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December 8, 2010 8:25 AM   Subscribe

14 Actors Acting (nytimes).

"A video gallery of classic screen types." Featuring Javier Bardem, James Franco, Natalie Portman, Jesse Eisenberg, Chloë Moretz, Matt Damon, Michael Douglas, Jennifer Lawrence, Noomi Rapace, Vincent Cassel, Anthony Mackie, Robert Duvall, Lesley Manville, Tilda Swinton.
posted by duvatney (110 comments total) 28 users marked this as a favorite

 
legitimately dreamlike, which is no small feat.
posted by The Whelk at 8:31 AM on December 8, 2010


Flagged as offensive for saying that Natalie Portman can act.
posted by Joe Beese at 8:33 AM on December 8, 2010 [7 favorites]


FIVE.

GOLDEN.

RINGS!
posted by Horace Rumpole at 8:33 AM on December 8, 2010 [17 favorites]


13 Key Grips Gripping?
posted by phunniemee at 8:33 AM on December 8, 2010 [11 favorites]


Natalie is kinda.. directionless??
posted by ReeMonster at 8:37 AM on December 8, 2010


14 Scenes From A Sadly Nonexistent Guy Madden Neo-Noir
posted by The Whelk at 8:38 AM on December 8, 2010 [8 favorites]


Love Vincent Cassel. And not just because he is married to Monica Bellucci.
posted by mooselini at 8:38 AM on December 8, 2010


So when are we going to see Vincent Cassel in a Fred Astaire biopic?
posted by BurntHombre at 8:40 AM on December 8, 2010


Matt Damon really does rage well, doesn't he?
posted by deadmessenger at 8:40 AM on December 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


I really don't appreciate Matt Damon's filthy mouth.
posted by uncleozzy at 8:40 AM on December 8, 2010


How does Michael Douglas make his head look so enormous? Now that's acting.
posted by XMLicious at 8:43 AM on December 8, 2010 [6 favorites]


Natalie, if you're trying to channel Greta or Marlene ..... sorry, many have tried to scale that wall, none have succeeded. Even if you're trying to channel Natalie Wood ..... try again.
posted by blucevalo at 8:43 AM on December 8, 2010


Man I have a really strong Pavlovian response to lush romantic scores and silvery B&W photography.
posted by The Whelk at 8:45 AM on December 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


I like watching James Franco kiss himself.

Also, Tilda Swinton seems to be playing David Bowie playing Joan of Arc.
posted by duvatney at 8:48 AM on December 8, 2010 [9 favorites]


Also, Tilda Swinton seems to be playing David Bowie playing Joan of Arc.

No part of this sentence is a bad idea.
posted by The Whelk at 8:49 AM on December 8, 2010 [43 favorites]


Matt Damon really does rage well, doesn't he?

It's less impressive when you consider where he's from; you can pretty much get that exact same performance by walking anywhere in Boston and shouting "GO YANKEES"
posted by Greg Nog at 8:50 AM on December 8, 2010 [5 favorites]


Matt Damon really does rage well, doesn't he?
It's less impressive when you consider where he's from; you can pretty much get that exact same performance by walking anywhere in Boston and shouting "GO YANKEES"


Hey, you gotta go with what you know, right?
posted by deadmessenger at 8:51 AM on December 8, 2010


That Jesse Eisenberg kid is going places.
posted by pts at 8:51 AM on December 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


>That Jesse Eisenberg kid is going places.

Yup. Zombieland2.
posted by mooselini at 8:53 AM on December 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


I had to google Chloë Moretz, I didn't recognize her at all.
posted by Memo at 8:57 AM on December 8, 2010


I want to be Noomi Rapace. And I wish I still smoked.
posted by londonmark at 9:01 AM on December 8, 2010


In the thumbnail/preview image, Matt Damon looks rather a lot like Phillip Seymour Hoffman. D=

Needs the "ACTIIIIIING!" tag.

