It’s an action society favours.
After all, schools are designed to create people who think along a certain path. The engineer path, the doctor path, the actor path. And in the actor path, what are you taught?
I seriously don’t know, because I have never taken institutional acting training. It’s all been studio and independent teachers showing me what to do. But when I look at the general tone of what is getting produced, I have to think that actors are, if not being taught that acting is a product, are being steered towards acting as a product.
Who are the actors who thrill us? Who will make us watch a production just because they are in it, just walk up to the box office and plunk our fifteen bucks down and walk through the door? What do they have that compels us so?
Everyone will have a different list. Some of the ones on my list are Johnny Depp, Gene Hackman, Will Smith. When I write this down and look at it, what the heck do they have in common?
Depp is the supreme chameleon, the ultimate character actor. He becomes the role.
Hackman is actually a supreme character actor as well, look at him in The Conversation and The French Connection and tell me I’m lying.
Smith is, well, not as much of a character actor as these two. There’s always a bit (or a lot) of Will in his performances. But he does get into the roles, and he does bring truth to the characters.
What all three have? What do I want to call it? Fearlessness? Risk taking? A sense of play?
Like children who don’t say to themselves, “Hey, this is really silly, I’m not an abominable snowman.” They just walk around in the snow with their arms stretched out, their fingers made into claws, and growling to wake the dead. The best play is also when you are not thinking, “OK, now I am going to be dramatic. I’m rolling my abominable snowman eyes. How was that? Dramatic, huh?” That kind of internal monologue comes across really strongly in film, and also on stage, and it turns me off as an audience member.
But these monologues are done by actors who are taught at some point they are a product. A commodity. Who are totally fungible, so if they want the work, they had better learn to play the game. Creativity takes second place to being “Just like Bette Davis, only with longer hair.”
And so the process grinds away and spits out some robots who go out and sell tickets. And God knows I’m not the best actor in the world, but still. I am going to always return to Mamet, who points out that this is a flawed system, and if you know it is flawed, why participate in it? Why grasp the butcher knife in your hand and stand over your creative soul, stabbing at it?
Because it’s the way things are done, don’t you know? It’s the way to get cast, to get a part, to shoot to stardom.
Well. This has been a long blog entry. Must mean I’m ready to produce, direct, or act. It’s like chatting up a girl, I’m chatting up my little creative soul.