There's usually one - maybe two - actors who seem to have been on fire in a particular year. For 2005, there were five actors who could do almost
no wrong (let's just forget Heath Ledger was even in "Lords of Dogtown").
These actors didn't take the easy road, selecting juicy, diverse roles that were edgy and risky - or just plain unexpected. 2005 was a disappointing year for movies overall, but you've got to applaud the work of these actors who absolutely lit up the screen.
Jake Gyllenhaal tackles roles other actors his age would never consider. If there's anything you can count on from Gyllenhaal, it's that he always turns in a memorable performance - no matter what the genre of the film or subject matter. As a gay cowboy in "Brokeback Mountain," a Marine serving in Desert Shield/Desert Storm in "Jarhead," and a math student who falls hard for a brilliant but disturbed mathematician in "Proof," Gyllenhaal demanded attention and commanded the screen in 2005.
After a couple of years in which Heath Ledger made some pretty awful choices ("Four Feathers," "The Order," "Ned Kelly"), the Aussie actor who recently became a first-time dad had an amazing 2005. Ledger was charming as the legendary lover Casanova, took a huge chance playing one of the stars of Terry Gilliam's "The Brothers Grimm" and wound up being the best thing about the film, and was absolutely phenomenal as a very private, conflicted cowboy in love in "Brokeback Mountain."
When I interviewed Terrence Howard in support of his role in "Hustle & Flow" I told him that 2005 was going to be his year (my actual quote: "This is The Year of Terrence Howard").
An underrated actor who is methodically building up an impressive resume, Howard delivered stunning performances in "Hustle & Flow" and "Crash," and turned in a superb supporting performance in director John Singleton's "Four Brothers."
Cillian Murphy transformed himself into an eclectic assortment of characters in 2005. A sweet transvestite in "Breakfast on Pluto," a menacing killer in "Red Eye," and the comic book villain Scarecrow in "Batman Begins" - any of these roles could have been too campy or just plain silly in lesser hands. But Murphy pulled each one off without a hitch, showing a wide range of talent and never repeating a character.
What can you say about Johnny Depp that hasn't already been said thousands of times before? Depp is one of the finest actors around and a man who refuses to take it easy by simply playing the handsome leading man. Reuniting with his "Edward Scissorhands" director Tim Burton for two vastly different films in 2005, Depp continues to impress critics and, more importantly, general audiences.