Here’s the deal. Entertainment reporters love to talk about actors taking risks with their roles. I have no idea what this means. I’m pretty sure the entertainment reporters have no idea what this means. I’m convinced the actors have no idea what this means.
Look, I like movies as much as the next guy. Probably more than the next guy. It would obviously depend on who the next guy was. For example, if it was a guy who really, really, really loved movies, he might like movies more than me. I’d have to meet him and have a discussion to accurately assess which of the two of us liked movies more. But I really feel like you’re getting bogged down in the semantics here. All I was trying to say is that I like movies.
But let’s get something clear. An actor’s job is to pretend to be someone else. And, to make that job easier, the person they’re pretending to be is almost always the same age, gender, and race as the actor. How convenient. All they really have to do is learn how to respond to a different name. Unless they’re renowned thespian Tony Danza. In his television debut, he played “Tony” in the TV movie Fast Lane Blues, his breakout role was “Tony” in Taxi, he went on to star in the eighties hit Who’s the Boss? as a character named “Tony”, in the nineties he played “Tony” in the series Hudson Street, finally he starred in The Tony Danza Show as, all together now, “Tony.” But, lest you think he was incapable of stretching, he did appear on The Practice as a character named “Tommy.”
But my point is that we tend to give actors a little too much credit in our culture. As children, we all pretend to be someone else. It’s really not that impressive when your three year old runs into the room and announces that she’s a princess. Why is it that much more amazing when Anne Hathaway does the same thing? I’m not saying that acting doesn’t take talent. It’s certainly a skill. And some people are clearly better at it than others (I’m looking right at you “Tony”). But the ability to put on a wig and speak in a Southern drawl doesn’t neccesarily make you a better person. I was recently listening to an entertainment reporter who would refer to each and every actor as, “The best.” “I love her work, she’s the best,” he would offer. “Outstanding performance, he’s the best,” he’d say next. “Look for her come award season, she’s the best,” he’d conclude, convincing me that he had a very poor grasp on the concept of “best.” He went on to talk about all of the risks these actors took.
So, what exactly is the risk of pretending to be someone else? Is it that the actor will be too convincing and their friends and family will forget who they actually are? Is it that the actor will go so method that they themselves will forget their own identity? Or is it that the actor will slip and fall on the way to set and sprain an ankle?
I wonder how these entertainment reporters imagine a discussion between agent and actor…
“Good news, Spielberg wants you to play Abraham Lincoln.”
“Well…it’s risky…maybe too risky…but somebody’s gotta do it!”
I don’t mind giving the actors credit. If they do a good job, make a note of it. But let’s put a lid on all this risk talk. They’re not steel workers, or lumberjacks, or professional Yeti wranglers. Most of the time, the greatest risk an actor faces is that they may have to play a character who’s not called Tony.