W Magazine's 'best performances' photo shoot and screen test

Best Performances - The most remarkable moments in film this past year weren’t 3-D action sequences but characters so real they hurt. Here, the actors who made us believe.

Natalie Portman in “Black Swan”
“The movie that I watched the most when I was growing up was Dirty Dancing. I always loved Penny, probably because I was really like Baby. I was a Jewish girl from a Jewish family, so of course I liked the tall, skinny blond girl.”


Jesse Eisenberg in “The Social Network”
“I started acting to be included in a group, because I felt excluded in school. The final product was out of my control, so it didn’t really matter to me. I just liked being in a group of people that didn’t kick my shin.”


Justin Timberlake & Andrew Garfield in “The Social Network”
“What if Mark Zuckerberg and Sean Parker suffered from the same insecurity and fear and paranoia? Mark dealt with those feelings by inventing Facebook. And my character, Sean Parker, invented Sean Parker. He created his own persona.”—Justin Timberlake

“I found The Goonies very inspiring. I identified with every character: Mikey, the leader; Mouth, the trickster; Data, the inventor; and Chunk, this lovely, beautiful, sad, misunderstood, slightly larger kid. The Goonies is boys needing to be boys on their path to manhood. It’s a classic.”—Andrew Garfield


Javier Bardem in “Biutiful”
“My first part was in The Ages of Lulu. I played a sadomasochist who killed people and created fun orgies. I’m a Method actor: I went to every orgy in the world.”


Julianne Moore in “The Kids Are All Right”
“Acting forces you to look at yourself all the time. You have to move through these ages: You’re a teenager, a daughter, then a mother. You can never get stuck in your own bubble—acting doesn’t allow that.”


Jeff Bridges in “True Grit”
“I thought the best performance of the last decade was Mike White in Chuck & Buck. I dug that performance”


Helena Bonham Carter in “The King’s Speech”
“Lately my son has been asking, ‘Can you tell me about spells?’ He believes in them, so I get him to do things through spells. Like, ‘You will brush your teeth!’ It’s very useful. He now wants his own wand for Christmas. He may turn me into a frog.”


Michael Douglas in “Solitary Man” and “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps”
“I don’t quite get why Gordon Gekko, who is a clearly defined villain, is such a heroic figure to M.B.A. students. But every time I’m out, a drunken Wall Street guy comes up to me and says, ‘You’re the man!’”


Jonah Hill in “Cyrus”
“I connect most with things that are uncomfortable and heartbreaking. And I think comedy is very uncomfortable and heartbreaking. Discomfort is extremely amusing to me.”


Dakota Fanning in “The Runaways”
“It was important for me to go to a normal high school. I have a locker, which was a big deal. My mom had to buy me a lock and teach me how to use it. It’s the little things: Where do you go at lunch? How do you open the locker? I wanted a yearbook! Now I have a lot of signatures in my yearbook—‘Have a good summer’ and all that.”


Nicole Kidman in “Rabbit Hole”
“I don’t mind being naked. After having a baby, I’m not so sure now, but I enjoy not letting my issues get in the way of nudity.”


Robert Duvall in “Get Low” (pictured with wife Luciana Pedraza)
“Between jobs, to keep from going nuts, it’s hobbies, hobbies, and more hobbies. It keeps you off the dope. That’s why I started riding horses.”


Mila Kunis in “Black Swan”
“Before Black Swan, I had never danced in my life, and I will never dance again. I lost 20 pounds in three months, danced five hours a day, for seven days a week. I tore a ligament. I dislocated my shoulder. I have two scars on my back. It was worth every minute, but I will never put on toe shoes again.”


Annette Bening in “The Kids Are All Right”
“I did a play in New York called Coastal Disturbances. For every performance—twice a day if we had a matinee— I was buried in sand up to my neck. Afterward, there was a lot of exfoliation.”


Elle Fanning in “Somewhere”
“The first movie I really fell in love with was The Seven Year Itch. I love Marilyn Monroe. I went as her in the white dress for Halloween. I did the mole and the little cat eye.”


Colin Firth in “The King’s Speech”
“Because I have to cry every so often for a living, I find it horrifying if it spills over into my daily life. I’d probably cry if I got a splinter, but for anything emotional, the best I can muster is a lump in the throat. Especially if there are any witnesses.”


Vincent Cassel in “Mesrine”
“For the film Irreversible, I had explicit sex scenes with my wife, Monica Bellucci. At first I said, ‘No way,’ but my wife said, ‘Why did you say no?’ Working with my wife turned out to be a plus, because you don’t have to be polite. It’s a nice way to spend some time together.”


Melissa Leo in “The Fighter”
“I think it’s really boring to be an ingenue, the sort of drippy girl who needs someone to come and help her. I’d rather be a character actor.”


Mark Ruffalo in “The Kids Are All Right”
“Sex scenes are very unnerving. You have a director telling you how you should be doing it better, which is horrible even when you’re in a room alone with somebody. I’d much rather die on camera than do a sex scene.”



Lynn Hirschberg interviews actors from the "Best Performances" portfolio asking the question: What Movie Made You Cry?

Featuring Annette Bening, James Franco, Natalie Portman, Michael Douglas, Mila Kunis, Mark Ruffalo, Helena Bonham Carter, Justin Timberlake, Dakota Fanning, Andrew Garfield, Nicole Kidman, Javier Bardem, Melissa Leo, Vincent Cassel, Julianne Moore, Robert Duvall, Jesse Eisenberg, Elle Fanning and Colin Firth.