American actors in European films

by samerabdallah | created - 17 Apr 2013 | updated - 1 month ago | Public

Many prominent American actors and actresses starred in European films, specially during the 1960's and 1970's. A distinction should be made between US actors who worked in Europe based films, and US actors who worked with a European director in a US based film; this list is mainly concerned with the first category (pls. refer to the notes on 2 Italian directors included in the list herebelow). Following is a preliminary list, these actors took the extra-mile (well, across the Atlantic..) and even if they were sometimes dubbed when speaking say French or Italian they did great work !

1. Burt Lancaster

Actor | From Here to Eternity

Burt Lancaster, one of five children, was born in Manhattan, to Elizabeth (Roberts) and James Henry Lancaster, a postal worker. All of his grandparents were immigrants from Northern Ireland. He was a tough street kid who took an early interest in gymnastics. He joined the circus as an acrobat and ...

Burt Lancaster starred in many Italian films, but he played an iconic and towering role in "The Leopard" directed by Luchino Visconti. He portrays an Italian aristocrat in Sicily in the mid nineteenth century, witnessing historical change as Sicily is gradually breaking off from the Kingdom of Spain and is taken over by supporters of Garibaldi in view of forming a unified Italy. Burt Lancaster plays the character with great dignity and profound resilience as he observes the upheaval around him –decadence of the aristocracy, rise of new classes including opportunists- and the film, though slow paced and about three hours long, is a masterful record of an era and only Burt Lancaster could have carried the film and the part.

2. Jane Fonda

Actress | Klute

Born in New York City to legendary screen star Henry Fonda and Ontario-born New York socialite Frances Seymour Brokaw, Jane Seymour Fonda was destined early to an uncommon and influential life in the limelight. Although she initially showed little inclination to follow her father's trade, she was ...

She did an amazing "Barbarella" in France directed by Roger Vadim her husband at the time, and several other French "serious" films; she speaks fluent French.

3. Donald Sutherland

Actor | The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

The towering presence of Canadian actor Donald Sutherland is often noticed, as are his legendary contributions to cinema. He has appeared in almost 200 different shows and films. He is also the father of renowned actor Kiefer Sutherland, among others.

Donald McNichol Sutherland was born in Saint ...

Starred in the extraordinary "Fellini Cazanova" directed by Federico Fellini ; he should have won an Oscar for his mind-blowing performance in this film. OK he is Canadian, but certainly deserves to be mentioned here.

4. Clint Eastwood

Actor | Million Dollar Baby

Clint Eastwood was born May 31, 1930 in San Francisco, the son of Clinton Eastwood Sr., a manufacturing executive for Georgia-Pacific Corporation, and Ruth Wood, a housewife turned IBM operator. He had a comfortable, middle-class upbringing in nearby Piedmont. At school Clint took interest in music...

Starred in the spaghetti westerns directed by Sergio Leone. In a very classy nod Clint Eastwood dedicated his picture "Unforgiven", a western (Oscars for Best Picture and Best Director 1993), to Sergio Leone.

5. John Malkovich

Actor | Being John Malkovich

John Gavin Malkovich was born in Christopher, Illinois, to Joe Anne (Choisser), who owned a local newspaper, and Daniel Leon Malkovich, a state conservation director. His paternal grandparents were Croatian. In 1976, Malkovich joined Chicago's Steppenwolf Theatre, newly founded by his friend Gary ...

Starred in many French films, and he is certainly a cosmopolitan figure (remember he once played a French villain aspiring to become the King of England ... ) He is a frequent performer on stage in classic and modern theater plays all over Europe.

6. Raquel Welch

Actress | The Three Musketeers

A new reigning 1960s international sex symbol took to the cinematic throne as soon as Raquel Welch emerged from the sea in her purposely depleted, furry prehistoric bikini. Tantalizingly wet with her garb clinging to all the right amazonian places, One Million Years B.C. (1966), if nothing else, ...

Starred with Jean-Paul Belmondo in "L'Animal". In the sixties Jean-Paul Belmondo was a young dashing, up-and-coming, leading man in the French cinema. He did many comic adventure films featuring each the one hot star lady of the moment, and the likes of Ursula Andress, Jacqueline Bisset, and Claudia Cardinale were his film love interests. No way on earth could he ignore the gorgeous Raquel Welch to star with him ! (also please refer to Dyan Cannon entry in this list).

7. Harvey Keitel

Actor | Reservoir Dogs

American actor and producer Harvey Keitel was born on May 13, 1939 in Brooklyn, New York City, to Miriam (Klein) and Harry Keitel. An Oscar and Golden Globe Award nominee, he has appeared in films such as Martin Scorsese's Mean Streets (1973) and Taxi Driver (1976), Ridley Scott's The Duellists (...

An intense actor, and with such luminous performances as the ones he did in "The Piano" (in 1993) and "Smoke" (in 1995) he is in a class of its own. He starred in Italian and French films, including "La nuit de Varennes" directed by Ettore Scola.

