Who’d earn a spot on Hollywood’s Mt. Rushmore?

Sports fans have wasted hours this past week debating over which basketball players belong on a fictional Mt. Rushmore for former players. NBA superstar LeBron James prompted the discussion during the recent All-Star festivities when, during an interview, he claimed he’d want to be considered one of the greatest to ever play the game, and would like to see himself on the Mt. Rushmore for basketball. James proceeded to list the players he’d place on his own personal Mt. Rushmore: Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson and Oscar Robertson.

Sports-talk shows took the concept – not a decidedly new idea, but still one with significant legs – and ran with it. Football and baseball experts started debating their owns sports, as well. Legacy conversations often fuel sports debates, and allowing oneself only four slots for the quote-unquote Greatest in any field creates juicy challenges. Who would be considered an automatic slam dunk? Who would be a borderline selection? Who gets left out?

Immediately, I wanted to try it for acting… and I quickly learned how damn-near impossible of a task it would be to reduce the plethora of brilliant performers to a pool of four worthy of having their faces carved in stone on a fictional mount. For the record, James is realizing this on a daily basis. Just yesterday, NBA legend Bill Russell took public umbrage (via Fox Sports) at being left off of King James’ Rushmore, despite having won a staggering 11 NBA Championships over the course of his spectacular career.

When you can only choose four, you are going to leave a LOT of people out.

Selecting a Mt. Rushmore for acting is a fool’s errand, right? The art of acting is far more subjective than the sport of basketball. There are no points to be tallied in acting, so statistics one can lean on to pad one’s status as a screen or stage performer. Sure, there are annual acting awards – but are we really going to argue that the highly-politicized process of awards campaigning is a flawless representation of an actor’s worth and accomplishment? Remember, Roberto Benigni has an acting Oscar.

But we can toss out suggestions, right? There are a handful of actors who immediately leap to mind when you begin to entertain the motion of an Acting Mt. Rushmore. For example, this fictional granite pile would have to include Meryl Streep:

Meryl Streep

Streep is Royalty, with a capital "R." She’s currently the most-nominated actress in history, adding number 18 this year for her searing performance in August: Osage County. It has become cliché to praise Streep. In her recent book dedicated to Streep’s craft, Karina Longworth writes that the actress’s technique "was an enigma to her coworkers" on the set of Silkwood, and that director Mike Nichols proclaimed, "Nobody understands what she does and how she does it." We just know that we love it.

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