While some actors are typecast or have roles written for them based on something they do well – like Sam Rockwell dancing, Al Pacino shouting or McConaughey getting his tits out – some actors have traits or quirks that seem to resurface time and again through different characters, blurring the line between the the actors themselves and the people they are pretending to be.
This becomes a strange paradox when escaping into the world of a film, like a little fourth-wall-breaking nod that clues you in, a Wilhelm scream to those in the know, but ultimately a hurdle to escapism. You are already having to forget that you are watching an actor pretend to be a character, but how can you while they remind you of the fact.
Eating is a strange one. The character is hungry, the actor is not. Or maybe they were before the first take. It’s kind of unnatural and yet it is an automatic function.
In his debut Primer, the unsettlingly brilliant Shane Carruth who wrote, directed, produced, edited, scored and starred in the film, also cast his friends. In directing non-actors he found that having them eat something during the scene prevented stilted, awkward takes. It taps into the automatic function and makes it more realistic, more human.
It’s interesting still to see characters that are defined by the manner in which the eat – take for instance Adele from Blue Is The Warmest Colour who eats like a fucking slob, but she is sexy, carefree and French so it makes her louche.
Some of these compilations are surely just based on coincidence considering the sheer amount of films they have acted in. But in other cases it’s just too perfect. Does Denzel improvise with his dialogue – bringing out the same confidence-inspiring turn of phrase in whichever film he happens to be starring in?
These reoccurring traits surely impinge on your idea of the character – and show that it’s not so simple to separate them from the actors portraying them. It’s for this reason that I find it easier to believe actors that I’ve never seen before, easier to suspend disbelief when you know less of their work or less about their own lives. I think ideally actors should work once and then be forced to live in obscurity on an island somewhere…
But then again some actors bring with them the weight of their public persona (Tom Crusie’s Frank TJ Mackey) or their previous performances, building off of them, or playing off of them.
Then there’s William H Macy.
What the fuck do I know.