I don't know who Chloe Moretz is. Was she Bruce Willis' girlfriend in Pulp Fiction? That's who she looks like in the preview image. "I want a pot."
posted by Eideteker at 9:04 AM on December 8, 2010


I wanted the Duvall clip to keep going for about nine more hours.
posted by shakespeherian at 9:09 AM on December 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


I came in to post Horace's joke.
posted by neuromodulator at 9:13 AM on December 8, 2010


But I came back to say I love James Franco.
posted by neuromodulator at 9:15 AM on December 8, 2010 [3 favorites]


Meh, if I wanted to see 14 actors acting (and singing), I'd go down to the Times Square Red Lobster and say it was my birthday.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 9:16 AM on December 8, 2010 [8 favorites]


How does Michael Douglas make his head look so enormous?

Chemotherapy?
posted by Optamystic at 9:17 AM on December 8, 2010


Also, for those who don't know, the music is by Owen Pallett, who used to record under the name Final Fantasy.
posted by shakespeherian at 9:18 AM on December 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


>I wanted the Duvall clip to keep going for about nine more hours.

What is "Apocalypse now".

ducks
posted by mooselini at 9:18 AM on December 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


>Chemotherapy?

Too soon.
posted by mooselini at 9:18 AM on December 8, 2010 [3 favorites]


14 Scenes From A Sadly Nonexistent Guy Madden Neo-Noir.

If he's some sort of combination of John Madden and Guy Maddin, I would pay almost anything to watch that.
posted by The Bellman at 9:19 AM on December 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


Also, for those who don't know, the music is by Owen Pallett, who used to record under the name Final Fantasy.

He also scores the string parts of Arcade Fire, so prepare for the avalanche of Hipster Hate that only Metafilter can do.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 9:20 AM on December 8, 2010


This is what David Lynch dreams when he falls asleep watching TCM.
posted by Bromius at 9:21 AM on December 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


Fuck the hate Pallett really nails that oversaturated romantic tone of classic film scores.
posted by The Whelk at 9:22 AM on December 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


Speaking of the score, what I really liked about this little experiment was a return to silent cinema. I liked seeing dialogue and sounds happening without hearing them, letting the music carry the scene in concert with the actor. It's so common in the silent era but rarely done today.
posted by tunewell at 9:31 AM on December 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


Katharine Hepburn was doing David Bowie before there was David Bowie.
posted by kenko at 9:31 AM on December 8, 2010 [4 favorites]


I didn't catch that Pallett did the music. It's excellent.
posted by kenko at 9:32 AM on December 8, 2010


FIVE.

GOLDEN.

RINGS!


BA DUM BUM BUM...
posted by Gator at 9:35 AM on December 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


I like watching James Franco kiss himself.

In a way, James Franco is kind of always kissing himself.
posted by Rudy Gerner at 9:44 AM on December 8, 2010 [3 favorites]


Tilda Swinton seems to be playing David Bowie playing Joan of Arc.

You should see her brother Octothorpe playing Anne Lennox playing St. Alban.
posted by Herodios at 9:50 AM on December 8, 2010


I'm pretty sure Tilda Swinton isn't human.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 9:59 AM on December 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


A video gallery of classic screen types

I'm glad they included the token minority. At least Anthony Mackie's vignette isn't of him dying first.
posted by Christ, what an asshole at 9:59 AM on December 8, 2010


I don't know who Chloe Moretz is.

Eeeny, meeny, miny, moe.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 10:01 AM on December 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


Franco is fun to watch (but what is up with his eyebrow? that thing has a mind of its own), and I think Bardem really nails the menace at the very end of his little scene when he slowly looks up from the broken dishes.
posted by jnrussell at 10:01 AM on December 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


Terrific. James Franco nails narcissism very well.
posted by codacorolla at 10:08 AM on December 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


>I'm pretty sure Tilda Swinton isn't human.