8. Bette Davis

Actress | All About Eve

Ruth Elizabeth Davis was born April 5, 1908, in Lowell, Massachusetts, to Ruth Augusta (Favor) and Harlow Morrell Davis, a patent attorney. Her parents divorced when she was 10. She and her sister were raised by their mother. Her early interest was dance. To Bette, dancers led a glamorous life, but...

A great actress from the golden age... she starred in an Italian film "Lo Scopone Scientifico" directed by Luigi Comencini. Earlier on she starred in "The Nanny", a psychological thriller despite the innocent title, an English produced film (please see note on US actors in British films below- Shirley MacLaine entry).

9. Orson Welles

Actor | Citizen Kane

His father was a well-to-do inventor, his mother a beautiful concert pianist; Orson Welles was gifted in many arts (magic, piano, painting) as a child. When his mother died (he was six) he traveled the world with his father. When his father died (he was fifteen) he became the ward of Chicago's Dr. ...

He directed "The Trial" in 1962 based on a Franz Kafka novel, a bewildering film, with Anthony Perkins in the lead and a first rate French and Italian cast. Orson Welles also starred in Italian films, and at least one somber French film, "La Decade Prodigieuse" directed by Claude Chabrol ; set in modern times the character he played referred to someone who thought he was, well, God ... (making his family members break the Ten Commandments !) but the film despite its interesting premise is slow and un-engaging and not one of Claude Chabrol's best.

10. Anthony Perkins

Actor | Psycho

Anthony Perkins was born April 4, 1932 in New York City to Janet Esselstyn (Rane) and Osgood Perkins, an actor of both stage and film. His paternal great-grandfather was noted engraver Andrew Varick Stout Anthony.

Perkins attended the Brooks School, the Browne & Nichols School, Columbia University ...

Starred in many French films, though not always in a leading role, but important ones, and he spoke fluent French

11. Bernardo Bertolucci

Writer | The Last Emperor

Bernardo Bertolucci, the Italian director whose films were known for their colorful visual style, was born in Parma, Italy. He attended Rome University and became famous as a poet. He served as assistant director for Pier Paolo Pasolini in the film Accattone (1961) and directed The Grim Reaper (...

Mr. Bertolucci is of course a great Italian film director, mentioned here because some of his films such as "1900" or "Last Tango in Paris" or "The Sheltering Sky" featured top class American actors (Marlon Brando, Robert De Niro, John Malkovich) but these films were funded to a great extent by Hollywood major studios even though the plot may have been set in Europe or North Africa. As the peerless Marlon Brando is mentioned we should note that he starred in 1969 in "Burn!", a European co-production.

12. Michelangelo Antonioni

Writer | Blowup

Michelangelo Antonioni was born in 1912 into a middle-class family and grew up in bourgeois surroundings of the Italian province. In Bologna he studied economics and commerce while he painted and also wrote criticism for a local newspaper. In 1939 he went to Rome and worked for the journal "Cinema"...

Same remark as for Bernardo Bertolucci, he is a genius of a director, and Jack Nicholson worked with him in the title role in "The Passenger" (also known by another title "Profession:Reporter"). Antonioni also directed "Zabriskie Point" which one might call a European film about America, reflecting the director's "take" on American society and relevant issues of the time (1970); that film has a particular pace and is artistically and visually stunning, and featured Rod Taylor in a secondary but potent role.

13. Victor Mature

Actor | Samson and Delilah

American leading man Victor John Mature was born in Louisville, Kentucky, to Clara P. (Ackley) and Marcellus George Mature, a cutler and knife sharpener. His father, born Marcello Gelindo Maturi in Pinzolo, Trentino, was Italian, and his mother was of Swiss-German and German descent. Mature worked ...

Our generation doesn't unfortunately give this actor his due credit (1913 - 1999 , seldom appeared in films after 1970). He was very popular in Italian films depicting Roman times. Also pls. refer to entry on Steve Reeves in this list.

14. Charles Bronson

Actor | C'era una volta il West

The archetypal screen tough guy with weatherbeaten features--one film critic described his rugged looks as "a Clark Gable who had been left out in the sun too long"--Charles Bronson was born Charles Buchinsky, one of 15 children of struggling parents in Pennsylvania. His mother, Mary (Valinsky), ...

He was highly appreciated in France, and starred in French films opposite top French actors such as Alain Delon, and Marlene Jobert (mother of Eva Green, the Bond girl in "Casino Royale).

15. Willem Dafoe

Actor | Spider-Man

Having made over one hundred films in his legendary career, Willem Dafoe is internationally respected for bringing versatility, boldness, and dare to some of the most iconic films of our time. His artistic curiosity in exploring the human condition leads him to projects all over the world, large ...

