Famous American Actors Of The 20th Century

20th century cinema was all about advancements - technologically, emotionally, artistically and creatively. The era gave us some world-class classics that shall be revered and enjoyed for generations to come in the future centuries. These movies are monumental in all terms – some unforgettable performances, charismatic screen presence, perfect script, brilliant direction and top-notch editing. Be it ‘Casablanca’ or ‘It happened One Night’, ‘North by Northwest’ or ‘It’s A Wonderful Life’, ‘The Godfather’ or ‘The Searches’, ‘Top Hat’ or ‘To Kill a Mocking Bird’, all of these movies and many more are today institutions in their own self. They beautifully portray the tradition and ethnicity of the bygone era, thus bringing out the historical and cultural context of the century. Though due credit for the same goes to the entire cast and crew of the films, one cannot ignore the hard work done by the actors in projecting the vision and making it a reality. Popularly called the face of cinema, American actors of the 20th century largely contributed in turning the fate of films with their inherent acting talent and their brilliant portrayal on screen. Today, it is hard to ignore the contribution made by Marlon Brando, Humphrey Bogart, James Stewart, John Wayne or Fred Astaire in the field of acting. Check this section and find out some of the famous American actors of the 20th century.

This ranking is based on an algorithm that combines various factors, including the votes of our users and search trends on the internet.

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 1 Leonardo DiCaprio

Leonardo DiCaprio.
31
Famous As: Actor, Film Producer
Birthdate: November 11, 1974
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Hollywood, California, U.S.

Leonardo DiCaprio is a name every movie lover reveres. An Oscar, a BAFTA, and 3 Golden Globes does not do justice to DiCaprio’s immensely skilful performances and his top-notch portrayals of addicts, historical figures and business tycoons. From epic dramas and romances to crime and political thrillers, DiCaprio has constantly left a mark in each of his films.

 2 Johnny Depp

Johnny Depp.
24
Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: June 9, 1963
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Owensboro

Johnny Depp is one of the most versatile and successful actors in Hollywood today. He wanted to become a musician and became actor by chance.  The star of Pirates of the Caribbean film series is known for selecting challenging roles that have the potential to amaze both audience and critics.

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 3 Tom Cruise

Tom Cruise.
32
Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: July 3, 1962
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Syracuse, New York, United States

Actor-producer, Tom Cruise, is an international superstar, heartthrob of millions and is a recipient of numerous awards. The Mission: Impossible star has been one of the most bankable and versatile Hollywood actors since 1980s. Interestingly, he once aspired to be a priest but is now amongst the highest paid actors in the world.

 4 Will Smith

Will Smith.
15
Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: September 25, 1968
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States

The charismatic, versatile and bankable American artist, Will Smith, tasted early success with rapping. A successful transition into films and television soon followed and made Smith a phenomenal success. With solid earnings, he has also frequently secured himself a place in the list of highest paid actors in world.

 5 Robin Williams

Robin Williams.
20
Famous As: American stand-up comedian
Birthdate: July 21, 1951
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Chicago
Died: August 11, 2014

One of the finest comedians of all time, Robin Williams began his career as a stand-up comedian and soon moved to act in television and films. Though widely recognised for his comedic skills, the immensely talented Williams proved his versatility by taking up and successfully performing more serious roles in films like Good Will Hunting and The Fisher King.

 6 Robert Downey Jr.

Robert Downey Jr..
12
Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: April 4, 1965
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Manhattan,New York, United States
Robert Downey, Jr is an American actor who is best known for his performances in the movie Chaplin as well a in the Iron Man and Sherlock Holmes film series. The son of filmmaker Robert Downey, Sr, he entered the world of acting early, fought a successful battle with drug and alcohol addiction and proved his talent and versatility with his impressive body of work.

 7 Brad Pitt

Brad Pitt.
19
Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: December 18, 1963
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Shawnee, Oklahoma, United States

Counted among the most influential and powerful people in the American entertainment industry, Brad Pitt is an actor and film producer who has appeared in many big-budget productions. He was cited as the world’s most attractive man for several years. He is also involved in various philanthropic and humanitarian endeavors.

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 8 Jim Carrey

Jim Carrey.
14
Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: January 17, 1962
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Newmarket, Canada

Canadian American actor, Jim Carrey worked as a janitor and a stand-up comedian at club and on stage before entering films and television. His big Hollywood break came with Ace Ventura: Pet Detective which catapulted him to comedy star status. His later films like The Truman Show and Bruce Almighty proved his versatility and won him critical and commercial success.