Did you see Limits of Control? She is symbolism.
posted by mooselini at 10:14 AM on December 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm acting as hard as I can!
posted by cthuljew at 10:14 AM on December 8, 2010


This is more like "acting" but these are some of the best in the business.
posted by eugenen at 10:21 AM on December 8, 2010


These were a lot better than the stuff directed by Gwyneth Paltrow's brother a few years back.
posted by Ideefixe at 10:30 AM on December 8, 2010


Loving this - thanks so much,
But I still need an emoticon for "cringing when actors emote..."
posted by Jody Tresidder at 10:41 AM on December 8, 2010


Videos are usually jerky in Firefox (3.6) but these are really jerky.
posted by gottabefunky at 10:45 AM on December 8, 2010


I don't know who Chloe Moretz is.

Oh hey Mark, there's thing called Google. I thought you were the expert!
posted by PostIronyIsNotaMyth at 10:46 AM on December 8, 2010


I literally cannot stop watching that Vincent Cassel one. The music at the very start is just menacing enough to clash with the dancing so it's very slightly unsettling.
posted by The Whelk at 10:51 AM on December 8, 2010


He also scores the string parts of Arcade Fire...

zzzzzzzzzzz...zkhn!..Wha? Wazzat? HIPSTERS? KILL 'EM ALL!!
posted by Kabanos at 10:55 AM on December 8, 2010


This is a great way to draw attention to the acting that goes beyond what's in the script.

Also, I'm glad I'm not the only one who saw Bowie in Tilda.
posted by buriednexttoyou at 10:56 AM on December 8, 2010


Tilda Swinton has such a cool head!
posted by iamkimiam at 11:00 AM on December 8, 2010


It would appear that the alien race that Tilda Swinton has been separated from for so long has finally re-appeared to draw her into their collectively cold and insect-like bosom. Tears of joy are not enough. They convey so little.......
posted by venbear3 at 11:01 AM on December 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


For ..some reason recently I was interesting in picking apart What Makes A Scene work - I'm guess I'm trying to teach myself how to stage better scenes, but I keep thinking about how many factors go into making a scene happen at all , from lighting to sound to blocking to the bigger things like pacing and character and script and editing and I kept running into the problem of separating the script from the performance - which I solved by watching versions of scripts I know I like done by really, really, really bad actors and suddenly all these invisible things about a performance and what is it made of snapped into view.
posted by The Whelk at 11:01 AM on December 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


Actually watching terrible movies in general is a god education.
posted by The Whelk at 11:04 AM on December 8, 2010


How did Jesse Eisenberg not laugh when every single bullet shell hit him square in the forehead?
posted by iamkimiam at 11:05 AM on December 8, 2010


Good education*

Although I think Modesty Blaise made me see god.
posted by The Whelk at 11:08 AM on December 8, 2010


Whoa, it's like James Franco totally knew that guy. He's good.
posted by iamkimiam at 11:09 AM on December 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


Tilda Swinton was really giving me a strong hit of Buster Keaton. What faces!
posted by biddeford at 11:22 AM on December 8, 2010


THE HAIR! HEADS FULL OF IT!!! WHAT IS GOING ON WITH ACTORS' HAIR?!?

One of the reasons I like watching 70's and earlier TV and movies is that balding, short, middle aged or fat men can be heroes or villains, and posses a whole range of emotions. In contemporary movies, bald, fat or short tells you that the character has no moral fibre, is a wimp or is there for comic relief. Seinfeld and Always Sunny have distilled this to a pure spirit.
posted by Dr. Curare at 11:36 AM on December 8, 2010


Actually watching terrible movies in general is a god education.

The best film education I ever had was listening to the commentary on the Love Conquers All version of Brazil, where with just a bunch of editing you can make a completely different movie with different characters and themes.
posted by shakespeherian at 11:41 AM on December 8, 2010


I'm pretty sure Tilda Swinton isn't human.

Ever since she played Gabriel in Constantine, I've been sort of convinced that she is actually an angel.

Not a happy, grant your wishes type angel, but a raze your city and salt the earth kind possibly sacrificing some first borns along the way.

This kind of makes me terrified of her, and that sort of makes me crush on her even harder.
posted by quin at 11:54 AM on December 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


So when are we going to see Vincent Cassel in a Fred Astaire biopic?

