4 Complaints From Actors We're Sick Of Hearing
Recently, Chris Evans, aka Captain America, aka Human Torch, aka Jake Wyler from Not Another Teen Movie, stated that, after his next big Avengers outing, he'll be done with the whole "wear an American flag and fight robot Nazis" shtick. On the surface, this reads like Bicep Man Finished Making A Billion Dollars By Reacting To A Green Screen, but we've been through so many instances where superhero actors talked about leaving, only to miraculously have their passion renewed after a generous pay raise. Thus, it mostly feels like Evans is hinting to his boss that he's "totally done with something" while secretly hoping that the boss will donate to his Buy Another Tropical Island fund.
Claims like "I'm done! (Unless I get $50 million more for the sequel)" have made me fairly cynical about a lot of complaints that actors make. Whether it's about money or creative control, actors seem unable to stop grumbling about problems that most regular people couldn't dream of relating to. For example...
WHY AM I NOT RECOGNIZED FOR THIS SMALLER, MORE PERSONAL ROLE?
Back in college, I went to a massive house party with some friends and one very drunk friend of a friend. Toward the middle of the night, as the party reached its peak, this friend of a friend decided to take a second to honor the host of the party. He did this by vomiting on the host's bed, and on the host's desk, and then in the host's hallway. It didn't help that he vomited like a dinosaur gargling a small dinosaur, so, even if you didn't see him, you probably heard him. Dozens of people witnessed what 10 vodka shots can do to a stomach full of Arby's. And they never forgot it.
It looked like this, only everywhere.
Later that year, I went to another party with him, and he was reminded about the time he redecorated a bedroom to be more puke-themed. He sadly remarked to me that he wished he could be known for something else. He didn't give any examples of what these things would be, but I imagine that they're all more appropriate in polite society than blowing chunks into the room of a stranger.
Hollywood recognition follows "vomited everywhere at a party" law. It's hard to ignore someone expelling their bile at an event, just as it's hard for the general public to ignore you when you have your face smacked onto every T-shirt, action figure, and child's sippy cup due to your part in a major blockbuster. You suddenly become more than just a normal person or actor. You have ascended past that. You're now a "Batman" or a "Spider-Man" or a "Dude that passed out on a ping pong table." You don't really have a typical career. Your obituary won't just say "Actor." It will say "Actor and former iconic spandex-wearing crime puncher."
"He had a loving wife and family, but more importantly, he once knocked out Lex Luthor."
Sure, you'll have other things that you're known for. That dude had other achievements. For instance, he had great taste in sandals. FUCK, that dude could wear a sandal. And actors that star in these multi-billion-dollar epics will get quieter and more critically acclaimed roles. But to complain that they're recognized more for being a super person than being the award-winning star of a movie that barely made quadruple digit numbers ignores how human perception works. And it ignores a lot of sippy cups.
If I see Christian Bale on the street, I'm not going to yell "Hey! It's the 2004 nominee for the London Film Critics' Circle Award for Best Actor Christian Bale!" I'm going to yell "Hey! WHERE'S RACHEL? Haha. I'M HILARIOUS," presumably as I start to tear my own shirt off. And if I ever see that friend of a friend, I'm not going to greet him with vomit noises, but the first thing that will come to my mind is "There's that guy... that once ruined a party with the sheer power of his own stomach juices."
I can only imagine that he's still out there, regurgitating wherever he finds happiness.
THIS ROLE IS NOT PROVIDING ME WITH WHAT I NEED
You might also recognize this one as, "I don't want to be Wolverine forever."
Taking on a role means committing to it. You have to maintain that same dedication that you had on the first, fresh, new day all the way through Day 80, when production has gone overtime and over budget, and Steven Spielberg is screaming "ACT, YOU SHIT. AAAAAAAACCCCCCCTTTTTT." And then, if the film leaves room for a sequel and does well enough to warrant one, you might end up coming back. This cycle repeats itself, usually until the money goes away, which means that actors are not only forced to answer the question "What will this role do for my career?" but also "What will my cameo in an almost completely unrelated spinoff to this film do for my career 10 years from now?"
But that's the nature of the beast, and to disregard it means to disregard a hundred years of cinema history. We've been sequel-crazy since we decided that Frankenstein needed a bride. These things have a tendency to make a metric ass load of money and then spiral out of control, meaning that, unless you've signed on for a certain number of movies like Evans did, it's never going to be certain when exactly you'll be finished. You could either learn that the movie flopped and that no one ever wants to see The Amazing Dogman again (until the inevitable dark, angry reboot). Or you could get a phone call the next day telling you to pack your bags and fly to Vancouver, because both BIRTH OF DOGMAN and DOGMAN VS CATBRO are being shot simultaneously.
He might be a Dogman, but he's such a good boy, yes he is.
But no matter what an actor is told or what they read in an initial script, they have to realize that the demands of a blockbuster (and especially a blockbuster with sequel potential) will overcome any sense of creative fulfillment that they might have. What started as ideal because of the dramatic range that it allows will inevitably turn into running from explosions... again. A promise to play a deep character means that you have to play the same kind of deep character repeatedly. These giant action films may promise to "redefine the action genre," but what that means is "redefine it in a way that can still be marketable when a trailer needs to be cut together."
"But really though, they're very thoughtful explosions."
