There’s all sorts of science behind the Nerdverse, as I have come to call it, a periodically evolving ranked list of actors and filmmakers who cross the boundaries between realms of sci-fi / fantasy cinema. Catch up on the context behind this peculiar project.
Ladies and gentlemen, our bronze medalists!
Many of the writers and directors who have been making Nerdverse stories earned bronze – as well as a mix of versatile character actors and leading men and women whose stars are rising. Also, Star Trek: Into Darkness and 300 come up a lot for some reason.
60 points, 3 realms, filmmaker #8
We don’t talk about writers or Latinos enough, so it’s exciting that Roberto Orci gives us a chance to do both! List as one of the Hollywood Reporter’s “50 Most Powerful Latinos in Hollywood” at one point, award-winning Mexican-American writer, Roberto Orci, has been teaming up with J.J. Abrams / #36 for years (Trivia: he was one of the co-creators of Fringe and worked with Abrams on Mission Impossible III). It comes as no surprise, then, that Orci earned his Nerdverse status in part from the screenplays he wrote for Star Trek and Star Trek: Into Darkness. He crossed into the Marvel realm with a screenplay for The Amazing Spider-man 2 (the second one with Andrew Garfield / #62), and earns indie realm x3 for the screenplay for Cowboys & Aliens (Platinum Studios).
60 points, 2 realms, filmmaker #8
Whether or not his feminist card has been revoked by the general populace (after allegations of infidelity swirled in the midst of a messy divorce), Joss Whedon created, wrote, directed, and genuinely loves Buffy the Vampire Slayer, one of the best long-form stories ever told on TV and one of my favorites of all time, so he’ll always have a special place in my heart. He invests in realistic, complex characters and writes stories in which the things characters do matter, and their choices make sense because of who they are and the experiences they’ve had. These rare gifts are what made The Avengers shine with such special and affecting grace, a film which he wrote and directed and – you could argue – defined the future of what the Marvel Cinematic Universe would become. He also wrote and directed the sequel, Age of Ultron, created the TV show Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., and wrote an animated X-men mini-series once upon a time. More recently, he crossed into DC, (re)writing the screenplay for Justice League, which you may remember was pretty fun!
63 points, 3 realms, male actors #20
As reboot James T. Kirk, Chris Pine bested his predecessor, William Shatner, in the Nerdverse rankings. Shatner is #36, just missing out on the Consolation prizes – though his excellent 2004 album, “Has Been,” cemented his legacy as coolest guy ever. But yeah, Chris Pine is great too. He really nails the cocky-but-charming alternate universe bad boy Kirk vibe. And he crosses into two other realms: first DC, as American spy / hot guy Steve Trevor in Wonder Woman and then Marvel, as the voice of one of the Peter Parkers in Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse.
66 points, 1 realm, filmmakers #7
Peter Jackson earns his Bronze medal in just one realm, which is becoming rarer and rarer this high up in the Nerdverse. He wrote and directed (and had cameos in) six movies set in J. R. R. Tolkien’s Middle Earth: three of which are rare and wonderful gifts: singular, detailed, triumphant, heroic, and already cinematically legendary. And three of them are overstuffed steaming piles of hot garbage. Do you know which are which?
66 points, 3 realms, male actors #19
Typecast as the sophisticated, mysterious weirdo, Paul Bettany earns his Nerdverse cred mostly from Marvel, where he played Jarvis / Vision in 6 MCU films (all three Iron Mans, two Avengers, and Captain America: Civil War). He also strikes in the Star Wars realm as intergalactic crime boss, Dryden Vos (Solo), and in the movie Priest, based on a Korean comic, playing the titular vampire hunter. Bettany also gets major extra credit from me for his 16-year marriage to Jennifer Connelly / #58, the prettiest lady ever, who – coincidentally – also played the voice of a computer (Karen in Spider-man: Homecoming).
68 points, 2 realms, male actors #18
Another guy you may have never heard of, Anthony Daniels has been providing comic relief via polite exasperation in dozens of Star Wars stories for 32 years, since first appearing as C-3PO in 1977’s Star Wars: A New Hope. He earns a multi-realm multiplier from early-career voicework as Legolas in Ralph Bakshi’s animated Lord of the Rings (1978).
68 points, 2 realms, female actors #4
Whether good or evil, the lady was born to be Queen. Cersei Lannister was master of the iron throne and a force to be reckoned with for 8 seasons in Westeros, but Lena Headey doesn’t stop there. She also ruled over Sparta with Gerard Butler as the regal Queen Gorgo in 300 (Dark Horse) and its sequel, and over the crime world as ruthless prostitute-turned-kingpin (queenpin?) Ma-Ma in Dredd (IDW Publishing).
Special Recognition: Highest-ranked Game of Thrones actor
69 points, 3 realms, male actors #17
Oooh man, if the Matrix were based on a comic, Australian Brit Hugo Weaving would’ve been a Gold medalist for sure. His most iconic Nerdverse role is the ancient and mighty half-elf Lord of Rivendell, Elrond, in five of the six Peter Jackson Tolkien films. He brought those great eyebrows over to the Marvel Cinematic Universe as Red Skull, founder of HYDRA, in Captain America: The First Avenger and took mask-play a step further as anarchist revolutionary, V, in the Wachowski’s V for Vendetta, based on a DC comic.