A remarkable actor who is often overly cast in "bad guy" roles due to his physique, but in between he chooses unconventional and experimental characters with daring directors. He recently starred on stage in a Russian play in Manchester, England, with Mikhail Baryshnikov (The play is "The Old Woman" by Daniil Kharms, directed by Robert Wilson; Willem Dafoe's make-up, if one checks his related photos in the play, is something else..). Such actors include Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman (worked with Stanley Kubrick); Nicole Kidman later worked with such off-beat directors as Lars Von Trier (so did Willem Dafoe -more than once-, and recently Kirstin Dunst, Kiefer Sutherland, and Shia LaBoeuf). Those actors know such films may not always be commercial successes (and are maybe "flexible" with their own participation terms ?) but they "go" for the director to widen their acting experience and explore newer grounds in their craft. This is the stuff of true artists. However we must also consider that though many actors may sincerely wish to work with specific directors they could be contractually bound by their studio for a certain time or certain projects and may not have that latitude. At the risk of digressing from the main topic of this list I have to mention here all those actors and actresses who looked to work, even in cameo appearances, with the incomparable Woody Allen.

16. Gene Kelly

Soundtrack | Singin' in the Rain

Eugene Curran Kelly was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the third son of Harriet Catherine (Curran) and James Patrick Joseph Kelly, a phonograph salesman. His father was of Irish descent and his mother was of Irish and German ancestry.

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer was the largest and most powerful studio in...

Played a very nice character in "Les Demoiselles de Rochefort", a French classic and iconic film. Another American actor, George Chakiris ("West Side Story"), who starred in Spanish/Italian films, also had a dancing part in this film. In 1960 Gene Kelly was commissioned by the Paris Opera to create a Jazz ballet, "Pas de Dieux" (not "Deux") which translates to "Dance of the Gods", set to George Gershwin's music.

17. Eli Wallach

Actor | Il buono, il brutto, il cattivo

One of Hollywood's finest character / "Method" actors, Eli Wallach was in demand for over 60 years (first film/TV role was 1949) on stage and screen, and has worked alongside the world's biggest stars, including Clark Gable, Clint Eastwood, Steve McQueen, Marilyn Monroe, Yul Brynner, Peter O'Toole,...

Starred in Italian films, including a spaghetti western "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly", and was one of the comic pillars of a French superproduction at the time "Le Cerveau".

18. Candice Bergen

Actress | Murphy Brown

One cool, eternally classy lady, Candice Bergen was elegantly poised for trendy "ice princess" stardom when she first arrived on the '60s screen, but she gradually reshaped that débutante image in the '70s, both on- and off-camera. A staunch, outspoken feminist with a decisive edge, she went on to ...

She starred in "Vivre pour vivre", a Claude Lelouch film (director of "A man and a Woman") opposite Yves Montand. She also starred in lesser known films set in Greece: "The Day the Fish Came Out" and "The Magus". Candice Bergen is in a class of her own (even in TV series and light comedies) and deserves more recognition for her rich career. she is fluent in French (she was married to the French director Louis Malle during the last 15 years of his life).

19. Jack Palance

Actor | City Slickers

Jack Palance often exemplified evil incarnate on film -- portraying some of the most intensely despised villains witnessed in 1950s westerns and melodrama, enhanced by his tall, powerful build, icy voice, and piercing eyes. He received two Best Supporting Actor nominations early in his career, but ...

Starred in Italian B movies, mainly westerns, and in 1963 he worked with Jean-Luc Godard (in "Le Mepris", with Brigitte Bardot no less..) , however he shined in the late 1980's in the German produced "Bagdad Cafe" (though the plot takes place in the US).

20. Gary Lockwood

Actor | 2001: A Space Odyssey

Gary Lockwood was born in Van Nuys, California. He attended the University of California at Los Angeles on a football scholarship.

He began his career as a movie stuntman, and a stand-in for Anthony Perkins, prior to his acting debut in 1959 in an uncredited bit role in Warlock (1959). He also ...

Another actor who deserved more recognition, his most famous role remains the co-astronaut in " 2001:A Space Odyssey ", but he also had a poised performance in " Model Shop ", directed by the French Jacques Demy, and opposite French dame Anouk Aimee. This film, though set in the US and with the main character portrayed by Gary Lockwood waiting to be drafted to the US army, has a very European feel.

21. George Hamilton

Actor | Zorro: The Gay Blade

Noted these days for his dashing, sporting, jet-setter image and perpetually bronzed skin tones in commercials, film spoofs and reality shows, George Hamilton was, at the onset, a serious contender for dramatic film stardom. Born George Stevens Hamilton in Memphis, TN, on August 12, 1939, the son ...

Starred in at least two French films, one of them "Viva Maria" with Brigitte Bardot and Jeanne Moreau (which may have inspired a later remake, "Bandidas", with Penelope Cruz and Salma Hayek). "Viva Maria" was directed by noted French director Louis Malle, who deserves a special mention here as he directed such English speaking films as "Atlantic City" (with Burt Lancaster and Susan Sarandon) and "Pretty Baby" (with Brooke Shields).