Whenever an actor, five movies into a series, whines about the fact that they want more from the role, they have every right to. But that's like screaming about the lack of pumpkin flavoring when you're halfway through an apple pie. You can't sign on for a big action franchise in 2017 and expect us to feel sorry for you when your ninth Dogman film (Dogman: Inferno. It got 27 percent on Rotten Tomatoes) leaves you feeling like you're rehashing Dogman 8: City Of The Dogmen.
ACTORS ARE IMPORTANT, AND PEOPLE NEED TO RESPECT THE CRAFT
Actors aren't really remembered for any sense of continued effort. A majority of jobs are about doing well from day to day. An actor's career is marked by dots on a timeline. The world knows them, not by all of the acting classes they took, or the time they spent trying to nail down their characters, but for the special two hours that they were in front of an audience. And they're only remembered again when they get another two hours. So, when an actor has an outburst or does something for the sole purpose of making headlines, I kind of get it. If my whole life was marked by two-hour sessions where I tried to resemble someone else, and most people only saw these sessions once a year, I'd be shitting in front of the Lincoln Memorial right now, because, hey, people might have cameras nearby.
I swear, if I take a dump here and no one uploads it to Twitter, it'll all be for nothing.
So, when people criticize actors, or even acting in general, it appears unfair. They're judging your value as a professional, and they were only around to see the very, very final results of your efforts. A finished film is so ridiculously small in comparison to the time everyone spent preparing for it, making it, and perfecting it, so when someone calls a performance "weak" or "underwhelming" or "a horrific glimpse into Jennifer Aniston's nihilistic view of the human race," it will always seem harsh. Always.
"Jennifer Aniston is like watching death take your loved ones from you. She comes quick, and leaves no goodbyes."
Most people don't hate actors. They make jokes about actors and criticize actors and wouldn't dream of attempting acting, but they don't hate actors. They're not out to displace the arts or support the "wrong kind" of acting. But the idea that your work will eventually be boiled down by other people into a showcase for, potentially, every person in the world, is outside of the realm of possibilities for them. As I said, it's literally one of the only jobs in the world that operates that way. At the end of the year, a plumber doesn't present the globe with a montage of his best bolt twists. The lady giving out samples in front of the Japanese place in the mall food court will never have to hinge her entire reputation on an annual "Best of Teriyaki Chicken Exchange" super event.
If a judgment of the acting craft seems particularly callous, it's probably due to the fact that it's hard to grasp every tiny intricacy of it. But that doesn't mean that an acting job is beyond opinion or reproach. To view things that way would be to put acting in a special category of work, outside of "normal" jobs. And if you think acting is something that non-Hollywood people have no right to offer their two cents on, I hope someone uses your Academy Award as a practice butt plug, because you're probably insufferable.
And then when you take it home, no one is able to smell the poop on it but you.
I DON'T WANT TO BE SEEN AS A MOVIE/TV ACTOR
It's one thing for actors to be stereotyped because of their ethnicity or gender. There are countless horror stories of Indian actors who try out for a film, only to be told "Okay, would you like to play Terrorist Number 2 or Comical Tech Support Man?" If you happen to fall into the pit of despair that is looking for gigs on Craigslist, you'll find that most jobs for women basically amount to "Must look, like, super hot, ya know?"
However, it's another thing entirely when an actor complains about being typecast as a television or movie actor. It's usually the former, as it's hard for someone to publicly complain "I have to make 60 million per film AND hang out with Charlize Theron? I don't want to get known for that!" without getting a nationwide chorus of "BOOOOOOO!" Every once in a while, you'll see someone talk about the mire of television as if it's an inescapable death march toward irrelevance, forgetting to mention that they're already wealthy and famous from being on TV. They're about as made as it gets, but woe is life, for they just read another pilot script about a half dozen friends that hang out in New York City. It's so difficult to be in demand.
And they all love meeting at the same restaurant, every day, and no one ever questions it or hopes for a better life.
When I started writing to supplement my income, I worked a bit as a copywriter. It wasn't terrible, as, for a few hours each week, I'd bang out some stuff about why these new blue jeans are the comfiest, or why you should buy the living fuck out of this vacuum cleaner. But in the throes of the screeching birth of my career, I remarked to someone "I really hope that I don't get known for being a copywriter, as I'd like to write other things." And he replied with the best possible advice for that scenario:
"Oh, fuck off."
With TV shows, you can get tied into multi-season contracts. This leaves you watching, puppy-in-the-window style, as all of your friends snag those choice movie roles. But try telling anyone in the world who isn't doing what they want to do that you are, but it's not the right kind of exactly what you want to do. Sure, I was copywriting, but I was also writing articles for other websites, and just that. I didn't have a second day job. I was writing for a living. If anything, my side gig was apparently being viciously annoying because now I was complaining that I had achieved my dream job, but just not in the right way.
"I just wish someone would pay me to write about anything I wanted, all the time," Daniel thought, with absolutely no self-awareness.
I don't want to end this column with a big "Be thankful for what you have," so instead, I'll end it with a "Damn, people." A rich TV actor whining about not being a rich movie actor has taken on a great new character: the most unrelatable person on the planet. It's an awesome role, and despite what anyone says, in your own mind, you're always the lead.
Daniel has a blog.
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