Actors can use their talents for roles that reflect their beliefs, becoming innovative and influential. Who's worth the attention?
Meryl Streep: Widely regarded as one of the greatest actors of all time, Streep has won three Academy Awards, Best Supporting Actress for Kramer vs. Kramer and Best Actress for Sophie's Choice and The Iron Lady. She's earned a record 19 Oscar nominations. She is a fierce advocate of women's rights and has established two scholarships for students at the University of Massachusetts Lowell and funded a screenwriters lab for women over 40. She is modest about her talent and is regarded as maintaining a fairly "normal" life.
Denzel Washington: Winner of two Academy Awards, Best Supporting Actor for Glory and Best Actor for Training Day, Washington has chosen roles portraying politically charged real-life figures, including Steve Biko, a South African anti-apartheid activist; Malcolm X, the Muslim minister and human rights activist; and football coach Herman Boone. He has been the national spokesperson for Boys & Girls Clubs of America and has backed the U.S. military's wounded, the Children's Fund of South Africa and the debate team at Wiley College.
Angelina Jolie: Jolie made her film debut alongside her father, Jon Voight, in Lookin' to Get Out, won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for Girl, Interrupted and has grown into one of the most critically acclaimed, highest-paid and most powerful actors in Hollywood. Jolie is Special Envoy of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and works for women's rights, conservation and education. She and Brad Pitt have six children, three of whom were international adoptees.
Hallie Berry: In 2002, Berry became the first, and remains the only, woman of color to win an Oscar for a leading role: Best Actress for Monster's Ball. Berry went on to star in Catwoman, for which she was given the Razzie award as worst actress. In her acceptance, she said, "When I was a kid, my mother told me that if you could not be a good loser, then there's no way you could be a good winner." She is an active environmentalist and worked for the successful passage of California's Anti-Paparazzi Bill. She backs Gucci's "Chime for Change" campaign to raise awareness of women's issues in education, health and justice.
Tom Hanks: Hanks not only is big box office, he received the Academy Award for Best Actor for Philadelphia and Forrest Gump. He was named an honorary member of the U.S. Army Rangers Hall of Fame for his portrayal of a captain in Saving Private Ryan and has served as the national spokesperson for the World War II Memorial Campaign. He is an enthusiastic supporter of NASA's manned space program and is the namesake of Asteroid 12818 Tomhanks. He has a reputation as fan-friendly, and has been active supporting same-sex marriage and environmental causes.
Reese Witherspoon: Thought to be the most expensive actress in Hollywood, Witherspoon reportedly is being paid $29 million to star in Our Family Trouble. This comes on the heels of Wild, for which she earned her second Oscar nomination as Best Actress. She won critical acclaim and several awards for her role as June Carter Cash in Walk the Line, including the Academy Award for Best Actress. Witherspoon is an active advocate for children's and women's rights, and is the honorary chair of the Avon Foundation, which focuses on breast cancer research and the prevention of domestic violence.
Samuel L. Jackson: While earning critical acclaim, Jackson ranks as the all-time box office star, with an average of $70.3 million per film. He has appeared in more than 100 films, including Jurassic Park, Pulp Fiction, Snakes on a Plane and the Star Wars prequel trilogy. He is a longtime proponent of the civil rights movement, and was involved early in the Black Power movement. He and his wife LaTanya Richardson started an organization to support education, he has raised money to fight Alzheimer's disease and he launched One for the Boys, a campaign to educate men about testicular cancer.