22. Ann-Margret

Actress | Grumpy Old Men

Actress and singer Ann-Margret is one of the most famous sex symbols and actresses of the 1960s and beyond. She continued her career through the following decades and into the 21st century.

Ann-Margret was born Ann-Margret Olsson in Valsjöbyn, Jämtland County, Sweden, to Anna Regina (Aronsson) and ...

Ms. Margret, in addition to great looks, also excelled in dramatic parts in films like “Carnal Knowledge” and even the TV film “The two Mrs. Grenvilles”. Earlier in her career she starred in Italian films directed by Dino Risi.

23. Franco Nero

Actor | Django Unchained

Blue-eyed and well-built Italian actor in international cinema, Franco Nero, was a painting photographer when he was discovered as an actor by director John Huston. He has since appeared in more than 200 movies around the world, working with Europe's top directors, such as Luis Buñuel, Rainer ...

Mr. Nero is of course an Italian actor; he is mentioned in this list as he was the star of several Italian films in the 1960's and 1970's that featured top american actors in supporting roles, such as Joseph Cotten, Martin Balsam, Lee J. Cobb, Anthony Quinn and Yul Brynner to name a few. Were they starting to age and lured to secondary roles overseas? they are all great personalities each in his own right. American actors and actresses who starred in lesser known European films (Spanish / Italian / French / German or a mix thereof) include Goldie Hawn, Shelley Winters, David Carradine (worked with Ingmar Bergman), Jack Lemmon, Frank Langella, Carroll Baker, Ron Perlman, F. Murray Abraham, Vincent Price, John Phillip Law, Lauren Bacall, Mickey Rourke, Richard Crenna, Faye Dunaway, John Turturro, Chuck Connors, Angie Dickinson, Robert Mitchum, James Caan (worked with Claude Lelouch), Christopher Walken, Jo Van Fleet, Roy Scheider, Montgomery Clift (in "The Defector", his last role on screen), Vincent Gallo, Carol Lynley, Richard Conte, Mia Farrow, Jose Ferrer (worked with Abel Gance), John Savage, Marisa Berenson, Bruce Dern, Jerry Lewis, Brad Davis, Sybil Danning, Keir Dullea, Telly Savalas, Fred Ward, Peter Fonda, Lola Albright, Barry Sullivan, Rory Calhoun, Sue Lyon, Sylvester Stallone, Robert Stack (co-starred with French male icon Jean Gabin), Jennifer Connely, John Saxon, Tony Roberts, Lee Marvin, Alan Scott, James Fransiscus, and Jennifer O'Neill (of "Summer of 42" fame) whose "L'Innocente" was directed by Luchino Visconti.

24. Rod Steiger

Actor | In the Heat of the Night

Rodney Stephen Steiger was born in Westhampton, New York, to Augusta Amelia (Driver) and Frederick Jacob Steiger, both vaudevillians. He was of German and Austrian ancestry. After his parents' divorce, Steiger was raised by his mother in Newark, New Jersey. He dropped out of Westside High school at...

Starred in joint European co-produced films, most notably he did a powerful portrayal of Napoleon Bonaparte in "Waterloo" directed by the Russian Sergey Bondarchuk, and was Mussolini in an Italian film of the same name. We should mention James Coburn here as he co-starred with Rod Steiger in one spaghetti western directed by Sergio Leone.

25. Steve Reeves

Actor | Romolo e Remo

Though he did not possess a Herculean acting talent by any stretch, handsome bodybuilder Steve Reeves certainly had an enviable Herculean physique, and made plenty good use of it in Europe during the late 1950s and early 1960s portraying some of filmdom's most famous bronzed gods. Reeves was ...

Arnold Schwarzenegger came from Austria to the US, but America had long before "exported" Steve Reeves to Italy, where he played with considerable success mythical heroes in Italian films set in ancient Greek and Roman times.

26. Anthony Quinn

Actor | Alexis Zorbas

Anthony Quinn was born Antonio Rudolfo Oaxaca Quinn on April 21, 1915, in Chihuahua, Mexico, to Manuela (Oaxaca) and Francisco Quinn, who became an assistant cameraman at a Los Angeles (CA) film studio. His paternal grandfather was Irish, and the rest of his family was Mexican. After starting life ...

Though already mentioned in this list (Franco Nero films) he deserves a separate entry here, as he starred in several Italian and Spanish films in a leading role. He always delivers (whichever character/context) and in 1954 he worked with Federico Fellini in "La Strada", but he is mostly remembered for his strong performances in Hollywood classic films.

27. Dennis Hopper

Actor | Easy Rider

With an amazing cinematic career of more than five decades, Dennis Hopper was a multi-talented and unconventional actor/director, regarded by many as one of the true "enfants terribles" of Hollywood. Hopper was born on May 17, 1936 in Dodge City, Kansas, to Marjorie Mae (Davis) and James Millard ...

