The Role of a Lifetime: 7

In Uncategorized on June 25, 2010 at 3:49 pm

Photograph of Fred Betzner, Christy Leonardo, Brad Stephenson in SEX a.k.a. Wieners & Boobs. 

There are plenty of other types of roles, especially for ensemble casts, and many are worthy of accolades and awards. Helen Mirren and Forrest Whitaker played real-life heads of state, and they deserved every adoring word for The Queen and The Last King of Scotland. Sean Penn played Harvey Milk, and his was one of the most astonishing impersonations in recent history. But the Role of a Lifetime requires actors to grovel in the dust. It has become something of a self-parody – to seek a character in the worst circumstances, then play that person to a T. The role must be first-person, introspective, dominant throughout. Weeping and breakdowns are encouraged. Moments of personal weakness are requisite. Hopeful endings are not.

It’s remarkable that Hollywood allows such grim tales, especially in an era of swollen patriotism. Just as critics lambaste the usual blockbusters – Transformers 3, The Expendables – it’s relieving to know that strong actors can embrace America’s dark side. There is no reason for a strong actor to play anything but heroes – dashing, intelligent, self-starting heroes – especially veterans like Jeff Bridges and Maggie Gyllenhaal, Nicolas Cage and Colin Firth. They’ve all made their share of action movies and romantic comedies, but pursuing a Role of a Lifetime requires a certain amount of risk. Awards don’t always equal money and fame, and a great performance never entitled actors to stardom. Indeed, a great performance doesn’t even mean a great movie. But it says a lot about the actor who tries. Acting is about taking risks, after all.


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