Where Have All The Actors Gone?
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Caleb wonders if the thespian arts are in decline in Hollywoodland...
One movie that gets watched pretty often in our house is Noises Off. It’s a movie based on the play of the same name, which follows an acting troupe making their way from a small theatre in Des Moines, Iowa all the way to Broadway. My wife and I get a kick out of it because we’ve both done some theatre, and are always amused by the backstage antics and dramas. My daughter loves the rapid fire dialogue and slapstick comedy. And my son – well, he’d rather watch Ben 10 videos on YouTube, but hey, three out of four isn’t bad. But above all else, the cast of this film is absolutely brilliant. Michael Caine, Carol Burnett, John Ritter, Christopher Reeve, Marilu Henner and Denholm Elliott make up the ensemble cast. And watching it today got me thinking: Why doesn’t anybody act anymore?
I guess it saddens me, because there are so few true actors out there. Michael Caine shines in this film because he makes you believe that he’s a theatre director with low morals but great love for his craft. Much in the same way he made you believe he was Alfred Pennyworth, or Ebenezer Scrooge (or, for that matter, made you believe in the magic of the Muppets). He’s one of the few true thespians out there, the ones who “become” a character, and can change from role to role almost seamlessly, and make you see past the person.
Take Patrick Stewart, for example. Watch Star Trek: First Contact and Jeffrey back-to-back, and you can see how much difference there is in how he plays the part. Or see Ian McKellan in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and then watch his performance in Gods and Monsters. Or for a real contrast, watch old episodes of Blackadder and then watch House, M.D. to see just how much Hugh Laurie can transform himself. You aren’t watching them on-screen, but watching their characters. It seems that, for the most part, the true art of acting is something that hasn’t been passed on to the younger generation.
That isn’t to say that there aren’t younger actors that can act. Matt Damon is one of those actors that can transform himself into whatever the role calls for. Leonardo DiCaprio is starting to truly come into his own as another fine actor. And don’t get me started on the many talents of Johnny Depp and Liev Schreiber. And there are others that can make you forget who they are and believe that they are someone else altogether.
And yet, it seems that there are too many movie stars that seem to play the same role, no matter what movie they’re in. It’s not that that’s necessarily a bad thing. After all, I watch Billy Madison because Adam Sandler makes me laugh. I dig The Terminator because Arnold kicks ass. And there are the countless action and martial arts films I’ve watched over the years, not for the acting, but because they’re good, mindless fun.
However, all too often, movies call for someone that can actually act, not just show up and regurgitate lines. I understand, some choices are made by studios because a movie star is a box office draw. But no amount of good looks or popularity can give a film longevity. Casablanca is great not just for a gripping story, but because the acting is top notch. I highly doubt that, sixty years down the road, anyone is going to be writing their film thesis on the merits of Superbad. Best-of lists won’t be won’t be placing Lindsay Lohan up with Bette Davis.
Maybe I’m being overly critical of the stars that make a living out of taking us out of our lives, even if just for an hour or two. But for certain films, credible actors should be hired, not a name or a face, unless they are, indeed, the best for the role. I’m fairly certain that there was someone much more qualified for the role of Lois Lane than Kate Bosworth. Or maybe they could have gotten someone a little more believable than Ben Affleck for Daredevil. And casting Scarlett Johansson in Iron Man 2…well, that was okay. And I know that Hollywood studios are businesses, but instead of the immediate box office returns that are received by casting the “next big thing”, maybe they should try thinking about who can actually play the parts that are written, and how the product in general will be better.
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