One has to admire Dennis Hopper as he did not seek to play "pleasing" roles throughout his career. He starred in several co-produced european films, an additional indication of this thoroughly versatile personality.

28. William Hurt

Actor | A History of Violence

William McChord Hurt was born in Washington, D.C., to Claire Isabel (McGill) and Alfred McChord Hurt, who worked at the State Department. He was trained at Tufts University and The Juilliard School and has been nominated for four Academy Awards, including the most recent nomination for his ...

Starred in French films including "the Plague" based on Albert Camus's famous novel "La Peste" where he played Dr. Bernard Rieux, also in "J'enrage de son absence" directed by Sandrine Bonnaire, and in "Nearest to Heaven" with Catherine Deneuve. In Britain in the early nineties he starred in "Second Best" a low-budget powerful drama involving an adopted son. He speaks fluent French.

Sandrine Bonnaire co-starred with Kevin Kline (also fluent in French) in "Joueuse" in 2009 (English title "Queen to Play"). I wish William Hurt and Kevin Kline had more opportunities to take on off-beat roles such as in these films, without fanfare or bells: their performance, presence and demeanor simply elevate their screen characters.

29. Peter Coyote

Actor | Bitter Moon

Peter Coyote was born in Manhattan, New York City, New York, USA as Robert Peter Cohon to Ruth (Fidler) and Morris Cohon, an investment banker. He is an actor, known for Bitter Moon (1992), Sphere (1998) and Patch Adams (1998). Coyote was previously married to Stefanie Pleet and Marilyn McCann.

Whether on TV or in secondary parts, he always leaves a mark perhaps because he seems so enigmatic (to his credit, never a superficial performance). He starred in a French TV film "Valparaiso", and in a Spanish film, "Kika", directed by Pedro Almodovar.

30. Peter Falk

Actor | Columbo

Peter Michael Falk was born on September 16, 1927, in New York City, New York. At the age of 3, his right eye was surgically removed due to cancer. He graduated from Ossining High School, where he was president of his class. His early career choices involved becoming a certified public accountant, ...

As "Columbo" Peter Falk was well known -and liked- overseas, and he starred in "Wings of Desire" directed by the German Wim Wenders, and also in an italian film about WWII "Rosolino Paterno, Soldato" which also featured Jason Robards and Martin Landau.

31. Tony Curtis

Actor | Some Like It Hot

Tony Curtis was born Bernard Schwartz, the eldest of three children of Helen (Klein) and Emanuel Schwartz, Jewish immigrants from Hungary. Curtis himself admits that while he had almost no formal education, he was a student of the "school of hard knocks" and learned from a young age that the only ...

He starred in 1967 in "La Cintura di Castita" ("The Chastity Belt"), an italian comedy set in crusader times, with the beautiful Monica Vitti, and was Casanova in a French co-production. In the early seventies he starred in "The Persuaders", a British TV series, filmed on location all over Europe.

32. Dyan Cannon

Actress | Heaven Can Wait

Perhaps best known for her trademark curly blond tresses and her faithful appearances at L.A. Lakers basketball games, Dyan Cannon has enjoyed nearly fifty years in the entertainment industry. Born Samille Diane Friesen in Tacoma, Washington, Cannon had early dreams of becoming an actress. She made...

The French certainly knew how to spot an attractive lady like Ms. Cannon -so did the British Cary Grant, they were married early in her career- why didn't she appear in more American films? She starred in the French film "Le Casse" (English title "The Bandits") an extremely entertaining crime thriller in 1971 which also featured Jean-Paul Belmondo (performing personally all his incredible stunts) and Omar Sharif.

33. Jodie Foster

Actress | The Silence of the Lambs

Jodie Foster was born Alicia Christian Foster on November 19, 1962 in Los Angeles. She is the daughter of Evelyn Ella "Brandy" (Almond), a producer, and Lucius Fisher Foster III, an Air Force lieutenant colonel and real estate broker. Brandy had filed for divorce in 1959 after having three children...

Certainly one of the most accomplished cinematic figures of her generation. She acted in a French and in an Italian film before she was 16; she speaks fluent French.

34. Dustin Hoffman

Actor | Rain Man

Dustin Lee Hoffman was born in Los Angeles, California, to Lillian (Gold) and Harry Hoffman, who was a furniture salesman and prop supervisor for Columbia Pictures. He was raised in a Jewish family (from Ukraine, Russia-Poland, and Romania). Hoffman graduated from Los Angeles High School in 1955, ...

He starred in the Italian fim "Alfredo, Alfredo" directed by Pietro Germi in 1972. In 2012 he directed with extreme finesse "Quartet", an English production with veteran British actors.

35. Jill Clayburgh

Actress | Bridesmaids

It came as no surprise to film aficionados when, in 1999, Entertainment Weekly named Jill Clayburgh on its list of Hollywood's 25 Greatest Actresses. For decades, she delivered stellar performances in a wide variety of roles.

Jill Clayburgh was born in 1944 in New York City, into a wealthy family, ...

