Monday, August 13, 2012

Heat and character actors

It's hot in the valley. Last week every day seemed to be 106F, and it looks the same for this week so I am in a bad mood, sort of. I feel like a prisoner, kept inside in the cool of A/C. Just stepping outside is like into a fire.

On top of that I didn't feel like writing a blog today because it's too hot.

But one of you posted a question about character actors. She said I often speak of character actors,  it's interesting that she said that as I never really thought of it. But I guess I do, so for those who don't quite know about character actors, here's a bit more information on these people. The actor above is Elisha Cook Jr.  and was in countless western movies. The best way to describe character actors are those actors in movies that you always recognize but never know their names.

Basically character actors are the other actors in a movie whose job is to support the stars. Take The Dark Night Rises,  Batman's the star but there's several actors around him, Gary Oldman for example who played the police chief. Oldman isn't a leading man anymore as he gets older but he is an excellent example of a character actor. Ann Hathaway is a star in that she still plays lead roles in movies.

Character actors are the backbone of movies, John Goodman is a character actor, he usually plays big, over the top characters somehow connected to the star, an example is The Big Lebowski, where Jeff Bridges is the star. 

Character actors usually have a specialty and play that role in different movies. Steve Buscemi is a character actor also, often playing a weasely kind of character like he did in Fargo. In fact Fargo had a lot of character actors.

They're not restricted to men, there are probably just as many women who are character actors also, often as they get older. Both men and women who are character actors are not really able to "carry" a movie, meaning that they don't have that extra star quality that makes them a total star.

 Kathryn Joosten is a really good  character actress who was a neighbor in Desperate Housewives. She can count on working forever because she's good and she basically plays the same part over again... usually a snoopy neighbor.

One of the best things about being a character actor is that they are almost always working as there are a lot of character roles in a movie, but only one or two stars. Sometimes character actors get big starring roles, but not often. There's a movie out now, The Bourne Legacy, starring Jeremy Render who came to attention in the Iraq war movie, The Hurt Locker.

To understand what I mean all you have to do is look at him, he's a good actor, but he's not Matt Damon.  I predict he will eventually become a character actor, and actually probably will work even more. Character actors also tend to be better actors than stars.

I watched a movie called Man On A Ledge with the actor from Avatar, Sam Worthington. He stands on a hotel ledge while a police suicide specialist tries to talk him inside.  The cop is played by Elizabeth Banks who is good in romantic comedies with a big cast around her. However she can't really handle a serious role and you can see this between her and Sam, who has a good presence.

Character actors like Jane Lynch bring a comfort zone to the stars, they are funny or scary or unusual in some way and they are essentially the foundation of every movie. They are the workers and the stars are the CEO's.

There is a lack of real stars now, they seem to have disappeared. We still have Tom Cruise and George Clooney but the star system which began in the 1920's ended around the mid 1960's. It created stars like Bogart, Cagney, Hepburn, John Wayne, Gary Cooper, Ingrid Bergman and hundreds more.

Now we have few real stars that an audience would go to see even if the movie is bad. While character actors don't get the big star treatment, they fill in every movie with their particular look and attitudes. Movies wouldn't be very good without them. 

My good friend actor Chris Sullivan can probably add even more .

 And we can't forget Danny Trejo.

1 comment:

  1. Well there we go I'm honored to be mentioned on the same page as those wonderful actors. I think Elisha Cooke worked with everybody.
    Jeremy Renner is like Robert Mitchum and has that manly star look like Robert Ryan and Lee Marvin; really good actors with great voices and that kind of existential hero type about them.
    Another actor, besides Jeremy Renner is Josh Brolin. I reckon all those actors could play Sam Spade or Philip Marlowe and that's the test for a character actor. When pretty stars play the Private Dick it just doesn't work.
    Of course there are a lot of ugly actors who get praised for being ugly when they can't do anything else – great to see Charlize Theron play ugly but a lot easier for her to play that than Rossane Barr playing Charlize!
    Since the 70s character actors like Dustin Hoffman have become stars and let a lot of other people in through the door – I'm still waiting!!