For their annual Best Performances of the Year issue, W Magazine brings together a number of actors and actresses who gave incredible performances from the year before to take some stunning-looking photographs and divulge some personal insights.
The stunning 2015 issue took inspiration from the great David Hockney & Federico Fellini and included such names as Julianne Moore, Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence.
This year’s issue focuses on the theme of Coming Together and includes the talented Emma Stone, Casey Affleck, Natalie Portman, Ruth Negga and Amy Adams, just to name a few.
Ruth Negga And Natalie Portman
Ruth Negga as Mildred Loving
Ruth Negga starred alongside Joel Edgerton (also included further down this article) in Loving, a film that focused on Richard and Mildred Loving, an interracial couple who were the plaintiffs in the 1967 U.S. Supreme Court decision Loving v. Virginia, which invalidated state laws prohibiting interracial marriage. Loving has received a number of accolades including being nominated for the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival and Negga winning Best Breakthrough Performance at the New York Film Critics Online Awards.
Negga describes the immense emotion she felt during the premiere at the Cannes Film Festival:
“… A year later, I learned I got the part. At the premiere at the Cannes Film Festival, I walked up the steps of the Palais in full makeup, and I walked down the steps with mascara dripping. It was such an emotional experience. All I could think was that I needed to blow my nose before it dripped all over my frock.”
Natalie Portman as Jackie O
Natalie Portman starred as the real-life First Lady, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis in Jackie, a film that depicts Jackie O’s life following the assassination of her husband and United States president, John F. Kennedy.
Portman admits that portraying Kennedy was “scary” and details the process that went into becoming the beloved First Lady:
“… I was nervous at first, and I started by doing a lot of research. The biographies on her are all a little bit trashy, but the transcripts of her interviews with the historian Arthur Schlesinger were really helpful. He taped everything, and you can hear Jackie’s voice. Her intellect and her wit and what she’s bitter about are immediately apparent. At the same time, I was going to costume fittings and makeup tests. When I put on the Jackie wig, the physical and emotional sides came together. The hair itself is so iconic that once you have it right, you can start to see Jackie. I don’t really look like her, but I felt like I was in her skin.”
Casey Affleck And Emma Stone
Casey Affleck as Lee Chandler
Casey Affleck starred in the emotional tear-jerker, Manchester By The Sea as Lee Chandler, a brooding man who must look after his teenaged nephew, Patrick (Lucas Hedges), following the death of his brother. The film earned Affleck his first Golden Globe award for Best Actor in a Motion Picture (Drama), beating out the likes of Denzel Washington for Fences and Andrew Garfield for Hacksaw Ridge.
The younger Affleck reveals his softer side and discusses the emotional impact The Elephant Man had on him:
“I used to love movies that made me cry, and now all movies seem to make me cry. I don’t like that so much. I have my own things to cry about. I remember being young and sitting on the floor in my father’s apartment watching The Elephant Man on his black and white TV. When the Elephant Man did his speech—‘I am not an animal’—I started sobbing. That’s a tearjerker. That film made a superstrong impression on me. It set a certain standard in my mind of what was possible.”
Emma Stone as Mia
Damien Chazelle‘s La La Land has been taking the awards scene by storm, winning all seven of its nominations at the 74th Golden Globe Awards and officially becoming my favourite film of 2016 when I finally got a chance to watch it recently. Emma Stone’s marvelling portrayal of aspiring actress Mia earned her the Best Actress in a Motion Picture (Musical or Comedy) Golden Globe and her on-screen counterpart, Ryan Gosling earned a Best Actor Globe!
Breaking News! Did you know Emma Stone’s real name is Emily Stone?! Read about her harrowing experience as a teenager attempting to find the perfect stage name:
“My real name is Emily Stone, but when I started acting, that name was already taken by another actress, so I had to come up with a different one. For a 16-year-old, picking a new name is an interesting prospect, and back then I said, ‘I’m now going to be Riley Stone!’ So, for about six months I was called Riley. I landed a guest spot on Malcolm in the Middle, and one day they were calling, ‘Riley! Riley! Riley! We need you on set, Riley!’ and I had no idea who they were talking to. At that moment, I realized that I just couldn’t be Riley. So I became Emma. But I miss Emily. I would love to get her back.”