Pity she passed away too soon. She starred in 2 French films, especially the significant and bold English-speaking film due to its setting and storyline, "Hanna K" , filmed in Jerusalem.

36. Shirley MacLaine

Actress | Terms of Endearment

Shirley MacLaine was born Shirley MacLean Beaty in Richmond, Virginia. Her mother, Kathlyn Corinne (MacLean), was a drama teacher from Nova Scotia, Canada, and her father, Ira Owens Beaty, a professor of psychology and real estate agent, was from Virginia. Her brother, Warren Beatty, was born on ...

Actress extraordinaire..She graces any film with her presence... She starred in 1988 in "Madame Sousatzka" as a Russian immigrant piano teacher tutoring a gifted Indian teenager in London, an English film directed by John Schlesinger. It is very difficult to add to this list US actors who appeared in totally English-produced films, lines are blurred because all major Hollywood studios operated one time or the other in Britain, collaborating with American and English actors (One thinks of Robert Mitchum in "Ryan's Daughter", all set in Ireland with British actors and local history background). In the UK the British Film Institute has established parameters under which it considers a film "British" (based on added material value in terms of British technicians involved in the making of the film and other local resources) and therefore qualifying it for partial official funding and certain tax advantages. US actors and actresses who starred in "British" context films (though many movies were US-UK co-productions) include Elizabeth Taylor (Please see separate entry here below), Anne Bancroft ("The Pumkin Eater"), Gregory Peck ("The Million Pound Note", "The Scarlet and the Black"), Arthur Kennedy ("Murder She Said"), Lee Remick ("The Medusa Touch"), Tony Randall ("The Alphabet Murders"), Richard Chamberlain ("The Music Lovers"), James Caan (Submarine X-1), Susan Sarandon ("The Hunger"), and more recently Andie Macdowell ("Four Weddings and a Funeral"), Renee Zellweger ("Bridget Jones", "Miss Potter"), Reese Witherspoon ("Vanity Fair"), Philip Seymour Hoffman ("Pirate Radio"), Elliot Gould ("Puckoon"), Christian Slater ("Basil", not forgetting his remarkable debut in the European co-produced "The Name of the Rose"), Anne Hathaway ("Becoming Jane"), and Gwyneth Paltrow in "Shakespeare in Love" where she obtained Best Actress Oscar. New generation actresses (Renee, Reese, Anne, Gwyneth) had a perfect English accent in these films (Ms. Macdowell was playing an American character in her respective film), with Renee Zellweger even mastering the English working class accent, and Gwyneth Paltrow was at ease when the script incorporated Shakespeare's verse. (Further comments on the topic of US actors in Britain under Jesse Eisenberg entry below). Back to Ms. MacLaine, a rare to find video of her's doing a full show at the Lido of Paris is a gem.

37. Jeff Goldblum

Actor | Jurassic Park

Jeffrey Lynn Goldblum was born October 22, 1952 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, one of four children of Shirley (Temeles), a radio broadcaster who also ran an appliances firm, and Harold L. Goldblum, a doctor. His father was of Russian Jewish descent and his mother was of Austrian Jewish ancestry.


One of his (rare ?) comic roles was in a British film in 1989, "The Tall Guy", with Rowan Atkinson as his boss (but not as a Mr. Bean character), and the lovely Emma Thompson (with whom he has a memorable passionate scene in the film). More recently he starred in "Le Week-end" a British film shot in Paris. He did stage performances in London.

38. Sidney Poitier

Actor | In the Heat of the Night

A native of Cat Island, The Bahamas (although born, two months prematurely, in Miami during a visit by his parents), Poitier grew up in poverty as the son of farmers Evelyn (nee Outten) and Reginald James Poitier, who also drove a cab. He had little formal education and at the age of 15 was sent to...

He starred in 1967 in "To Sir with love", where he gave a very sensible portrayal of a teacher in a difficult suburb school in London. That film, though produced by Columbia pictures Corp., is very English in context. The film could be considered the "ancestor" of such films as "Dead Poets Society", "Dangerous minds", and "Freedom Writers". The title song of the film, performed by Lulu, is a superb hymn to all teachers.

39. Kathleen Turner

Actress | Romancing the Stone

Kathleen Turner was born June 19, 1954 in Springfield, Missouri, to Patsy (Magee) and Allen Richard Turner, a U.S. Foreign Service officer. She graduated from American School in London in 1972. After the death of her father, the Turner family moved back to the United States where Kathleen later ...

It is unfortunate that extremely likeable Ms. Kathleen Turner is seldom starring in films during the latter years (she is doing TV and theater work it seems); what is striking is that she has not yet a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame (!!!)... She starred in 1987 in an Italian film, "Julia and Julia".

40. Charlton Heston

Actor | Ben-Hur

With features chiseled in stone, and renowned for playing a long list of historical figures, particularly in Biblical epics, the tall, well built and ruggedly handsome Charlton Heston was one of Hollywood's greatest leading men and remained active in front of movie cameras for over sixty years. As ...