69 points, 3 realms, female actors #3
Coincidentally also a star of V for Vendetta (DC), Natalie Portman is the third highest-rated woman in the Nerdverse, and since her cred is likely to increase, she may give our two other top ladies a run for their money. In addition to her role as Evey in V, she starred/appeared in three Marvel films as Jane Foster, celebrated astrophysicist/Thor’s girlfriend. But her most important role is still her first: in the Star Wars prequels as Padme Amidala, who both founded the rebel alliance and was Luke and Leia’s mother. Her character is super badass! What a shame those Star Wars prequel movies are so bad. They were all bad, right? What about Attack of the Clones? Did we sort of enjoy that one?
70 points, 2 realms, filmmakers #6
Kinberg is a writer who worked his way into being one of the highest paid screenwriters in Hollywood in 2016 with such illustrious film credits as xXx: State of the Union and Jumper. His best work was probably the screenplay for Sherlock Holmes, though after reviewing this guy’s filmography, I’m tempted to believe I give that movie too much credit. Kinberg is responsible for some of the Marvel realm’s worst movies and biggest box-office failures, including BOTH of the infuriating retellings of the Phoenix saga (one of the most beloved and iconic X-Men stories) as well as 2015’s Fantastic Four, which – despite starring can’t-lose Mr. Charisma Michael B. Jordan /#64 himself – earned a terrible Metascore of 27 and an abysmal 9% from critics on Rotten Tomatoes. He gets a multiplier for writing a handful of episodes for the animated Star Wars Rebels series. I have no idea if they’re good or bad, but I’m definitely not betting on this guy as a writer. Fortunately for your boy Simon, when you’re a rich white guy in Hollywood, that doesn’t seem to matter much. His IMDB page indicates that he’s producing 8 movies that are in some stage of pre-production and is signed on as screenwriter for 3. Studio execs just can’t help themselves when it comes to hiring this guy! Maybe he’s really, really nice. Or maybe they all owe him money.
70 points, 2 realms, filmmakers #6
A former music video director, Zack Snyder clearly loves comics and excels at creating painterly, beautifully lit, memorable images that feel like they’re striving to replicate their source material as closely as possible. His Nerdverse debut, 300 (Dark Horse), was shimmering and bloody and ferocious (though the dehumanizing racial stereotypes it evokes are definitely problematic). It made an impression, inspired all sorts of imitators, and really popularized the slow-mo double-jump-and-slash fight move. After seeing the trailer for 2009’s Watchmen, I was so excited and inspired, I went out and read the comic right away (it’s AMAZING). I enjoyed the movie despite its flaws, but it didn’t live up to the hype that trailer inspired. He took on the dark and gritty Henry Cavill Superman films in the DC realm next – which are also visually impressive, though not quite great. I always get excited after seeing a Zack Snyder film trailer, though. One of these days, his visual skills are going to collide with a groundbreaking script and we’re going to be in for a real treat.
72 points, 3 realms, male actors #16
Making his feature film as a mostly naked blood-covered Spartan in Zack Snyder’s 300 (Dark Horse), Michael Fassbender stumbled over into DC briefly in the terrible/forgettable film, Jonah Hex, where he solidified his Nerdverse archetype: psychotic murderer. The psychotic murderer he’s most famous for playing, of course, is Magneto in the four most recent X-Men movies, which is a great role for this guy, who somehow makes murder seem understandable. Maybe it’s those big eyes? Unfortunately, it seems Mike may take his work home with him – a former flame filed a restraining order against him in 2010 for assault. That was the SAME YEAR Jonah Hex came out – coincidence?
72 points, 3 realms, filmmakers #5
In addition to his legacy as a comic writer (Ronin, Batman, Daredevil, Sin City, 300), Frank Miller directed two Sin City films, the first of which has the special distinction of being a nominee for both the Palme d’Or at Cannes and multiple MTV Movie and Teen Choice Awards. He also wrote and directed The Spirit, a strange little movie based on a comic strip that later became a DC comic. Like Peter Jackson, Miller likes to make a cameo on camera, which he did in these films and in Daredevil – which is where he earns his third realm multiplier. Fun trivia: he invented the Marvel character, Elektra (played by Jennifer Garner / #64).
72 points, 3 realms, male actors #16
Sherlock Holmes himself, the guy with the great voice and the MOST British-sounding name of all time, is most prominently known to us in the Nerdverse as Dr. Steven Strange, a guy who I want to like but have mixed opinions about. Let’s not forget, though, that he also played Khan (brilliantly) in Star Trek: Into Darkness; and (surprise!) he was also the voice of the dragon, Smaug, in Peter Jackson’s three Hobbit movies. I know he’s got more Marvel stuff coming in the future, but he also seems like an obvious choice for something in the Wizarding World… maybe he’ll show up in one of these Fantastic Beasts movies? (There’s no evidence behind this idea – just blind speculation.)