Amy Adams And Matthew McConaughey
Amy Adams as Louise Banks (Arrival) and Susan Morrow (Nocturnal Animals)
Amy Adams had an unbelievably spectacular year by starring in two critically successful films with Arrival and Nocturnal Animals. Adams won the Best Lead Actress Award by the National Board of Review for Arrival and her co-star in Nocturnal Animals, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, surprised many by taking home the Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actor.
Adams referred to director Tom Ford as her “muse” on Nocturnal Animals and goes on to reveal how she used him in her portrayal of Susan:
“… My character, Susan, was very personal to Tom, and so I based my interpretation on him. Tom would ask on set, ‘Why is Amy using her hands like that?’ And I said, ‘I’m copying you, Tom!’ I used him. I used him up.”
Matthew McConaughey as Kenny Wells
Matthew McConaughey starred as Kenny Wells in Gold this year, a film based on the true story of the 1993 Bre-X mining scandal, when a massive gold deposit was supposedly discovered in the jungles of Indonesia. McConaughey is noticeably heavier in this role and let’s face it: he is certainly familiar with pushing his body to the limits if a film calls for it! He lost over 40 pounds for his role in Dallas Buyers Club, the film that earned him the Oscar for Best Actor in 2014. He gained 45 pounds for his role as Wells and also managed to rock a bad hairdo.
McConaughey credits his father and his adoration for “shady deals” as inspiration to take on the role in Gold:
“I was attracted to Gold because it reminded me of my dad. He loved shady deals. He’d much rather do a shady deal with fun people than a good deal with a bunch of straight-asses. He invested in diamond mines in Ecuador, and there were no fucking diamonds there. It was a scam, but he loved that. That’s the spirit of my character, Kenny Wells. There’s a little poem we have in the movie—‘Bird With No Feet Sleeps in the Wind.’ And that’s it: If Kenny, or my dad, gets the money or not, does it really matter? Would he change? No. Not that guy. These are people who are going to con, finagle, and boot-scoot their way in the side door. They never had the front-door entrance to the American Dream.”
Viggo Mortensen And Adam Driver
Viggo Mortensen as Ben Cash
Viggo Mortensen starred as Ben Cash in the Matt Ross-directed comedy-drama, Captain Fantastic. The film follows a family who must reintegrate into society after living in isolation for a decade and Mortensen has received all the acclaim for his role as Cash. He has been nominated for a Best Actor honor in multiple Awards ceremonies including the Critics’ Choice Awards, the upcoming Screen Actors Guild (SAG) Awards and winning the honor, alongside Andrew Garfield, by the Satellite Awards.
As if you need another reason to love Viggo Mortensen, he believes that “women often make better actors than men” and explains why:
“… Historically, they have had to act out of self-protection and play roles in a world run by men. The best male actors, like Marlon Brando, are comfortable with their feminine side. It’s what makes them great.”
Adam Driver as Paterson (Paterson) and Francisco Garupe (Silence)
Adam Driver starred in the beautifully simplistic film, Paterson in which he plays a bus driver named Paterson living in the city of Paterson, New Jersey. Driver has been receiving immense acclaim for his portrayal of the aspiring poetic bus driver, winning the Best Actor honor by the Toronto Film Critics Association. In the Martin Scorsese passion project, Silence, Driver starred alongside 2016 favorite, Andrew Garfield as two 17th Century Jesuit priests who travel to Japan to locate their missing mentor (Liam Neeson) while also spreading Catholicism. Silence won the Best Adapted Screenplay honor by the National Board of Review.
Driver reveals losing over 50 pounds to play the devout priest in Silence and also gushes about his love for its iconic director:
“… When Martin Scorsese asked me to come to his house to talk about the movie, I already knew that for 28 years it had been his passion project. We talked about Silence, but when Scorsese starts a sentence, ‘When we were shooting Raging Bull…’ you can’t help but say, ‘Yeah, okay, tell me everything.’ So we talked for a long time, and finally he asked me if I would be willing to lose weight for the role. It made sense: How can you play a 17th-century persecuted priest while eating great meals? So I lost around 51 pounds. The weight loss was only bad in that, you know, I’d try to figure out how to play a scene and I had no ideas, because I was so damn hungry. Then I’d have a scoop of peanut butter and suddenly everything turned on!”