Never, if the Astaire estate has anything to say about it.
Astaire has never been portrayed on film. He always refused permission for such portrayals, saying, "However much they offer me — and offers come in all the time — I shall not sell." Astaire's will included a clause requesting that no such portrayal ever take place; he commented, "It is there because I have no particular desire to have my life misinterpreted, which it would be."

posted by fings at 11:57 AM on December 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


James Franco was doing what we all wish we could.

With James Franco.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:02 PM on December 8, 2010 [6 favorites]


I did that whole Robert Duvall shaving thing this morning and didn't even know I was acting.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 12:08 PM on December 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


Someone blew my mind today by reminding me that Jesse Eisenberg is big brother to Hallie Eisenberg.
posted by spec80 at 12:11 PM on December 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


It's sort of random, but Tilda Swinton has a perfume named Like This. "How do you want to smell?" "Like this". I really need to get my hands on some of this alien goddess actress endorsed smell.
posted by Shusha at 12:34 PM on December 8, 2010


Matt Damon really does rage well, doesn't he?

Something I became aware of in the course of a theater piece we did where audience members were brought on stage, and asked to enact various emotions and attitudes: everyone can do rage better than anything else.
posted by StickyCarpet at 12:38 PM on December 8, 2010


This is even more effective if you watch it without the overly dramatic music.
posted by cazoo at 12:44 PM on December 8, 2010


Someone blew my mind today by reminding me that Jesse Eisenberg is big brother to Hallie Eisenberg.

that is fucked up

Also, Hallie's IMDb Mini Biography is just priceless: "Now, Hallie is turning to writing: her script "Three Generations" could turn into box office gold. It's not just an outline, but replete with narrative and dialog; Hallie has even learned French to make the dialog more authentic. Hallie has appeared 3 times so far on Jay Leno's "Tonight" show (4/2/1999; 1/6/2000; 5/5/2000) and the audience adores her. I am sure there will be many mini-bio updates on this rising young star."
posted by Copronymus at 12:50 PM on December 8, 2010


Okay, who is going to ADR dialog into the Damon one?
posted by sexymofo at 12:51 PM on December 8, 2010


Okay, who is going to ADR dialog into the Damon one?

I'll take a shot:

MATT DAMON!
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 1:09 PM on December 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


Someone blew my mind today by reminding me that Jesse Eisenberg is big brother to Hallie Eisenberg

WHOA. MIND BLOWN. What's even crazier is that she turned 18 this year. They grow up so fast!
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 1:31 PM on December 8, 2010


Jesse Eisenberg is just completely expressionless. That's acting?
posted by gottabefunky at 2:00 PM on December 8, 2010


These were interesting to watch, but in my experience the job of acting has a lot more to do with inhabiting a character, getting into that character's brain, and then letting their desires dictate your vocal and physical choices. We can't really get much of a sense of that in these uber-mini-"scenes." Seeing the emoting was cool, I guess, but I enjoyed it much more when I took it for what I think it was: a dance performance.
posted by Zephyrial at 2:32 PM on December 8, 2010


Dang, my first link didn't work but it was a picture of Hallie in the film, Paulie.
posted by spec80 at 2:43 PM on December 8, 2010


Jesse Eisenberg is just completely expressionless. That's acting?

Try it sometime. With people fussing over your hair, clothes and make-up, with cameras and lighting guys and directors and assistants whispering into cellphones that they swear they can do your job.

I never claimed Keanu Reeves was a great actor. But having worked with him, dude can get really, really visibly calm on command. It's not rocket surgery, but it's harder than it looks.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 3:01 PM on December 8, 2010


Michael Douglas scared me!
posted by Scoop at 4:50 PM on December 8, 2010


Some of them were acting. Matt Damon, Tilda Swinton, James Franco. (BTW, was Franco high, or just acting like he was high? Hmmmm.) Many of them were just voguing. Vincent Cassell was dancing. Robert Duvall shaved his face. To me that's not acting.
posted by zardoz at 5:09 PM on December 8, 2010


Yeah but Cassell somehow managed to sum up All Of Dancing In Classic Hollywood, so that's totally a pass.

