Monday, 8 November 2010

Hollywood Babble On & On #627: And Now A Look At The Other Side of the Coin

Welcome to the show folks...

Yesterday I wrote about a writer who thought a little too much of himself and his chosen genre, and today I take a look at the flip side of the great coin of stupid and look at an actor who apparently doesn't think much of writers, or much about anything at all.

But first a tip of my sombrero to Nikki Finke who brought me this broadside by screenwriter John August over a comment made by actress and public intellectual Jessica Alba:
Good actors, never use the script unless it’s amazing writing. All the good actors I’ve worked with, they all say whatever they want to say.
Like August, I hope this was a misquote or something like that, because if she really said that, they really shouldn't let her out in public without a helmet, and someone to remind her to breathe.

Oy gevalt.

Now August himself does a pretty good take-down of Alba's totally illogical attitude toward such an important facet of the art of making movies, so I'll look at this from a different angle. I'm going to try to figure out where this sort of attitude comes from.

I think it can all be blamed on stunts and method acting.

First stunts....

No, I'm not saying that Mrs. Alba slipped off her stripper pole and caved in her frontal lobe while filming
Sin City, I'm talking about that old chestnut of "I do my own stunts."

You know what I'm talking about, someone on a press junket for an action movie talks about how they really did cling to hood of a speeding car that careened out of control on a freeway, and how it was an incredible adrenaline rush and that such risks are worth it for their art.... yadda...yadda...yadda...

Well, those stories contain more bull feces than the streets of Pamplona in July. Sure, the actor did cling to the hood of a car. But the car was motionless, in a studio surrounded by green screens and fans, the actor was also strapped in with enough safety harness to pin down an elephant on a roid rage, and there were six guys in "green screen" body suits surrounding them to make sure they don't break a nail.

Why? It's because of the insurance.

You can't make a movie without insurance, and there is no way in hell an insurance company will allow a movie star to do anything with the remotest chance of an injury that may delay or halt production.

Yet studios actively promote the mythology of the actor who does their own stunts because it keeps the reporters and stars at the junket talking about the movie and not their personal lives. The stars go along because the last thing they want the public to know is that they spent the day of the big car chase scene in their luxurious trailer having their assistant check them for butt pimples while a stuntman did all the hard work with the second unit crew. They want to present themselves as a person of action, of achievement, not a pampered overgrown child who is good at looking pretty while repeating the lines people wrote for them.

Which brings me to the second factor.... method acting.

Before the Stanislavsky "Method" broke into the Hollywood mainstream in the 1950s acting was viewed as a job. Sure it was a glamorous job that involved international fame, truckloads of money, and the near worship of fans and the media, but it was still a job nonetheless.

After Method acting broke through suddenly it went from being a job, or a profession, it became something akin to a secular sacred vocation. Instead of being worshiped for their beauty, and success, they were suddenly viewed as being great artists in the most pretentious definition of the word, who were a font of deep and profound insights into the human condition and, above all, more than mere performers, but creators as well.

And since they're the "creators" that are given most, if not all, of the attention by a fawning media that is all too willing to play along with the ego boosting myth-making games they all play, the stars are almost bound by law to get an over-inflated sense of self-worth whether they deserve to have one or not.

Of course without someone to put some intelligent words in their mouth, they are also bound to say stupid things like Mrs. Alba.


  1. Here's the rub re: stunts. I agree with 90% of what you say. Sometimes, however, the actors DO get to do their own stunts. BUT, when that happens, it's under such controlled conditions that it's hardly worth calling it a stunt. Tom Cruise comes to mind immediately due to his MI:4 stunts being all over the internet these days. Many times, when that kind of activity is allowed, the production has to pay a premium for the insurance in the unlikely event of something going wrong. It's an easy gamble for the carrier since the likelihood of something going wrong is very slim, and they get a nice lump of cash for the risk. A lot of the time, however, the insurance carrier is blissfully unaware that that stuff is going on.

    That's the exception, though. Most of the time, the actors are lying through their perfectly white teeth.

    Ok. So maybe I agree with 95% of what you've said. ;)


  2. Talking of insurance influence on the movie industry reminds me of a scene from The Magnificent Seven, Charles Bronson chopping wood.

    In 1960 it was a standard display of a useful skill, albeit not as impressive to those in the know. The wood had a clean, straight grain with no knots whatsoever. Still, the logs were heavy and chopping wood is dangerous.

    But Bronson competently chopped firewood while the scene progressed. Even if a modern day "actor" possessed the necessary skills no insurance company would let a star do something so dangerous. Having two other stars in the same shot (Brynner and McQueen for heaven's sake) would have risked them as well.

    Any comments?

  3. Of course they would be allowed to do it. First of all, the wood would likely be pre-split. Hell, it might not even be real wood or a real axe.

    It's sad (but true) that most of what you see up there on the screen is *gasp* fake.