He belongs of course to the Pantheon of Hollywood greats... He starred in 1980 in "The Awakening", a British horror film involving a particularly vicious pharaonic mummy.

41. Mel Ferrer

Actor | Lili

Actor/director/producer Mel Ferrer was born Melchor Gaston Ferrer on August 25, 1917, in Elberon, New Jersey. The son of a Cuban-born surgeon and a Manhattan socialite, he went to prep school and attended Princeton University. From the age of 15 he worked in summer stock. After Princeton he became ...

Starred in many European films, and he always gave solid performances, specially as an aristocrat or a steely businessman, whether in leading or secondary roles. He spoke fluent French.

42. Lauren Hutton

Actress | American Gigolo

Following her success as a top fashion model for the Ford Modeling Agency and Revlon cosmetics, Hutton was selected to play the only major female character in Paper Lion (1968). After a semi-successful starring role in American Gigolo (1980), Hutton's modeling career took a slide in the 1980s, and ...

She starred in European films some of them co-produced, and played a good part in one French film directed by talented Jean-Paul Rappeneau, "Tout feu tout flamme" (English title "All fired up") which featured top French star Yves Montand.

43. Anthony Franciosa

Actor | A Hatful of Rain

Franciosa was born Anthony Papaleo on October 25, 1928, in New York City. The son of a construction worker and seamstress who divorced when he was a year old, he seldom saw his father after this and never man really got to know the other. After graduating high school, during a visit to a YMCA to ...

Remembering Anthony Franciosa's performances in various films he must have been a charming and sympathetic person in real life. He starred in several Italian films.

44. Ben Gazzara

Actor | Road House

Ben Gazzara's screen career began with two critically acclaimed roles as heavies in the late 1950s. He turned to television in the 1960s but made a big screen comeback with roles in three John Cassavetes films in the 1970s. The 1980s and 1990s saw Gazzara work more frequently than ever before in ...

A truly great actor; if they ever make DVD box sets of his films these should be mandatory study material for aspiring actors in film schools. He starred in many European films, especially Italian ones.

45. Lee Van Cleef

Actor | Escape from New York

One of the great movie villains, Clarence Leroy Van Cleef, Jr. was born in Somerville, New Jersey, to Marion Lavinia (Van Fleet) and Clarence LeRoy Van Cleef, Sr. His parents were both of Dutch ancestry. Van Cleef started out as an accountant. He served in the U.S. Navy aboard minesweepers and sub ...

When the camera focused on Lee Van Cleef eyes in cinemascope format (the equivalent of wide screen Panavision and Imax today) with Ennio Morricone's haunting tunes in the background we froze in our seats… Lee Van Cleef starred of course in timeless spaghetti westerns.

46. Adrien Brody

Actor | The Pianist

Adrien Nicholas Brody was born in Woodhaven, Queens, New York, the only child of retired history professor Elliot Brody and Hungarian-born photographer Sylvia Plachy. He accompanied his mother on assignments for the Village Voice, and credits her with making him feel comfortable in front of the ...

Starred in "The Pianist", a European co-produced film directed by Roman Polanski, and won the Oscar for his performance in this film.

47. Elizabeth Taylor

Actress | Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

Elizabeth Rosemond Taylor was considered one of the last, if not the last, major star to have come out of the old Hollywood studio system. She was known internationally for her beauty, especially for her violet eyes, with which she captured audiences early on in her youth and kept the world hooked ...

We are all lucky to have been born in an age when photo and film were invented so we could see how beautiful Miss Elizabeth Taylor was. She had a special relation and affinity with Britain (not least perhaps because she was born in London, and later married to one of Britain's most powerful –and tempestuous- actors, Richard Burton), and in the year 2000 she was made Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE). She starred in several UK based films, including "Secret Ceremony" (directed by Joseph Losey), "Night Watch", "A Little Night Music", "Under Milk Wood", among others.

48. Jesse Eisenberg

Actor | The Social Network

Curly haired and with a fast-talking voice, Jesse Eisenberg is a movie actor, known for his Academy Award nominated role as Mark Zuckerberg in the 2010 film The Social Network. He has also starred in the films The Squid and the Whale, Adventureland, The Education of Charlie Banks, 30 Minutes or ...

He recently made a bold turn in "The Double", an intriguing English film. It is noteworthy that such younger actors are choosing to take on unconventional roles with different directors (re Shia LaBoeuf mentioned earlier -Willem Dafoe entry). Kristen Stewart earned a lot of praise for her performance in "Clouds of Sils Maria", directed by the French Olivier Assayas (she won a French "Cesar" acting award for it), Maggie Gyllenhaal starred in joint US-UK film and TV productions, and Lindsay Lohan went for a theater engagement in London. Kevin Spacey should be mentioned here as he was Director of the classic Old Vic Theater in London for several years, one of the most prestigious artistic positions in the UK. In this he joins Sam Wanamaker who left a long lasting impact in the theater world in the UK. As mentioned earlier there are tens of American actors and actresses not mentioned in this list who worked in Britain in cinema, in TV series and on the London stage, notably with the Royal Shakespeare Company, and many also starred as the lead in BBC TV productions (such as the refined Robert Vaughn). If one is to draft a comprehensive list of US actors who worked in the UK and the Continent, the records and archives of such filming studios as Pinewood and Elstree in Britain, Cinecitta in Rome, and Boulogne/Montreuil in France should be consulted.