And yes Franco seduced himself, in a totally believable way, the little half-second when he closes his eyes before kissing the mirror? Yeah, watch really bad actors helped me realize how hard it is and how many choices you have to make on the fly, in order to sell a scene. I was really impressed with Jennifer Lawrence actually, the Doomed Damsel is kind of a hard thing to sell, and I thought she did it with just right amount of camp and actual terror. It was very Invasion Of The Pod People and that is a huge compliment as that entire movie rests on the one shot of eyes opening.

Noomi Rapace, of course, for the win. She looks like she's seriously breaking down and Eisenberg? Yeah that kind of deadly calm is actually kinda of hard to do, and he looks totally fucking scary.
posted by The Whelk at 5:18 PM on December 8, 2010


Also, no love for Lesley Manville? You can tell exactly what's going on and imply an entire plot from what's on her face while still maintaining this kind of Betty Davis, Studio-Film-50s tone. Her segment is like a little lesson in Melodrama.
posted by The Whelk at 5:22 PM on December 8, 2010


And how many people after watching all of them tried to tie it together into a home film. I did, and it ended up like some 8-hour L.A Noir Monstrosity that I would totally watch.
posted by The Whelk at 5:24 PM on December 8, 2010


whole, not home, but maybe..
posted by The Whelk at 5:26 PM on December 8, 2010


Jesse Eisenberg is just completely expressionless.

That's kind of his thing. Damn it, I want to like the guy, people I trust and respect think he's a good actor, but he just creeps me right the hell out.
posted by Evangeline at 5:51 PM on December 8, 2010


THAT'S WHY HE'S SO GOOD.
posted by The Whelk at 5:55 PM on December 8, 2010


I don't see anything in these that anyone couldn't do. If this is acting then everyone is an actor and it doesn't mean anything anymore. Farting on command would require more talent, practice and skill than anything on display here. So what is this really about?

What drives this fetish for adoring famous people? Is it some deep down human need to create and relate to some 'divine' greatness - like a Greek pantheon? Or is is some social glue that holds us together - none of us know each other but we all know these 'actors' so we feel we're in a not so big village?

Not trolling here - I just really don't get this whole 'acting' thing. Hollywood feels like a media age's mecca to me. If you see 'it' (acting) in Robert D. shaving then surely you have much in common with someone who sees Jesus on a piece of toast.
posted by astrobiophysican at 5:58 PM on December 8, 2010


THAT'S WHY HE'S SO GOOD.

Until his agent calls and says, "Hey Jesse, I got you an audition for this fantastic part in the new Scorsese film! Great character, totally not creepy... oh wait..."
posted by Evangeline at 6:07 PM on December 8, 2010


I don't see anything in these that anyone couldn't do.

Have you ever been on stage or in front of a video camera, trying to do lines? I personally find it impossible to do absolutely anything without a thousand tiny mind-seizures focused around wondering how I'm coming across, whether I'm being too big or too quiet, whether I look calm or scared, whether my eyes are open too wide, I wish I had my weight on my left foot instead but if I shift wouldn't it look awkward? The ability to look un-self-aware on film is, frankly, amazing.
posted by shakespeherian at 6:17 PM on December 8, 2010



Until his agent calls and says, "Hey Jesse, I got you an audition for this fantastic part in the new Scorsese film!


Character actors work til their dead.
posted by The Whelk at 8:01 PM on December 8, 2010


But he's not a character actor. He seems to always be playing himself, and he just happens to be a "character". Like Jack Nicholson, Woody Allen, Cary Grant, Clint Eastwood and many of the most popular film stars, he's a "close to the vest" actor. He's quirky, but that doesn't mean he's versatile.
posted by Evangeline at 8:10 PM on December 8, 2010


I don't like the Jesse Eisenberg piece. Why? Because he's not taking the scene seriously. Right in the beginning the edges of his lips curl up twice. He's suppressing a grin. It happens again right before he fires the gun though it's more of a smile of appreciation at the fact that he's getting to fire a gun. If he, the actor of the piece, can't take the scene seriously then how can I, the viewer, become engrossed in it?