 9 Joaquin Phoenix

Joaquin Phoenix.
34
Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: October 28, 1974
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: San Juan

Award-winning actor Joaquin Phoenix is widely regarded as one of the most talented actors of his generation. In his career of four decades, he has starred in numerous films playing characters that have become memorable. These include movies like Gladiator, Joker, Walk the Line and Her. The acclaimed actor is also a social activist, environmentalist, animal rights activist and producer.

 10 Harrison Ford

Harrison Ford.
12
Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: July 13, 1942
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Chicago, Illinois, United States

With an extensive career spanning six decades, veteran actor Harrison Ford is a major figure in Hollywood. The recipient of many prestigious awards, including the Cecil B. DeMille Award, he is one of the highest-grossing domestic box office stars of all time. Besides acting, he is a licensed pilot of both fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters.

 11 Clint Eastwood

Clint Eastwood.
16
Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: May 31, 1930
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: San Francisco, California, United States
The quintessential Western man in the Hollywood movies, Clint Eastwood is regarded as the cultural icon of masculinity. Eastwood’s brilliant portrayal of tough, rugged, ruthless guy in the Western movies endeared him to the masses and brought him international fame.

 12 Matthew McConaughey

Matthew McConaughey.
14
Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: November 4, 1969
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Uvalde, Texas, United States

Born into a family of mixed ancestry in Texas, actor Matthew McConaughey had an interesting childhood. He played sports as a young boy and aspired to become a lawyer. However, he ultimately changed course to venture into acting, a field where he was able to make a mark with his brilliant performances. He is also a producer.

 13 Patrick Swayze

Patrick Swayze.
7
Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: August 18, 1952
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Houston, Texas, United States
Died: September 14, 2009

Patrick Swayze, the American actor, dancer, singer and songwriter, was very popular during the 1980s. His movie the ‘Dirty Dancing’ catapulted him to stardom. Ghost was another of his hit films. Swayze died in September, 2009, at the age of 57 due to pancreatic cancer. His final role was that of a FBI Agent in the television series ‘The Beast’.

 14 Robert De Niro

Robert De Niro.
12
Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: August 17, 1943
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Greenwich Village, New York, United States

Amongst the best actors of his generation, Robert De Niro is known for his exceptional method acting skills. His formidable acting talent has impressed audience and critics alike in movies like Mean Streets, The Godfather Part II and Meet the Parents. The talented actor has also been applauded for his directorial skills in A Bronx Tale and The Good Shepherd.

 15 Denzel Washington

Denzel Washington.
17
Famous As: American actor
Birthdate: December 28, 1954
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Mount Vernon, New York, United States

Actor, director, and producer, Denzel Washington, is famous for portraying strong real-life characters like anti-apartheid activist, Steve Biko, and human rights activist, Malcolm X, in films. Well-built and ruggedly handsome, he became the first black star to be named the Sexiest Man Alive in 1996. 

 16 Liam Neeson

Liam Neeson.
9
Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: June 7, 1952
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Ballymena, Northern Ireland

The recipient of multiple awards, actor Liam Neeson has been ranked among  the '100 Sexiest Stars in Film History'. One of the highest-grossing actors of all time, he first rose to prominence in the 1990s with his title role in the epic drama film Schindler's List. Since then, he has appeared in many other critically acclaimed films.

 17 Morgan Freeman

Morgan Freeman.
10
Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: June 1, 1937
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Memphis, Tennessee, United States

Prominent character actor, Morgan Freeman, has appeared in a range of film genres playing versatile roles. He is known for his distinctive deep voice. In a career spanning over half a century, he has received various accolades, including an Academy Award and a Golden Globe Award. Besides acting, he is an advocate of environmental causes.

 18 Jake Gyllenhaal

Jake Gyllenhaal.
14
Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: December 19, 1980
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Los Angeles, California, United States

Beginning his career as a child star, actor Jake Gyllenhaal has been active in the entertainment industry for almost three decades. The son of a director and screenwriter, he inherited his parents’ love for Hollywood. His career progressed in the 2000s as he proved his mettle by taking up versatile roles. He is considered a male sex symbol.

