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Am teaching a Linear Algebra course this term for people who are not expected to take more math/stats classes: this seems to include those who have been told by their own department or degree co-ordinators that This Stuff Is Good For You — and who could argue with that? — as well as people who just need some math credits before they can breathe a sigh of relief and flee the subject for good.

The mix of students means that if one is spending a lecture showing how you define Ax when A is a matrix and x is a column vector of the appropriate size, and doing simple examples, one is going to have a fair number of people for whom this is both old news and tedious viewing. With that in mind, today I tried to leave another “connections between actors/films” puzzle on the blackboard, in case anyone found it offered brief respite from the lecture. No one volunteered an answer, so I thought I may as well stick it here:

Which four actors connect Viggo Mortensen, Alex Winter, Guy Pearce and Marlon Brando to which film?

That is: there is a film, to which VM is connected by a certain actor, AW by another, and so on. Who are they, and what’s the film?

Suggestions welcome (as are any offered solutions to the previous puzzle).

EDIT: on re-reading this, I see that I forgot to clarify something — “connects” is meant in the sense of “have starred in a film with” (thus, the “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon” sense).

23 February, 2011 1:31 pm

Based on context, the answer has to be the Matrix.

Alex Winter -> Keanu Reeves, as they are Bill and Ted. (This was the giveaway.)
Guy Pearce -> Agent Smith wossname via Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.
Marlon Brando -> Larry Fishburne (in Apocalypse Now) = Lawrence Fishburne.
(Note that Brando -> Terence Stamp , also in Priscilla, but that’s an extra hop.)
Viggo Mortensen. Well, I’m not getting this one straightaway, and using a computer is cheating.

Counterchallenge: what if Tom Cruise were on your list?

• 23 February, 2011 6:22 pm

Indeed it is. I was surprised that no one in my class managed to guess the film, but I guess it was a long time ago by the measure of pop culture…

You’re right that if you know who Alex Winter is then you are led pretty quickly to Ted “Theodore the One” Logan. (I deliberately chose Winter to narrow down the possibilities; I was tempted to go with Close, Malkovich or Thurman from Dangerous Liaisons, or Swayze from Point Break.)

Didn’t realise Weaving was in P, Q of the D — I had in mind Carrie Ann-Moss, via Memento.

• 24 February, 2011 7:57 pm

The Tom Cruise question has me stumped, at present; he’s been in so many films that I’m reduced to going through the cast of The Matrix and trying to think of other roles they’ve played…

28 February, 2011 8:29 am

23 February, 2011 2:28 pm

Hugo Weaving, that’s Mitzi.
Still stuck on Viggo though. That’s a big search space.

• 23 February, 2011 6:24 pm

I’m not really familiar with Viggo Mortensen’s body of work – this is in itself something of a clue, in that you shouldn’t be thinking of small independent films…