Also, Michael Douglass grins hard as well at one point and so he lifts his chin and face up to suppress a grin.
posted by I-baLL at 10:14 AM on December 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Evangeline, what you described is a character actor... someone talented at acting but with limited range.
posted by The Winsome Parker Lewis at 11:24 AM on December 10, 2010


That's interesting. I've been acting in theatre since I was twelve, and when anyone I know talks about character actors, they're talking about actors who can play many different types of characters.
posted by Evangeline at 12:03 PM on December 10, 2010


Also, the very page you linked to is disputed.
posted by Evangeline at 12:08 PM on December 10, 2010


Yeah I was under the impression that a character actor is someone like Philip Seymour Hoffman, who can play a great many different characters.
posted by shakespeherian at 12:11 PM on December 10, 2010


I wonder if you're thinking of type-casting?
posted by Evangeline at 12:26 PM on December 10, 2010


when anyone I know talks about character actors, they're talking about actors who can play many different types of characters.

Huh, I've never thought of the phrase that way. I pretty much always think of it in the way the Wikipedia article describes -- someone who tends to have small but memorable roles, generally of a certain type, aka "Hey! It's That Guy!" I don't think of people like Johnny Depp and Gary Oldman as "character actors," even though they're chameleonlike in their ability to play different types of characters.
posted by Gator at 12:45 PM on December 10, 2010


I've been mulling over writing an instructional book about chameleon-like acting, about how actors can improve their ability to alter their voices, movements (and other traits) to portray an assortment of different types of people.

I REALLY want to title the book "How to be a Character Actor," but that would be misleading, because "character actor" is a fuzzy term. Depending on who is using it, it means either what Evangeline means or what The Winsome Parker Lewis means. There's no agreement.

And both meanings make sense...

1) An actor who can play a whole lot of different sorts of characters. (Merl Streep)

2) An actor who IS a character -- a very specific type of person, and that shows through when he plays his roles. (Woody Allen, Jack Nicholson)

There's a third meaning -- a more traditional one -- in which a "character actor" is not a leaning man or a leading lady. So in "The Shining," Jack Nicholson isn't a character actor, because he plays the lead role (or one of the lead roles), but Scatman Crothers is.

A lot of this depends on what side of the stage you're on. Since Evangeline is an actress, it makes sense that she uses the term the way she does. Most actors are concerned with whether they have the ability to transform themselves or not. Someone who doesn't might say, "You want me to play ten parts in the same play? Sorry, I'm not a character actor."

If you're a casting agent, you probably think of it in the traditional sense. "I can't cast Nicholson as a leading man! He's a character actor!"

If you're an audience member, you probably think of it in terms of the way we use character in the phrase "What a CHARACTER!" So Zach Galifianakis is a character actor (he wouldn't be to Evangeline, because he always plays the same sort of guy).

So one person might see "How to be a Character Actor" and think, "Awesome! I would love to be able to play all sorts of different roles." Another might think, "What? How can you teach someone to be a character? You either are or you aren't!" A third might think, "No thanks. I'd rather be a leading man!"
posted by grumblebee at 1:17 PM on December 10, 2010


Fascinating, I'd just dropped by the thread late to offer what I thought was a correction/clarification... I didn't expect to learn that the term apparently has two completely opposite definitions. So much for clarity. What a mess!
posted by The Winsome Parker Lewis at 1:26 PM on December 10, 2010


I think Evangeline's and The Winsome Parker Lewis's meanings are relatively new. (Disclaimer: I'm not a linguist, and I haven't taken a poll. I'm just reporting based on my impressing after having spent 30 years discussing acting with people and hearing the various ways the use the term.)

Traditionally, roles broke down into common types:

Leading Man and Leading Lady (Gertrude and Claudius, arguably Hamlet)
Ingenue (Ophelia)
Young Male Lead (Hamlet)
Character Role (Gravedigger, Polonius)

The first confusion is mixing up the actor and the role. So, imagine we stil all used this traditional system of naming roles. An agent says to "Kenneth Branagh, I've got two roles I'd like to send you out for, but they only want to read you for one -- your choice. Would you rather play Claudius or the Gravedigger? Do you want a lead role or a character role?"