 19 Matt Damon

Matt Damon.
12
Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: October 8, 1970
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States

One of the biggest Hollywood stars of his time, Matt Damon is one of the highest-grossing actors of all time. Saving Private Ryan, The Talented Mr Ripley, The Martian and The Departed are some of his notable films. He has also been part of the highly successful Bourne franchise and the Ocean's trilogy.

 20 Al Pacino

Al Pacino.
8
Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: April 25, 1940
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: East Harlem, New York, United States

Considered one of the greatest actors, Al Pacino gained wide acclaim and recognition for his portrayal of Michael Corleone in the movie, The Godfather in 1972. He’s been a part of many successful and iconic films and won an Oscar for playing a blind military veteran in the movie Scent of a Woman. Pacino has three children, but has never been married.

 21 Samuel L. Jackson

Samuel L. Jackson.
9
Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: December 21, 1948
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Washington, D.C., United States

Actor and producer, Samuel L. Jackson is widely regarded as one of the most popular actors of his generation. A highly prolific actor, he has appeared in over 150 films and is especially known for his roles in Quentin Tarantino films. Besides acting, he has voiced for several animated films, television series, and video games.

 22 John Wayne

John Wayne.
6
Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: May 26, 1907
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Winterset, Iowa, United States
Died: June 11, 1979

Famous for his roles in Western films in the mid-20th century, actor John Wayne was among the top box office draws for three decades. In a career spanning over half a century, he starred in 142 motion pictures. Upon his death, he came to be recognized as “an enduring icon who symbolized and communicated American values and ideals.”

 23 Danny DeVito

Danny DeVito.
7
Birthdate: November 17, 1944
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Neptune Township, New Jersey, United States

An award-winning actor, Danny DeVito overcame a rare genetic disorder called Fairbank's disease to become an influential figure in the American film industry. Along with Michael Shamberg, he founded a production company called Jersey Films, which went on to produce films like Pulp Fiction. He was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2011.

 24 Marlon Brando

Marlon Brando.
7
Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: April 3, 1924
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Omaha, Nebraska, United States
Died: July 1, 2004

One of the greatest movie actors of all time, heartthrob of millions of women around the world, and a cultural icon, who had immense influence on actors of future generations, there are very few like Marlon Brando. In a career spanning six decades, Marlon Brando delivered critical and commercial successes in movies like A Streetcar Named Desire and The Godfather.

 25 Mel Gibson

Mel Gibson.
7
Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: January 3, 1956
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Peekskill, New York, United States

Actor and director, Mel Gibson is famous for action films like Lethal weapon. His directorial venture, Braveheart, in which he acted too, won him the Oscars for Best Director and Best Picture. However, his alcoholism issues, drunken driving arrest and his anti-Jew statements landed him in trouble due to which he took a hiatus from Hollywood for a decade.

 26 Jamie Foxx

Jamie Foxx.
7
Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: December 13, 1967
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Terrell, Texas, United States

Actor, singer-songwriter, and comedian, Jamie Foxx became internationally famous for his portrayal of Ray Charles in the biographical film Ray, a role that earned him an Academy Award. He is also known for hosting his own television sitcom, The Jamie Foxx Show. Besides acting, he is also a Grammy Award-winning musician who has released four albums.

 27 Bill Murray

Bill Murray.
5
Famous As: American actor
Birthdate: September 21, 1950
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Evanston, Illinois, United States

Famous American actor, Bill Murray, began as a comedic performer and gained fame with the variety show, Saturday Night Live, and movies, Caddyshack and Ghostbusters. Later, his seriocomic roles in movies like Rushmore, Lost in Translation and St. Vincent earned him rave reviews. The actor has also lent his voice to many animation movies like Garfield and The Jungle Book.

 28 Jack Nicholson

Jack Nicholson.
12
Famous As: Actor, Filmmaker
Birthdate: April 22, 1937
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Neptune City, New Jersey, United States

From being a stage and B movie actor, Jack Nicholson went on to become one of Hollywood’s most versatile actors and a huge star. The three time Academy award winning legendary actor has, in his six decades career, delivered performances that have become iconic. His notable performances include One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and As Good as It Gets.

 29 Michael Douglas

Michael Douglas.
12
Famous As: Actor, Producer
Birthdate: September 25, 1944
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: New Brunswick, New Jersey, United States

One of the most decorated American actors, Michael Douglas is popular for playing a variety of roles. Apart from acting, Michael Douglas has received attention for his political activism and humanitarianism. A cancer survivor, Douglas serves as an inspiration to those suffering from the disease; he recovered from stage IV tongue cancer.