Fun little fun story for you, though: when I was in London in 2002, I saw Benedict Cumberbatch play Orlando in As You Like It… and though I had no idea he was going to be super famous at the time, I remember thinking he was really good in that play. It was a lovely production, too – outside, in a park, by a famous rose garden.
72 points, 3 realms, male actors #16
Idris Elba is the best at being the hero’s secretly much tougher-than expected best friend/2nd in command who doesn’t really NEED to help the hero in order to achieve his goals, but does anyway because underneath his tough guy exterior and mysterious motives he’s actually a really stand-up guy and he really does care. He played this role in three Nerdverse movies: as Roque in The Losers (based on the Vertigo comic, published by DC), as Moreau in Marvel’s Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance, and most famously – as the all-seeing keeper of the rainbow bridge, Heimdall, in three Thor and two Avengers films. He did also play the villain once, as Krall in Star Trek Beyond. But he was dressed as an alien, so it doesn’t really blemish his reliable best-guy-ever streak.
75 points, 3 realms, filmmakers #4
Kurtzman is a long-time collaborator of J.J. Abrams and writing partner of Roberto Orci (see above) – so they share a lot of the same credits: Star Trek, Star Trek: Into Darkness, Cowboys & Aliens, The Amazing Spider-Man 2, and so many more. Together, the films Orci and Kurtzman wrote between 2005-2011 grossed studios over $3 billion dollars – that’s billion with a B. He was real popular back then. Seems like these two are kind of on a break from each other, though – Orci is getting into the movie producer biz, whereas Kurtzman is going back to his roots in TV. He bested his buddy in the rankings because of the writing/director work he’s been doing on the Star Trek: Discovery TV show for the last few years.
80 points, 2 realms, filmmakers #3
We are into the TOP 3 filmmakers, folks! I had never heard of Steve Kloves until this project because, obviously, he’s a writer and no one talks about writers even though that’s pretty silly. Since they do write all these things after all. Around Hollywood big-wig circles, Kloves is the guy you hire if you have a novel you want adapted into a screenplay – a talent he demonstrated first in 2000 with his award-winning adaptation of Michael Chabon’s novel, Wonder Boys. Kloves hits the big money in the Nerdverse because he wrote seven Harry Potter movies (all except Order of the Phoenix) and gets a cross-realm multiplier because he also wrote 2012’s Amazing Spider-man (the first Andrew Garfield one). Rumor has it that Kloves is currently working on an adaptation of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, which he is also signed on to direct. Though he started his career as a writer/director with his debut, The Fabulous Baker Boys, Kloves hasn’t directed a film in 26 years. So stay tuned for for that.
80 points, 2 realms, filmmakers #3
Tied for 3rd place in the filmmakers bracket, Matthew Vaughn is a writer/director – with almost exclusively Nerdverse film credits (exceptions: Layer Cake, Stardust). He started in Marvel, writing and directing Kick Ass, which has a great cast (Aaron Taylor-Johnson/#60, Nicolas Cage/#58, and Chloe Grace Moretz/#64), and X-Men: First Class, a super promising reboot of the series which was stupidly returned, in quick order, to Simon Kinberg and Bryan Singer, because they had such a great track record of making shitty movies out of great stories in the past. ANYWAY. Good for Vaughn, because he had Kingsmen movies to make. So far, he has two under his belt (#1 is great and #2 is not GREAT, but still fun), and a third is on the way next year. Trivia: Matthew Vaughn has been married to Claudia Schiffer for 17 years and they have 3 kids. And it doesn’t appear that he’s a creep. Nice!
81 points, 3 realms, male actors #15.5
Andy Serkis has an amazing face, and he uses it well: his Nerdverse portfolio might be one of the most varied in the bunch. Of course, he earned his stripes first as Gollum / Smeagol in the Lord of the Rings movies (and one Hobbit film), one of the first motion-capture CGI creatures who really transcended the limits of the technology. Though the VFX team certainly deserves all the accolades they got, I think Andy Serkis is the reason Gollum was so unforgettable. He crossed into Marvel next, as black market arms dealer Ulysses Klaue in The Avengers: Age of Ultron and Black Panther. Unbeknownst to me, he snuck in a Star Wars appearance too, as Supreme Leader Snoke in The Force Awakens.
84 points, 4 realms, male actors #15
With a whopping 399 acting credits on IMDB, Nolan North has been all OVER the Nerdverse… and this is probably the first time you have seen his face. A voiceover artist, he’s been Tony Stark / Iron Man, Scott Summers / Cyclops, and Deadpool as well as characters in various animated versions of the Guardians of the Galaxy and The Avengers. And that’s only Marvel. In DC, he has voiced Clark Kent / Superman, and showed up as one of the characters in Batman: The Killing Joke. He’s also got Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles credits (Mirage Studios), both Raphael in one of the movies and Kraang, in a recent animated series. AND he showed up one time on-screen, with a 3-second cameo and one line as U.S.S. Vengeance Bridge Officer in (drumroll!): Star Trek: Into Darkness. I’m guessing you’re dying to hear him talk. I was too. A good Nolan North highlight reel is here.