Jon Favreau, the actor and director, and a man whose work I have enjoyed immensely over the years says every director should act. I cannot disagree with this. As a would-be filmmaker myself, I thought that it would be beneficial to take some acting classes myself. Unfortunately, though I was enjoying the course, midday through the course, the tutor decided to focus on poetry as the principal form of expression. I, philistine that I am, could not bear the thought of emoting poetry week after week, it is the one form of writing that I really cannot fully appreciate.
In hindsight, I regret not sticking it out, because though even though I can marvel at a DP’s vision, and be wowed by a set designers or costumers’ eye for detail, be flabbergasted by a writer’s clever wordplay and ability to tell a story succinctly and subtly, the craft of the actor still remains, to me at least, a special kind of magic.
I am not talking about your A-listers only. They maybe the draw, the ones who put bums on seats and keep the industry chugging along. They have to deal with the unrelated to the craft issues; stardom, maintaining a persona, always being on, especially in the blanket media age in which we live. Still, regardless how exceptional an actor/star maybe, their talent can only truly shine if those around them, the other performers, their fellow actors, do their part as well.
Christian Bale is a, rightly, highly regarded actor. Aside from his infamous on set rants, he has turned in mesmerising performances in many films. One of his standouts of recent years was his Oscar winning turn in The Fighter as the real life Dick Eklund, substance abuser and trainer to Mark Wahlberg’s Micky Ward. Melissa Leo also garnered an Academy award for the same film, both were deserving of their accolades, but Wahlberg was equally as good in a less showy role. In fact you would be hard pressed to pick out a bad performance in that film.
I’ll admit that The Fighter is probably not the best film to pick when speaking of the craft of acting. It is, after all, an incredibly well crafted film, where every element works. A better pick would be a soap opera or a made for television film. The expectation for these projects are different than those of a tentpole film. A made for television film especially, rarely raises the expectations of the watching audience. The actors, the ones we see in such fair, still have to give their all.
It is the most public of jobs, on display for the entertainment and gratification of the masses, even when you do not necessarily believe in the material or agree with the story. Actors put themselves in the firing line. A bad film normally reflects badly on the actor, something Michelle Pfeiffer can attest to, as after her turn in the risible Grease 2 she did not work for two years.
If it is not clear, I love actors. They bring the writer’s work to life and – more importantly – they live for that. The best ones, even the not so good ones, want to give a pleasing performance. They want to bring the character to life, they see things in the script that you may not of thought of, they bring perspective, they bring craft and caring. The rewards can be great, the success stories, the ones who light up our screens, these are the ones we hear about, the ones we see. So many, the vast majority, do it out of love, compelled to do it, ignoring the pragmatism of pursing a more amenable profession to do the one thing they feel they were born to do; act.
Yet so many, the vast majority whose faces we may – sometimes – vaguely recognise, do it out of love, compelled to do it, ignoring the pragmatism of pursing a more amenable profession to do the one thing they feel they were born to do; act.