So, thought about this way, it has nothing to do with the actor. It's all about the part. An actor might play a lead in one play and a character-role in another. This system has worked for years in rep theatre.

Of course, you start to get actors who are really good a specific types of roles. "Sam is so good looking! He's great for leading men. Mary has that funny, high-pitched voice. She's great for character roles." Even in Shakespeare's day, there were actors well-known for playing specific types of characters, e.g. clown actors who played characters like the fool in "King Lear."

So, here, we are already sliding into fuzziness.

I think Hollywood caused a major slide, because they paid a lot more money to the people playing the leading roles than they did to the people playing the supporting roles. And most people, actors included, don't want a fluctuating salary. So your rarely going to find Hollywood actors taking a lead role in one film and a supporting role in another.

Very quickly, we get into a system in which Cary Grant is ALWAYS the lead and Thelma Ritter is ALWAYS playing a supporting role. (I am trying not to say "character role," so that I don't cause confusion, but that's what many people would call Ritter's roles.)

Now, let's bring in the third meaning -- the less technical one. Is an actor a "he's such a CHARACTER" person or not? My guess is that most people would say that Gene Hackman is not. He's always interesting to watch, but it's not like you look at him and think "what a buffoon!" or "what a quirky customer!" or "what planet did HE come from?" And that's fine, because he also tends to play leading roles. So he's not a character actor in several senses.

But what about Humphrey Bogart or Clint Eastwood or Woody Allen? They are all SO specific and they never stray from type. They are -- in the coloquial sense of the word -- characters. But they also all play lead roles in most of their films. Under the traditional system, they are leading men. Who is the leading man in "Annie Hall"? Clearly it's Woody Allen.

Here's a clear way of thinking about it, but you have to dispense with well-worn, well-loved terms.

When talking about roles, just talk about lead role and supporting roles -- and serious role and comic role.

When talking about an actor's ability to play lots of different types of people, talk about chameleon actors and close-to-the-vest actors.

When talking about whether an actor is quirky or not, talk about lookers, average joes and oddballs.
posted by grumblebee at 2:29 PM on December 10, 2010 [3 favorites]


Interesting, I've always used the term to describe an actor that plays a specific kind of character. Your Steve Buscemis and Danny Trejos, where, when you see their name in the credits, you know exactly how they'll be cast and what kind of character they'll be playing.

(In the case of Trejo, an expectation wonderfully undone in Spy Kids, I might add)

Never really put too much thought into the fact that other people might use it to describe the exact opposite. But I can see how that would make sense depending on how you approach it.
posted by quin at 2:44 PM on December 10, 2010


Steve Buscemis

I don't see much of a throughline for Chet! in Barton Fink, Carl Showalter in Fargo, Donny in The Big Lebowski, and Nucky Thompson in Boardwalk Empire. I realize I'm just being a pedant.
posted by shakespeherian at 3:03 PM on December 10, 2010


Oh don't get me wrong, Buscemi is a fantastic actor with a huge amount of range, it's just that the vast majority of his acting history is him playing that skinny, slightly off center guy who delivers lines in a wry and sardonic voice.

But that's what's great, when they cast against type and you expect Map to the Stars Eddie and you get Mr Pink.
posted by quin at 3:18 PM on December 10, 2010


So I saw Black Swan today, and I have to say Natalie Portman can actually act. Who knew. Sometimes she even showed, like, more than one emotion per scene. It was crazy.
posted by neuromodulator at 10:32 PM on December 11, 2010


Natalie Portman gets too much shit thrown at her cause of the Star Wars suckage but she can actually totally act if she's given the right role, Black Swan is kind of perfect cause it took her total babe in the woods innocent waif thing she has going to good effect.
posted by The Whelk at 11:39 PM on December 11, 2010


Acting with James Franco

Part 2

Part 3
posted by neuromodulator at 1:51 PM on December 12, 2010


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