Split Screen: 6 Actors Who Played Hercules

Published by Shah Shahid on

The latest film based on the Greek Mythological Gods was Brett Ratner’s ‘Hercules’ (my Review here), which recently released on Blu Ray. (buy it here) The story of Hercules, being the illegitimate son of the King of Greek Gods, Zeus and a human girl, is one that’s been remade, rebooted and immortalized on film & TV multiple times in a variety of ways. His story has everything from legendary heroics, bitter Gods, epic sibling rivalry, fantastical characters with stunning action and real world mythological roots. So it’s not hard to see such a character has stayed alive and well for decades in the mediums of film & TV.

While the ‘Split Screen’ feature usually compares two movies side by side, let’s take a departure today and compare multiple actors’ portrayal of the same character to see who, for lack of a better phrase, did it better. While not a definitive list of every actor to play the character, mine is a list of the most highest profile actors to have taken on the role.

Arnold Schwarzenegger in ‘Hercules In New York’ (1969)

Arnold Shwarzennegger in Hercules In New York

In his first ever feature film debut, the now infamous Terminator and Governor of California was Hercules! Sent down to modern day New York City, this Hercules fell in love and became a body builder in this horribly bad movie, which launched the career of one of the most likeable actors whose movies everyone watches, despite the varying degrees of badness. While becoming infamous for his one-liners and wooden acting, in his first role Schwarzenegger comes off as even more bland and monotone. For anyone of Schwarzenegger acting capabilities, this movie is an example of how far he has truly come as an actor.

Lou Ferrigno in ‘Hercules’ (1983)

Lou Ferrigno as Hercules 1983

Right after being ‘The Incredible Hulk’, Lou Ferrigno did his own version of Hercules where he spent most of the time being massive! While not known any dialogues in the role in the other show he’s famous for, here Ferrigno gets to flex some of those acting muscles, which make us wish he just stuck to flexing his pectorals.

Kevin Sorbo in ‘Hercules: The Legendary Adventures’ (1995)

Kevin Sorbo in Hercules: The Legendary Journeys

In this amazing TV Series, which was full of B-Grade guilty pleasure viewing week in and week out, Kevin Sorbo became a household name with his perfect hair and disarming good looks. Playing the character a little differently than others, Sorbo’s interpretation was more unrelenting-nice-guy, rather than badass hero. This made the times he did get physical that much more effective. Most people may not know, but the series did its own world building with cross overs with ‘Xena: Warrior Princess’, which launched Lucy Lawless to fame. And speaking of cross overs…

Ryan Gosling in ‘Young Hercules’ (1998)

Ryan Gosling as Young Hercules 1995

After appearing in an episode as the younger version of Kevin Sorbo’s character in the TV Series, a young Ryan Gosling got his own show on Fox Kids. Gosling’s take on the character was nothing unique, but instead was just a younger version of a similar character he plays in the romantic comedies he’s done later on in his career; charming, likeable and the quintessential ‘hero’.

John Hennigan a.k.a. John Morrison’ in ‘Hercules Reborn’ (2014)

John Morrison aka John Hennigan in 'Hercules Reborn' 2014

Unbeknownst to most, Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson was not the first former WWE superstar to portray Hercules. The highflying John Morrison, (real name John Hennigan) played the role in the same year in a smaller movie. Despite the same wooden and monotonous acting that WWE superstars are famous for, the difference with Morrison was his approach to the action. Usually the bulky and brute force that Hercules is associated with, changed to a more flexible and highflying character through Morrison’s own in-ring experience.

Kellan Lutz in ‘The Legend Of Hercules’ (2014)

Kellan Lutz in The Legend Of Hercules 2014

The former ‘Twilight Saga’ actor attempts a more serious role this time around, but his underwear model good looks don’t room for any proper portrayal of a legendary character. Unlike the other actors on this list, besides Sorbo, who at least had a few seasons to grow into his role, who commanded certain off screen charisma and stature which carries over into their on screen roles, Lutz, unfortunately only being associated as a supporting actor in a teenage, watered down Vampire franchise, didn’t bring anything new to the role of this God-like legendary figure.

Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson in ‘Hercules’ (2014)

Dwayne The Rock Johnson in Hercules 2014

In one of the better performances of the character, Johnson portrays Hercules as a more reluctant action hero, who is dismissive of his own legend and matured and stoic. With a supporting cast of characters under his belt, the character is also shown more as a military leader, than a lone hero fighting impossible odds. Johnson’s Hercules is more grounded and real, given the setting and tone of the movie itself. Johnson plays the character with a commanding presence and a humble demeanor.

Which Actor’s portrayal of the legendary character did you like the best? Let me know below…

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Shah Shahid

Entertainment Writer | Film & TV Critic | Bollywood Blogger | Host of Split Screen Podcast | Proud Geek Girl Dad


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