Monday, February 06, 2012

ON ACTING: An Actor's Range-versus-Depth

Moneyball is a wonderful film. Brad Pitt is superb in it. It's the best thing I've seen him in in years. When the film finished, I became a Brad Pitt fan again.

Why? Because he had accepted--at least he has in this film--that he is a brilliant leading man, not a character actor. He was no longer trying to be a Johnny Depp-trying-to-be-a-character-actor clone.

My mother used to say "the key to fashion was not a huge wardrobe filled with a new dress for each day; but a small, select wardrobe of the finest stuff, with a few of the best weaves and cut, that you can wear over and over again. So," she said, "when someone says: 'Oh, that's new, isn't it?' you can say--honestly: 'I've had that in my closet (and on my back) for years! Thanks for not noticing'"

Brad Pitt is a Robert Redford inheritor. To be a leading man is his legacy (if he will continue to accept it), his acting longitude and latitude. That is where he is best positioned on the Hollywood planet. Watch Brad Pitt in Moneyball and you think of Robert Redford in The Natural (I know...they are more both sports movies).These two actors in all their films are both at core--and best when they are enacting--flawed heroes, beautiful everyman, instantly recognizable yet eternally unfathomable. True, we all see ourselves in them, but it is the deepest, murkiest, most complicated sides of ourselves. That is their genius...and honed craft.

Their proper acting range is vertical, not horizontal. Therefore they (and their agents) should not reach sideways for character roles, but downward, seeking roles as heroes exemplifying complexity and emotional depth.

People will criticize them for choosing such heroic "blonde God" roles; they will say "they are just acting themselves." In truth, they are--as all actors are in any role--but in such hero roles being narrowly "themselves" they are, while not Streep-like or Olivier-like chameleon-brilliant but brilliant as Sandy Kofax was with only two pitches--pitches that were while common and traditional (a fastball and a curve)--they were delivered in a manner no one else could match.

Actors like Pitt (in Moneyball) and Redford are always the same, yet we never get enough of them; we came back for more...and more and more...just like millions came back over and over again for Clark Gable, Gary Cooper, John Wayne, Elizabeth Taylor, Marilyn Monroe and Julia Roberts. Those were not considered actors' actors, but often described (and derided) as "just stars; audience actors, instantly recognizable yet still eternally unknowable; not wide-ranging oceans, but backyard ponds, small in circumference yet profound in depth.

When young actors are training or rehearsal, they should consider this: don't always look to "stretch" themselves (meaning horizontally) to different and exotic roles, but look to play a role that is on the surface "themselves", a good and obvious fit for their personality. Stretch "vertically," into that recognizable everyday self, beneath the superficial aspects of their personality to find the deepest and most complex rivers of emotion than run beneath that everyday self.

That's what makes "Brad" or "Bob" or "Julia" or "Marilyn" great stars (as well as excellent craftspeople/actors, by the way). They are unafraid to plummet themselves in their own backyards, to seek in their acting preparation and rehearsal the fullest depth of their emotional beings, and allow those aspects of themselves to be stimulated and revealed in their performances.


Blogger Oryan said...

I feel like this article gives me permission as an actor to go to places I've been avoiding.... thanks for posting.

9:13 PM  
Blogger Cliff Osmond said...

Thanks for reading.

4:49 PM  

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