 30 James Dean

James Dean.
6
Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: February 8, 1931
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Marion, Indiana, United States
Died: September 30, 1955

Best remembered for his role in the film, Rebel Without a Cause, actor James Dean was a cultural icon of teenage disillusionment. Despite having a difficult childhood, he was an exceptional student. He began acting as a young man and was quite successful. Sadly, he was killed in a car crash at the young age of 24.

 31 Charles Robert Redford Jr.

Charles Robert Redford Jr..
7
Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: August 18, 1936
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Santa Monica, California, United States

Charles Robert Redford Jr. is a retired actor, activist, and director. He is credited with founding the Sundance Film Festival and was named in Time magazine's list of 100 most influential people in the world in 2014. For his contributions to arts, Charles Robert Redford Jr. was honored with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2016.

 32 Philip Seymour Hoffman

Philip Seymour Hoffman.
6
Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: July 23, 1967
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Fairport, New York, United States
Died: February 2, 2014

Philip Seymour Hoffman played distinctive supporting and character roles and is considered to be one of the greatest actors of his time. Some of his notable films are Scent of a Woman, Twister, The Big Lebowski and Magnolia. His lead role in the film Capote won him an Oscar for the Best Actor. He died of combined drug intoxication.

 33 Anthony Hopkins

Anthony Hopkins.
12
Birthdate: December 31, 1937
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Port Talbot, Glamorgan, Wales

Highly renowned Welsh actor, Anthony Hopkins is best known for his portrayal of a cannibalistic serial killer in the movie The Silence of the Lambs. The portrayal earned him prestigious awards and also a place in the list of best villains of all time. Other notable films of the celebrated character actor include Remains of the Day, Nixon and Amistad.

 34 Kevin Costner

Kevin Costner.
7
Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: January 18, 1955
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Lynwood, California, United States

Actor, film director, and producer, Kevin Costner, is a much-decorated Hollywood with two Academy Awards and two Golden Globe Awards to his name. Even though he never dreamed of a career in films as a youngster, fate ultimately led him to Hollywood where he made a successful career. He is also a singer in a country rock band.

 35 Edward Norton

Edward Norton.
6
Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: August 18, 1969
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Boston, Massachusetts

Amongst the most talented actors of his generation, Edward Norton won a Golden Globe Award for his debut film Primal Fear. The formidable actor later went on to work in movies like The Illusionist, The Incredible Hulk, The Birdman and American History X. Norton ventured into film direction with Keeping the Faith. He also supports various environmental and social causes.

 36 Christopher Walken

Christopher Walken.
6
Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: March 31, 1943
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Astoria, Queens, New York, United States

Christopher Walken is one of the highest-grossing American actors as his films have generated over $1 billion in the US alone. He has a unique distinction of appearing in over 100 films and TV programs. A man of many talents, Christopher Walken is also known for his comedic, singing, screenwriting, directing, and dancing skills.

 37 Paul Newman

Paul Newman.
11
Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: January 26, 1925
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Shaker Heights, Ohio, United States
Died: September 26, 2008

One of the most celebrated actors of the 1960s and 1970s, Paul Newman was a multi-faceted man. Apart from winning acting accolades, such as the Academy Award, he had also won many championships as a driver as part of the Sports Car Club of America. Also known for his philanthropy and political activism, Newman founded many nonprofit organizations.

 38 Martin Sheen

Martin Sheen
5
Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: August 3, 1940
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Dayton, Ohio, United States

One of the most celebrated actors of Hollywood, Martin Sheen has won multiple Emmys and Golden Globes. Best known to fans as Captain Benjamin Willard from Apocalypse Now, he has also been involved in countless protests against nuclear power and strongly opposes abortion, capital punishment, and euthanasia.

 39 Kirk Douglas

Kirk Douglas.
11
Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: December 9, 1916
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Amsterdam, New York, United States
Died: February 5, 2020

The quintessential American action hero of the 1950s, Kirk Douglas remained one of the most bankable stars of Hollywood throughout the decade. Regarded as one of the greatest actors of classic Hollywood cinema, Kirk Douglas was a man of many talents. Also known as a writer and philanthropist, he was honored with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1981.

