Thursday, 23 August 2012

20 Male Film Actors That Influence Me Most (Part 1)

Ladies and Gentlemen, what are blogs for if not for obtusely personal opinion lists? Therefore I thought it only fittin, in my sixth post, to compile one. My choice was to compile a list of film actors whose body of work most influenced me. I rated them on how much I draw on them and their performances for inspiration in my own work. I want to be clear, this is not a list about stage performances, though many of these actors have illustrious stage careers, this is a list that is purely based upon their respective film work. This is also not a list about my favorite film performances (though some of them would cross over into that realm.) For instance, Michael Caine in Cider House Rules would be on that list but is not here. He is not because his body of work has not influenced me all that much until very recently when I read his memoir What’s It All About? (a memoir every young character actor who is frustrated enormously should read.) 

All right, so here’s how I organized this list. I have numbered it beginning with 20 to 1, obviously, and if you are the one out of my ten readers who needs to see who number one is; you’ll have to wait for the twentieth post to find out who it is. (It will not be a surprise.) I also have suggested their greatest performance in my opinion, as well as their most interesting performance which is often not the same and finally, their worst performance. I will discuss each at length. 

With that lets get on with number 20. 

20- Daniel Day Lewis 
Daniel Day-Lewis. Looking Irish. Looking Roguish

Greatest Performance - Bill the Butcher (Gangs of New York)
Honourable Mention- Gerry Conlon (In The Name of The Father)
Worst Performance-  Daniel Plainview (Their Will Be Blood)

Some of you who know me are probably surprised he made the cut, as you are aware of my disdain for the method and those arrogant actors who have to think, feel, eat, sleep, shit their character (mainly because I can’t do that. I generally force my characters to bend to me and not the other way around.) Yet, Daniel has left indelible effect on how I look at characters. In an article that contained an interview with him I read years ago he said something very important that I have never forgotten:

 “acting in a scene is not about helping your partner act but giving your partner something to fight against. They must stand up to you. You must not prop them up.”

I am sure those of you who believe the other way would think this is inordinately selfish but take a moment and examine the thought. He is not saying ‘you must scene steal;’ he is saying give your partner an obstacle to fight against and that is the ultimate prop up. When you know you have force as an actor, own it, don’t bend for your partner it makes the scene more interesting and therefore memorable. Two atoms bouncing off each other. This has always stuck with me and every time I step out to do my thing, I always go full force with my choice. I always attempt to present something tough to go against. In my experience this has often intimidated or made other actors not ‘trust me,’ I think was term used, but I have also worked with actors who ‘brought the proverbial it’ and these few are my favorite to work with. I have never met one that pushed me back to the point of submission, but once a female got damned close. You know who you are. 

Anyway, Bill the Butcher. No one can say that he did not ‘bring it’ in that film. He is unabashedly the worst kind of American fanatic in any film, which is hilarious  considering he is so very Irish and this film was about the Irish. I believe he was helped in the fact that no American actor really could grasp a character that strikes at the heart of the evils of American patriotism and xenophobia because like it or not US friends, it is instilled in you from birth. An outsider needed to look at this terrible stage in American development. Four American actors who turned the role down before Day-Lewis donned the Glass eye. I have read the Herbert Asbury book this film was based on and Daniel Day-Lewis not only looked picture perfect, he also embodied what Bill sounds like in the accounts of him.  His greatest moment is the scene I have posted. Bill in all his foul glory is wrapped in the American flag delivering a compelling morning monologue about his greatest conquest. 

Gerry Conlon is his most interesting character because Gerry is actually very unlikable though this film. He is a layabout and generally wisps through life. But the extraordinary circumstances that he finds himself in, change him so very much. Day-Lewis plays this with intense understatement. Also I think Pete is the greatest scene partner he ever had. Pete clobbers Daniel in many of the scenes they share in this film and that is no easy feat. 

His worst performance is a controversial pick no doubt as he won an Academy Award for it. But an Oscar does not a brilliant performance make. (As my actor number 1 will no doubt prove.) He is so over the top in this film. His interpretation of Plainview is so absurd that it becomes unreal in film that is trying to be very real. Plainview is Bill the Butcher on cocaine with a Quaker accent. It took me nearly a week to get through this film because I could not stop myself from laughing at everything D. was doing and thereby missed entire scenes of important dialogue. I am not sure what was the point of this film nor how the choices that were made by Day-Lewis were not reigned in. I actually got a Jim Carrey vibe from him when I first saw this film. (I love Jim but not when Day-Lewis does him.) Enjoy Daniel Day-Lewis taking his own personal philosophy to the astronomical extreme. See how it does not work.

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