so than the deep thought process dialogue. I liken her to Robert Downey Jr.
Rachel McAdams always brings it for me. Watch her for the transitions in her face as emotions change. If you want to go from happy to sad, do it her way.
Kathy Bates was great in Revolutionary Road, and though I haven't really liked her since Fried Green Tomatoes, I'm sure there's stuff in between.
That's all for now! Remember, the key to great dialogue is remembering that the character has to go through thought processes beforehand. They are either short, or long, depending on the line itself. So REALLY dissect your dialogue when you are working, and decide what kind of thought you are going to have to indicate in the face as the character prepares to speak.
Good Luck Magnus! Hope that helps!
Guest Blogger Kenny Roy