Sunday, November 16, 2008

true acting...

on the phone with seth yesterday and we start talking about 'synecdoche, new york' cuz charlie kaufman wrote and directed it, and philip seymour hoffman is in it. and seth gave psh the best compliment i can think of for an actor. he said: 'that movie has him in it, and you know, id watch him do anything. id watch cereal.'

and i laughed, cuz i have thought for some time about what i would be willing to watch some of my favorite actors do. i have for years said id watch johnny depp clip his toenails. so we started thinking of things to have people do. this is the list so far, continue adding to it, if you will.

philip seymour hoffman--eat cereal (rice crispies?)
johnny depp--clip toenails (sitting cross-legged on the floor of his bedroom?)
ewan macgregor--shave face (shirtless, hand towel around the shoulders, of course...)
dustin hoffman--drive thru at wendy's (seth wants to hear him say "ill have a biggie fries")
brad pitt--wash the car (seth was thinking something domestic and yet manly. cleaning out the gutters, maybe. i think this one might be better...)
billy crudup--learn a song on the piano...? make a salad? wait for the bus? (i dunno about this one...)

this may sound like a voyeuristic thing about male celebrities, but really, this is what the essence of good acting actually is. if you are really good at doing something truly, it doesnt matter what it is, people will love to watch you do it.

just watched to movie 'perfume' based on the book which i read last year (cuz there is a nirvana song about it--scentless apprentice--and cuz multiple co-workers at bailey/coy recommended it) and i was kinda worried that it wasnt going to translate to the screen very well. all that gorgeous description of scent--all kinds of scents--which i thought was an amazing feat of writing, to capture that evanescent, oddly wordless realm of the olfactory sense, i was afraid it would be lost in the movie. i was silly to worry. it was beautifully rendered and made for magnificent viewing. to glean all the information about the scent of something by the way it is filmed, was truly amazing. the lighting, the coloring, the angle, all of these factored in to the ghost of a scent that came to your imagination. really brilliant.
anyway, the reason im mentioning this, is that the actor who plays the perfumer with the almost super-human sense of smell, spends the first half hour of the movie not speaking. in fact, prolly only spends 10 minutes of the 2 hour movie in conversation, and yet, when he smells something...i dont know how to describe it. watching him inhale and react to and process what he is receiving is really a stellar experience. you can follow the whole progression of understanding thru the intensity of inhalation, how he closes his eyes, how high he holds his chin, if his pupils dilate or contract, the depth of his eyes, the furrow of his brow, or the subtle upward curve of his lips. he spends most of the movie smelling things. actively, intentionally smelling things. taking them in and paying attention to them, and never did he smell something the same way twice.
and i have no idea who this actor is. okay, thats a lie. his name is ben whishaw so i know as much as can tell me. and i remember him in 'im not there,' that amazing dylan movie, but yeah. so hes british. and hes obviously a freaking good actor, cuz he smells like a champ. id love to watch him cook breakfast.

this is why i love acting so much. cuz its really about being completely in the moment. who is it that says the definition of acting is living truthfully in imaginary circumstances? (uta hagen? sanford meisner? john abramson?) i really believe this to be the point. and i kinda mean for life. taking this idea off the stage (or screen) and thinking about it as an exercise for life makes me really happy. not so much that you should pay attention to everything you do as if someone were watching you (tho for a while growing up that was how i felt about life and how i believed in god...kinda weird, kinda exhibitionist...) but more that you should pay attention to everything you do as an end in itself. that the point is to be really good at eating cereal, or clipping your tonails. anything. everything.
and not for anyone else, for you. just to be truly in it, to be paying attention to detail and doing whatever task you have really well. with intention. and attention. that is worthy. noble, even. be good at whatever you wanna be good at, but please, please be good at living your life.


rayvan fox said...

cate blanchett: roll and light a cigarette
peter krause: take out the garbage.
edward norton: cook soup
sean connery: eat at a diner
robert redford: put on winter coat/boots/hat/scarf
harrison ford: bake a cake
judi dench: do the crossword
angelina jolie: anything (everything!)
kate winslet: walk the dog
emma tompson: fix a flat on her bike
mary stewart masterson: change the oil on her car.
mary-louise parker: make and drink (hot) tea
nicole kidman: make a salad
russell crowe: do the laundry
helena bonham carter: learn a song on the piano
adrien brody: wait for the bus
and i finally figured out one for this one...
billy crudup: watch the grass grow.


alanna said...

see whishaw is bright star. i don't think he discredits keats at all, and you should know how i feel about keats