Monday, September 29, 2008

Get Over Yourself! (I dream of Bill...)

Bill was in my dreams last night. And not Bill Shatner either:
Bill Nighy!

I heart Bill Nighy. (The New York Times called him "the thinking woman's crumpet.")

But it's weird to meet him in my dreams.
It's because of my moviemaking:
My dream self seems to be rooting around in some toy box where I've stashed these interesting actors (Derek Jacobi, the other night) and trotting them out in a dreamworld casting call for my Fly movie.

Nighy is on my list of actors who I'd go see movies simply because they were in it.
Try that again.
If he was in a movie, I'd go see it. Barring the next Pirates of the Caribbean.

Another is Imelda Staunton, who starred in a movie with Bill Nighy--the funny Antonia and Jane (UK, 1991)--which hardly anyone has seen and is not on DVD.

These are dream actors: they get themselves out of the way of their characters, and they're funny in an exquisitely subtle manner. [debated in the comments, but I'll let it stand here]
They're usually cast in smaller parts--maybe because they're not movie-star beautiful? (I'd eat crumpets in their beds, but I've noticed my tastes don't represent the norm.)
They finally get famous when they show up in blockbusters, like Harry Potter (Staunton) or Love Actually (Nighy).

It's almost a formula--if an actor gets a lot of roles and they're not Barbie or Ken, it's probably because they can act.

That thing about getting out of your own way--that isn't just attractive in movies, it's attractive in life.

Lately I've had a bunch of lucky chances to see how often I've let my ego be the star of my life. How often? Often.

I so admire Bill Nighy's style, but all too often my ego has acted more like Tom Cruise jumping up and down on Oprah's couch (was it Oprah?). Simply being able to see that, humiliating as it is, helps me get over myself... a bit.

I'm not accusing myself of heinous crimes here--most of us have a hard time shaking off the grip of ego. We're the stars of our lives, and we want bigger trailers, with refrigerators and wide-screen TVs and our own private secretaries.

For the second half of my life (inshallah), I want to be a character actor instead, working for the love of it. The role of the ego there is to fuel the love, not to steal the scene.

5 comments:

Lady Penelope said...

Hmm. Both Brits, I note. Do you think we have more character actors than you? if so is this because we're (slightly) more ok with not being physically perfect?

I agree about Imelda Staunton but Bill Nighy... I've yet to see him play anyone other than... Bill Nighy. Or hear him, since he's frequently the star of radio drama too. But I know I'm in a minority.

momo said...

Lovely writing here, and it strikes home for me.

fresca said...

You may be right, Lady P, about Mr. Nighy...
It's true he's no Philip Seymour Hoffman who positively disappears inside his roles.
But he does that one thing he does so nicely.
Hmmm... maybe that's what the NYT meant by "crumpet"--a one-note baked good, but a very nice one.

Do you Brits have more character actors than we Americans? Or just better actors all-round?
Or is it that you lot send your beautiful but untalented actors [a while ago Manfred mentioned Jude Law, for one] over here and skew the count?!

There are some good American actors who aren't mainstream beautiful. I just saw "Burn after Reading," with the very good but without Hollywood looks Frances McDormand, John Malkovich, and Richard Jenkins. (And Tilda Swinton, but she's British.) Interestingly, without being glamorized by the camera, the beautiful George Clooney and Brad Pitt fit right in.

Momo: Thanks. I'm glad it made sense.

Manfred Allseasons said...

Watching late night TV, i came across a mini-series called Hitlers SS: Portrait in Evil. It was made in 1985, and is full of British actors, including good old Bill Nighy as Helmutt Hoffman, SS officer, David Warner as Reinhard Heydrich, Michael Elphick as Ernst Rohm, plus loads of others... and Tony Randall as Putzi, a Cabaret MC type character. It was a searing indictment of Hitlers Germany, but I laughed like a drain because all these British actor types are so charming and lovely they made the Night of the Long Knives look like the Henley Regatta...

De Niro, Hoffman, Streep would have done a better job (back then) our boys and girls are too actor-ly, I think.

Whoops, sorry about the long comment !

fresca said...

Ha! Portraits in Evil among Sporting Types.

I love long comments!
Why not?

But I'm wondering what role you had in mind for Meryl Streep...
She is not my favorite, speaking of actor-ly actors: I can always see her craft showing. I like her best in comedies, where that's not a drawback; you're not thinking, Gee she's doing a great accent while experiencing eviscerating emotional pain!