 40 John Goodman

John Goodman.
8
Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: June 20, 1952
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: St. Louis, Missouri, United States

Regarded as one of the finest actors of his generation, John Goodman has contributed to the success of many films and TV series over the years. He has also had a major impact as a humanitarian by appearing in many recovery commercials post-Hurricane Katrina. Once an alcoholic, Goodman has stayed sober since 2007, thereby inspiring many people struggling with alcoholism.

 41 Tommy Lee Jones

Tommy Lee Jones.
6
Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: September 15, 1946
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: San Saba, Texas, United States

Veteran actor and filmmaker, Tommy Lee Jones, has had a career spanning over half a century.  he has played many notable roles onscreen and is especially known for portraying real-life characters like businessman Howard Hughes. He has won an Academy Award for his performance in the movie, The Fugitive. Tommy Lee Jones is an inductee to the Texas Cowboy Hall of Fame.

 42 Dwayne Johnson

Dwayne Johnson.
42
Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: May 2, 1972
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Hayward

A renowned former wrestler with numerous titles under his belt, Dwayne Johnson initially wanted to be a football player but an injury turned him towards wrestling. He soon entered the world of acting, experienced phenomenal success in television and films and became the highest earning male actor in the world.

 43 James Stewart

James Stewart.
6
Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: May 20, 1908
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Indiana, Pennsylvania
Died: July 2, 1997

Best known for his everyman screen persona, James Stewart was ranked third in the greatest American male actors list published by the American Film Institute (AFI) in 1999. During his 55-year acting career, he displayed strong morality both on and off the screen, as a result of which he epitomized the ideal American man of the 20th century.

 44 Jason Momoa

Jason Momoa.
22
Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: August 1, 1979
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Honolulu, Hawaii, United States

An actor primarily known for his roles in the DC Extended Universe films, Jason Momoa is famous for his rugged good looks and raw sex appeal. He is of mixed Hawaiian and European descent. Beginning a career in entertainment in his late teens, he has now become an internationally renowned star. He has multiple tattoos.  

 45 Dustin Hoffman

Dustin Hoffman.
7
Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: August 8, 1937
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Los Angeles, California, United States

One of the most respected and decorated actors of his generation, Dustin Hoffman is the recipient of the Kennedy Center Honors Award and AFI Life Achievement Award among many other prestigious awards. As a cancer survivor, Dustin Hoffman also serves as an inspiration to many people suffering from cancer.

 46 Clark Gable

Clark Gable.
6
Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: February 1, 1901
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Cadiz, Ohio, United States
Died: November 16, 1960

Popularly known as The King of Hollywood, Clark Gable appeared as a leading man for 30 years in an acting career that spanned 37 years. One of the most bankable Hollywood stars in the history of American cinema, Clark Gable was named in the greatest male star of classic American cinema list published by the American Film Institute.

 47 Tom Hanks

Tom Hanks.
12
Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: July 9, 1956
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Concord, California, United States

One of the most popular and recognizable film stars worldwide, Tom Hanks is known for both his comedic and dramatic roles. Making his breakthrough with leading roles in the 1980s, he went on to further cement his place in Hollywood in the 1990s by taking up poignant and sensitive roles. He is also a director, producer, and screenwriter. 

 48 Arnold Schwarzenegger

Arnold Schwarzenegger.
21
Famous As: Former Governor of California
Birthdate: July 30, 1947
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Thal

Former professional bodybuilder, actor, and politician, Arnold Schwarzenegger, needs no introduction! One of the most popular figures in the entertainment industry in the 20th century, he is a much-admired Hollywood star. Rising to international fame despite hailing from a humble background, he is an epitome the quintessential American dream that many youngsters hold close to their hearts.

 49 Chadwick Boseman

Chadwick Boseman.
10
Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: November 29, 1976
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Anderson, South Carolina, United States
Died: August 28, 2020

A versatile actor and an inspiration for a generation of black youths, Chadwick Boseman is best remembered for portraying notable real life black figures like Jackie Robinson, Thurgood Marshall and James Brown in their biopics. His excellent performance in Black Panther, though, turned him into a household name.

 50 Bruce Lee

Bruce Lee.
7
Famous As: Actor, Martial Artist
Birthdate: November 27, 1940
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: San Francisco, California, United States
Died: July 20, 1973

An iconic actor and martial artist, Bruce Lee, in his short life, gained international fame and developed his own form of martial arts, Jeet Kune Do. In films, he debuted as a child actor and became a huge Hollywood star after the release of his last film Enter the Dragon.