Friday, April 29, 2005
I have recently gotten into some verbal slinging with actors, and I’ve decided to post to the ether or blogosphere, whichever you prefer according to your technical savvy and nerdability, the ruminations that led to near fisticuffs, and much wailing from several dramatis personae.
I maintain that an actor is not an artist, but rather a tool through which an artist expresses him or herself. A Director, a playwright, a set designer, are all artists. An actor is a craftsman. Like the carpenter who pulls together a set, an actor portrays the ideas of the playwright and embodies it as such through use of their emotional toolbox, and physical and mental abilities.
Oooh a nasty thing to say, that I’m sure caused many actors to take pause before blustering forth, demanding recognition of their efforts as art. I do not argue that it is a difficult thing to be an actor. Moreso a trained actor. I spent my collegian life studying the various forms of theater and have endured everything from the psychotic version of Stanislavsky that Lee Strasberg defined as the “method”, to the facist rendering of Meisner Technique that David Mamet and his Steppenwolf/Atlantic cronies practice. I am familiar with styles, methods, history, acting, screen, stage, production, directing, musical, drama, comedy, and I defer to Orson Welles who said of the Academy Awards, “ Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences? What Art? What Science?”. I am hardly Orson Welles, and truthfully only Citizen Kane himself could be so wholly dismissive of the beauty and art of cinema. There is art in cinema. A film in its entirety can be a transcending, artistic experience but much like painting, it a series of elements put on a canvas.
An actor, at the end of the day can offer no more, regardless of training and experience, than himself. His reactions in real life, will be equivalent to his reactions on stage or screen. The notion of a transformation is a false one. The most effective actors are those whose personalities are so complex, that we cease to care about who they are on stage or off, it’s a joy to simply watch them being them. Take the three following actors as my examples: Al Pacino, Jack Nicholson, and Daniel Day Lewis. Three of the most intense and amazing actors I could muster. I challenge anyone reading to name me four characters each of them has played. Name Al Pacino’s character’s name in The Devil’s Advocate. Better yet, Jack Nicholson’s Name in ANYTHING other than Batman. Daniel Day Lewis is a man who take great effort to transform himself into whatever character he is playing, and even then I say that only Daniel Day Lewis is complex enough a Human being to give these characters life. Daniel Day Lewis decided to quit acting years ago, moved to Venice and became a woodcarver or some such manic thing. I say that there is something unstill about him, a quest for some peace that explodes onto the screen, but is also omnipresent in his personal life.
We all believe that our emotions and our feelings are not only valid, but far more sharp than those of the people around us. You look at the lives of quiet desperation around you and wonder “Do people feel as much as I do?” . To desire to be an actor, you must also posses the egomaniacal notion that your emotions, your life, your experiences are interesting enough to be watched. In a few instances they are. People themselves become or are so complex, apply training and discipline to the point where they merit watching and accolades. But what about the uninteresting? The mediocre? Surely they also become actors.
The Mediocre actor, is a person who has not engaged fully in life, and is therefore limited by their own experiences, or lack thereof. Simply put. Real people can be real boring. There are Outlandish humans out there who make for beautiful moments, but you surely can’t call the random experiences of living “Art” if someone who lives well, and feels deeply is considered an artist, then surely there are deeply emotional fishermen who deserve the term “Artist”. So the ego to put it forth is the only deciding factor as to what’s Art and what’s simply living? Highly unfair, and unwarranted. Actors should be happy enough knowing that they have honed a craft and posses a skill, without needing to elevate what we all experience daily to the title of “Art”. Let’s keep that beauteous elevation far from the reaches of the mundane. Let us keep Art sacred and away from the hands of actors.