49. Farley Granger

Actor | Strangers on a Train

Farley Earle Granger was born in 1925 in San Jose, California, to Eva (Hopkins) and Farley Earle Granger, who owned an automobile dealership. Right out of high school, he was brought to the attention of movie producer Samuel Goldwyn, who cast him in a small role in The North Star (1943). He followed...

He played memorable characters in earlier Alfred Hitchcock films, and had undeniable charisma on the screen. He starred in Italian fims, including "Senso" directed by Luchino Visconti.

50. Stuart Whitman

Actor | The Comancheros

Stuart Maxwell Whitman is an American leading man, known for his rugged roles. He was born in San Francisco, California, the elder of two sons of Cecilia (Gold) and Joseph Whitman, a realtor. His mother was a Russian Jewish immigrant, while his paternal grandparents were Polish Jews. His family ...

Another actor who deserves more recognition, he brings such character and sincerity to the parts he plays; his bio indicates he was born in 1928 so one hopes Hollywood moves quickly to honor him (for instance the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts could organize a yearly tribute to actors who completed 50 years in the movies...). Stuart Whitman starred in several European co-productions.

51. Uma Thurman

Actress | Kill Bill: Vol. 1

Uma Karuna Thurman was born in Boston, Massachusetts, into a highly unorthodox and internationally-minded family. She is the daughter of Nena Thurman (née Birgitte Caroline von Schlebrügge), a fashion model and socialite who now runs a mountain retreat, and of Robert Thurman (Robert Alexander ...

She starred in 2000 in "Vatel", a predominantly French film set in 17th century France. She is a great actress, and in that film her hairdo, her royal court dresses and above all her glaring beauty steal the show. Earlier in her career she starred in an English production, "The adventures of Baron Munchausen" (with an absurd and nonsensical plot and dialogue, but that's the director's Terry Gilliam approach who was a member of Monty Python's team and their burlesque comic universe). Despite the British humor, the film's special effects appear outdated by today's standards, but it has its moments and featured Robin Williams in a small but extremely funny role.

52. Jean Seberg

Actress | À bout de souffle

Jean Dorothy Seberg was born in Marshalltown, Iowa, to Dorothy Arline (Benson), a substitute teacher, and Edward Waldemar Seberg, a pharmacist. Her father was of Swedish descent and her mother was of English and German ancestry.

One month before her eighteenth birthday, Jean landed the title role in ...

She embodies the 1960's in many ways, had sadly a short life, and the words of Elton John for Marilyn Monroe in his song (Norma Jean) comes to mind " You lived your life like a candle in the wind..." She was the star of critically acclaimed "cinema club" American and French films.

53. Pruitt Taylor Vince

Actor | Identity

Vince first started to get noticed for his excellent performances at the start of his career in Shy People (1987) and Mississippi Burning (1988). In both these films he played something of a blathering redneck idiot, although there was a streak of pathos in both performances which made it ...

Only when I saw the film "The Legend of 1900" –the Italian original title is far better "La Leggenda del Pianista sull' Oceano" which translates to "The legend of the pianist (who spent his life) over the ocean" – did I realize what a fine actor Pruitt Taylor Vince is and deserves a separate listing here; even though he is not the main character in the film his presence is overwhelming and we don't see an actor but a real life person with memories and emotions and as he says in the film "a story to tell". He is definitely one of the greatest contemporary American actors, and we have to thank Giuseppe Tornatore, the director of the "Legend..", for casting him in what is a truly exceptional performance.

54. Jess Hahn

Actor | La isla misteriosa

Indiana-born Jess Hahn never played in an American movie, at least shot on American soil. On the other hand, this friendly giant with a nice sense of humor was a fixture in French movies where he often landed roles as a tough gangster or a Yankee (whether an army officer, a C.I.A./F.B.I. agent or ...

He is (with Billy Kearns) a case apart among American actors who starred in European films. Jess Hahn fought in France during the Second World War including Normandy Landings, then came back to settle in France and married. He appeared mostly in secondary roles in French films, as an American: His looks were perfect to portray a typical American businessman. Billy Kearns (also credited as Bill Kearns) followed more or less a similar path, and appeared extensively in French films, also as an American businessman, military or policeman, and even starred in a French TV series for two seasons. Both Jess Hahn and Billy Kearns (who were friends) are positively remembered in France as likeable screen characters.

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