Michelle Williams And Joel Edgerton
Michelle Williams as Randi
Michelle Williams starred alongside Casey Affleck as Randi in Manchester By The Sea. Similarly to her male counterpart, Williams has received immense acclaim for her heartbreaking portrayal as Lee’s ex-wife. She won Best Supporting Actress at the National Society Of Film Critics, the New York Film Critics Circle and has also been nominated numerous times by multiple Awards circuits including the upcoming SAG Awards and the Golden Globes.
If you’re planning on being on Williams’ good side, I’d suggest not popping in an animated movie for the night because as it turns out, she is not a huge of them:
“What are they doing to kids? Why does somebody always have to die in an animated children’s movie? The films are all so depressing. There is plenty of time for that. Me and my daughter—we’re done! From now on, only classic romantic comedies and musicals for us. I don’t want to be sad.”
Joel Edgerton as Richard Loving
Joel Edgerton’s chemistry with Ruth Negga in Loving is heartbreakingly spectacular and Edgerton managed to depict the mannerisms and physicality of the real-life Loving insanely accurately. Both Edgerton and Negga have received a ton of critical praise for their respective portrayals, with Edgerton racking up nineteen acting nominations!
The Loving v. Virginia case is a monumental achievement for the progression of civil rights during a time when racism was incredibly prevalent, yet many people are simply unaware of the impact it had during the Civil Rights era. Edgerton reveals he was surprised that “most Americans [don’t] know about the Loving case” and “how it made interracial marriage legal in this country”:
“… The names Mildred and Richard Loving are not on the civil rights time line that is taught in schools. Somehow, this major victory was not as big as a bomb exploding or someone being shot at a lectern. Instead, it was a quiet revolution that deserves a loud conversation.”
Mahershala Ali And Nicole Kidman
Mahershala Ali as Juan (Moonlight) and Jim Johnson (Hidden Figures)
Mahershala Ali had an incredible 2016 starring in the critically acclaimed, Moonlight and the film that took over first place at the box office from Rogue One, Hidden Figures. The Barry Jenkins-directed Moonlight follows a young man named Chiron through three chapters in his life as he attempts to find himself while struggling with drugs, violence and his own sexuality. Ali portrays Juan, a major figure in Chiron’s life during his adolescence. The film has received immense critical praise with Ali’s performance earning him multiple Best Supporting Actors Awards; namely, the National Society of Film Critics and both New York and Los Angeles Film Critics Association.
Ali relates the loss of his father when he was 20 years old to his character in Moonlight: *SPOILERS FOR ‘MOONLIGHT’*
“Juan, my character in Moonlight, dies off-camera. The audience never learns how or why. My father died when I was 20. He lived 3,000 miles away, but we were extremely close. I didn’t miss him right away—it took me three years before I went through my mourning. In Moonlight, it’s the same with Juan: His disappearance lingers in your mind.”
Nicole Kidman as Sue Brierley
Nicole Kidman is the adoptive mother to Dev Patel in Lion, a film that follows Patel’s Saroo as he sets out to find the family he lost when he was five years old and living in India. The performances in Lion have received critical praise, particularly that of Patel and Kidman. Kidman has won a number of Best Supporting Actress Awards, notably from the Hollywood Film Awards and Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts (AACTA) Awards.
Kidman reveals an Oscar favourite starring the future Captain Marvel made her cry and her first kiss story is probably my favourite first kiss story I have ever read:
What movie has made you cry?
Last year I saw Room, and I was absolutely devastated by it. I’m raw as I get older. I have to be careful what I let in.
Where was your first kiss?
This is crazy: We were playing hooky from school. I had my first kiss while watching The Shining. Is that not weird? And we did a few things other than kiss too! I didn’t see a lot of the movie.
You know what is guaranteed to get someone in the mood?
Jack Nicholson‘s sinister smile in the Kubrick classic: