Namedropping is a popular pastime in Hollywood’s most important circles. Which makes the fact that some of the movie industry’s most bankable A-list stars have agreed to starring roles in films in which they have no name at all rather surprising. Here are 11 of them (technically more when we count the couples and all those 12 Angry Men).
1. MARILYN MONROE IN THE SEVEN YEAR ITCH (1955)
It’s the film that made Marilyn Monroe an international sex symbol. The one in which the skirt of her iconic halter dress is blown upward by the air from a subway grate. The same dress that sold for $4.6 million at a 2011 auction of memorabilia belonging to fellow actress Debbie Reynolds. Yet for all its lasting legacy, her character is known only as “The Girl.”
2. RYAN GOSLING IN DRIVE (2011)
As immensely watchable as Nicolas Winding Refn’s uber-violent Drive is, at the end of its 100-minute running time, audiences are no closer to understanding who Ryan Gosling’s character is than they were during the neon-colored, 1980s-inspired opening credits. They know he works as a mechanic, stuntman, and getaway driver; that he can make a scorpion-embossed satin jacket look cool; and that he can woo Carey Mulligan and her kid even while remaining relatively mute. But they don’t know what to call him, other than “Driver.”
3. CLINT EASTWOOD IN A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS (1964), FOR A FEW DOLLARS MORE (1965), AND THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY (1966)
Considering that this trio of spaghetti westerns from Sergio Leone is often referred to as “The Man With No Name Trilogy,” this one’s sort of a gimme. However, it was distributor United Artists—not the director—who came up with the “No Name” concept in order to package the films as a trilogy. Leone clearly got on board with the idea; in 1973 he co-wrote and helped to direct My Name is Nobody, in which the protagonist is referred to as exactly that: Nobody!
4. GLEN HANSARD and MARKÉTA IRGLOVÁ IN ONCE (2006)
In John Carney’s Oscar-winning indie, it’s the soundtrack that tells the short-lived love story of an Irish busker (“The Guy”) and a Czech immigrant (“The Girl”) who spend a week making sweet music together.
5. DARREN MCGAVIN IN A CHRISTMAS STORY (1983)
You know Ralphie, Randy, Flick, Schwartz, Scut Farkus, Grover Dill, and even the Bumpus’ dogs. But we triple dog dare you to come up with a name for Ralphie and Randy’s dad other than “The Old Man.”
6. EDWARD NORTON IN FIGHT CLUB (1999)
The first rule of Fight Club is you do not talk about Fight Club. The second rule of Fight Club is you do not talk about Fight Club with Edward Norton, if only for lack of a proper name with which to address him. Though credited as Narrator, his voiceover recitations of a series of Reader’s Digest articles in which various human organs are written about in first-person narratives have led some viewers to label him as “Jack” (“I am Jack’s raging bile duct”). In a pinch, Tyler Durden will do.
7. THE ANGRY MEN IN 12 ANGRY MEN (1957)
It’s not until the very end of Sidney Lumet’s Oscar-nominated courtroom drama that audiences come to know any of the dozen main characters by anything other than their juror numbers. And even then it's only two of the characters whose names are revealed—and only their last names. Which leaves us with 10 Angry Unnamed Men. (In the play on which the film is based, no names are ever mentioned.)
8. DANIEL CRAIG IN LAYER CAKE (2004)
Taking into account the number of times he has had to utter “Bond, James Bond” over the past seven years, playing a coke dealer with no name—and listed as “XXXX” in the credits—must have been a relief for Daniel Craig. At the end of the film he breaks the fourth wall to state: “My name? If you knew that, you’d be as clever as me.”
9. ROBBY BENSON IN BEAUTY & THE BEAST (1991)
Despite turning back into a handsome prince in the end, Belle’s one true love in this classic Disney fairytale is still only ever referred to as The Beast. Which in a way defeats the film’s whole message. Though fans assert that The Beast’s name has been confirmed as “Adam,” super-fan Keith Lapinig did a thorough job of debunking this theory on his YouTube page.
10. VIGGO MORTENSEN IN THE ROAD (2009)
It’s not just Viggo Mortensen—credited as “Man”—who does not bear a forename in John Hillcoat’s post-apocalyptic drama; there’s also Kodi Smit-McPhee (Boy), Robert Duvall (Old Man), Charlize Theron (Woman), Guy Pearce (Veteran) and at least 20 others. Hillcoat told Moviefone that a lack of name is one of the elements that allowed the story to feel “really familiar and yet it was unspecific,” a tactic that he adapted from the source material: Cormac McCarthy’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel.
11. WILLEM DAFOE and CHARLOTTE GAINSBOURG IN ANTICHRIST (2009)
In Lars von Trier’s provocative Antichrist, Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg play “He” and “She,” a husband and wife who retreat to their remote cabin in the woods following the tragic death of their young son. That their cabin is referred to as “Eden” only strengthens the argument made by some critics, including Roger Ebert, that the film is an allegory for Adam and Eve, and that part of von Trier’s intention was to make it a universal story of men, women, and their falls from grace. Biblical as its origins might be, this movie is not for those who are easily made queasy.