Thursday, 13 September 2012

20 Film Actors That Influenced Me the Most (Part 5)

Ladies and Gentlemen it is wonderful to be an actor in a brilliantly written work, surrounded by performances that make the piece click, under the direction of detail oriented passionate directors. In my experience this is not always the case. Most of the time the work is wonky for many reasons and as an actor or director, one is forced to hold onto some sort of bright inspiration to finish the work. The way I learned how to combat this forlornness is directly from what I have garnered from the collected works of number 16. 

16 - Gary Oldman

The Mercurial Mastermind. 
Best Performance - Count Dracula (Bram Stoker’s Dracula)
Most Interesting [Honourable Mention] -  Egor Korshunov (Air Force One)
Worst Performance - Sirius Black (Harry Potter Franchise)

Many actors have Gary Oldman on their lists, so it would be remiss of me to not to include him, but I do not worship him blindly him as some do. I will say that Gary is most brilliant when sinking his teeth in a true character character. His villains are beyond compare. They are deep, quirky and usually thoroughly malevolent to the point that the Devil himself would be put off. He gets the highest distinction of anybody on this list of having one of the most varied careers that has spanned three decades and yet he has never really achieved leading man status. What can be said about him is he is usually the most memorable player in anyone of his films. (Except recently in the Batmans where he fantastically backs up a brilliant ensemble with an astounding performance as an often overlooked character. He is a mere cog in well oiled machine.) 

Gary has been recorded as saying that “he is most at home in the films that are not perfect because he is allowed to really do what is needed in a scene.” This is something I can very much associate with as I have found myself in many works that are less then stellar. I have always tried to do my utmost best to be totally fleshed out in the less then stellar work I have been given. Mainly because I know how important a great performance in a terrible work can be. Gary proved that point throughout the 90s. 

How do I then choose Gary Oldman’s best performance? I was going to choose my favorite performance of his: Beethoven in Immortal Beloved. I decided against this as I realized his greatest achievement was his wholly original take on a character that has been played by countless actors in many different guises. (Rent Immortal Beloved. It is up there with Amadeus in its examination of music artistry.) Gary’s Dracula is in my mind the quintessential Dracula. In the original source material Dracula is nothing more then a mysterious figure that is both old man and shadow. So much of what we know of the Dracula ingrained in our minds stems from the lilting speech of Bela Lugosi’s interpretation. Gary’s Dracula is not a comical monster but a suffering terror. Some how Gary is able to  mine into the famous beast and find a sad immortal warrior. This is a deeply flawed film with some uneven performances from Reeves, Ryder and even Hopkins (though he has some delightful moments) yet Gary’s performance is almost unrecognizable.  I have chosen a collection of two very famous scenes that usually find themselves present in many of the different film versions of this story. Notice how Gary imbues a kind of humanity despite the despicable whatever of Keanu and the grotesque makeup. Gary is not a monster here he is a human being inflicted with illness. 

Gary’s skill, as I said before, is best seen in the work he does in less then stellar films. Particularly when dealing with monsters and villains. The best example of this is the great late Harrison Ford action film (the period of Ford’s career that he is eternally looking for his lost family) Air Force One. This film is by most accounts an absurd idea and one that I think actually illustrates the wants of the American people in choosing their president. They want an action hero who can personally take down a platoon of terrorists single handed. The idea is as absolutely devoid from reality as Rick Santorum’s opinion of women is. In the middle of this cavalcade of gunshots, one liners and American xenophobia stands Gary Oldman as Egor Korshunov; disenfranchised and angry former Soviet (or could be Eastern European) freedom fighting terrorist. He could, like the rest of the cast, phone in a terrible scene to scene stock action performance, but Gary decides to do the exact opposite. He delivers one of the most realistic performances of his career. Egor is the perfect encapsulation on what it means to be the other side, the loosing side. He possesses sadness, passion and at times I find myself in the film rooting for him to shoot the President down in hail of gunfire. In the scene I have attached notice the passion and emotion Gary imbues into this monologue which explains why Egor is Egor. 
I found it hard to decide what Gary’s worst performance is as his performances are always so controlled and pointed. There really is no flub. Upon further reflection I realized though in Gary’s career there are instances where it looks like he is not trying and just playing a stock Gary performance which is why in some films you can forget that he is in them. Sirius Black in the Harry Potter franchise is like that for me. OK I can hear your cries of anger already, but hear me out. When watching the films I never once saw a great moment in his performance that is surprising ala Egor. I saw Gary delivering exposition uninterestingly. Now this is partly because of the shoddy composition of the films and yes, the story. Gary is not having actorly fun here. There is no surprise. You know what is coming. I included one of the scenes that best exemplifies this. His performance comes off like a cheap video game mouthpiece character.