Barbara Stanwyck, actress
While she’s known to a later generation of viewers as the matriarch of TV’s The Big Valley (1965-69), Barbara Stanwyck paved the way for strong, multi-faceted women characters as far back as the ‘30s. Over her 60-year career as an actress in film, TV and the stage, she worked with other mavericks like directors Fritz Lang, Billy Wilder and Frank Capra.
Stanwyck was nominated for an Academy Award four times, won two Emmys and a Golden Globe; AFI (American Film Institute) ranks her as eleven in the list of Greatest Female Stars — but most importantly, in an era when movies showcased women as weak, gentle characters, Stanwyck’s roles were the opposite. She played con women (The Lady Eve, 1941), a murderess (Double Indemnity, 1944), a nurse fighting corruption (Night Nurse, 1931) and a cowgirl in Annie Oakley (1935). She was strong and fearless — the original badass chick!
Robert DeNiro, actor
Robert De Niro is a chameleon. He’s been known to gain and lose weight, re-sculpt and change his body for movie roles. He’s fearless when it comes to picking parts. He’s considered to be one of the best actors of his generation and the epitome of the method actor.
De Niro has collaborated with another film maverick, Martin Scorsese for many years — from Mean Streets (1973) to Casino (1995). De Niro has never played by the rules when taking on projects. While he, like Johnny Depp, could have taken on roles that capitalized his dark good looks, he has consistently chosen characters that have an edge and have a close relationship with the dark side of life.
Diane Keaton, actress
In an industry that’s dominated by people trying to stay young-looking as long as possible, Diane Keaton has never been afraid to act her age. She boldly played opposite Jack Nicholson in Something’s Gotta Give (2003) as his lover’s parent. The best part of the movie is when Nicholson realizes he’d rather go for the mom than the daughter.
Keaton’s curious mind and broad-ranging intellect has led her (and us) on a productive journey through film. She’s never been afraid to explore, whether it’s by playing a non-likeable lead like the one she played in Looking for Mr. Goodbar (1997), or by creating her first documentary, Heaven (1987). Keaton’s a maverick, willing to go her own road, and we’re willing to come along for the ride.
Next: We’ll always have Paris…