October 8, 2013

Normally, we admire actors whose performance looks like real life. But if it's actually real...

... and we're being scammed into thinking it's acting, there's no performance that can impress us, only the illusion of performance.

Once you know it's real, you can't admire the acting. You could admire the nerve of the performers to go through the ordeal, but only if they chose to do it that way. Were they paid enough? Did they willingly submit to whatever surprises the filmmaker had in store for them? Did they know there were limits to what would be imposed on them? What power did they have to draw the line?

What if you knew that the actress in a rape scene had no idea what the scene would be and a willing actor was directed to rape her on the set? Assume that afterwards, she was convinced that it worked to produce what looks like a great acting performance, for which she might receive an Oscar, and she was persuaded to keep the director's methodology secret. But the truth slipped out somehow. Would you refuse to see the movie because of the way it was made? If others chose to see it, would you denounce them as moral cretins?

Related questions:

What did Alfred Hitchcock do to Tippi Hedren to produce the footage that became the movie "The Birds"?

Should an actor get drunk to play drunk?

Do we prefer to watch love scenes with actors who really love each other or actors who have to act like they love someone they hate?

Did Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie fall in love because they got so deeply into the roles they were playing in "Mr. & Mrs. Smith" and never found their way back to their previous personas?

If an actor stays in character for months — on set and off — is that acting or something like madness?

Are very young children playing movie roles undeserving of acting credit because their performances arise out of their childish inability to distinguish fantasy from reality?

What do they say to little child actors to make them cry and emote?  

Were animals harmed in the making of that movie?

33 comments:

tim maguire said...

Generally speaking, if I enjoy a scene, I'm not too unconcerned with how exactly that scene was created, whether it was acting or real. So long as the participants are willing and know what they are getting in to.

So I would object to the rape that the victim agreed to keep quiet about, even if for her own reasons. But a drunk playing a drunk? a mugging victim actually getting hit? a method actor? If it's good, it's good.

tim maguire said...

...not too concerned...(there's always something, isn't there?)

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

Well, there's Deep Throat. I gather that Linda Lovelace alleged that she was many times made to, erm, recapitulate her role off the set.

Not quite the question Ann was asking, of course.

SGT Ted said...

Juaquin Phoenix in "Walk the Line" shows that the line for mental illness and method acting can be very thin indeed. And unfortunately for me, the movie was just crazy Juaqin Phoenix pretending to be Johnny Cash, rather than immersing me in a film about his life.

The "chest bursting" scene in Alien was also done without informing the actors as to all the gore that would be happening. Great scene, can't tell the difference between the acting and the genuine reaction.

Ann Althouse said...

"Well, there's Deep Throat. I gather that Linda Lovelace alleged that she was many times made to, erm, recapitulate her role off the set."

That's the opposite of what I'm talking about. If Lovelace was telling the truth and she was being raped, then she gave a great acting performance, because she made the viewer believe she was greatly enjoying the sex.

Also the sex really happened. It was a porn movie, not a Hollywood-type movie, where it's understood that any sex is merely simulated.

wildswan said...

The proof that it's worth making movies in extreme ways is in the box office receipts.

But I think that these movie-goers watch too much TV, movies etc. They can only stand what is now on because they are anesthetized by having watched so much unreality. Old time movies such as Westerns and cop shows are quite obviously versions of the life around them. But Westerns in the Sixties from Sam Peckinpah on stopped being plays on about normal life. Maybe extreme situations are thought to comment on normal life in a better way - but I wonder.

Movie watching is becoming like watching the gladiators. So-called reality in acting is becoming extreme. Even the TV shows on now are incredibly brutal and filled with manipulative characters. Nothing (like going for a drive in the country) just happens because someone wants to do it unless they're about to be killed. Yes, people watch it but they watched the gladiators too. I think history will say that declining box office receipts overall are the true comment on extreme movies.

Insufficiently Sensitive said...

What if you knew that the actress in a rape scene had no idea what the scene would be and a willing actor was directed to rape her on the set? ...... Would you refuse to see the movie because of the way it was made? If others chose to see it, would you denounce them as moral cretins?

The only moral cretins in this test are the director and the rapist. And, were the movie commercially shown, those involved in selling it to the public.

The Godfather said...

As I recall "Mr. & Mrs. Smith", the Jolie and Pitt characters spend a large part of the movie trying to kill each other. I found it implausible that (a) a couple that were supposedly in love could so readily be persuaded to do that, and (b) that professional assassins could be so incompetent at killing someone. It's even more surprising to me that a couple (even a couple of actors) could build a successful long-term relationship on such an experience.

Mountain Maven said...

Beyond the pale.

How about a renewed focus on plot, storyline and character development?

Mostly what we get now are movies that look like video games.

Kate Danaher said...

Isn't the famous example of this acting method the episode of MASH where Henry Blake died?

"To evoke genuine emotions of shock and sadness, the final O.R. scene was kept a secret from the cast, with the exception of Alan Alda (who later served as a creative consultant for the show) until the moment of filming; only then did Gelbart hand out the last page of the script. "

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abyssinia,_Henry

RAH said...

If the scene is real THEN IT IS NOT ACTING. Pornography is real scenes but people like sex and will watch it . But id abuse it was is being filmed it is abuse unless it is faked. Snuff films have an audience also but it does not make them right.

surfed said...

These are just people who fake emotions to memorized lines that others write. If the medium is film they get an many do overs as needed. Many are not particularly well educated if educated at all. Anecdote: I had a close friend who worked the producing end of films and he said that Hollywood parties full of actors was like a party where all the conversants were still intellectually if not emotionally stuck in high school.

gregq said...

Response to the rape question:

Every person who knew what was going to happen should end up in jail. No, I wouldn't go see it. Yes, I would think poorly of anyone who did go see it.

Kelly said...

It's odd that in some movies where the actors are involved in real life, there is virtually no chemistry between them. Think Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck. Sometimes they detest each other, but have great chemistry, such as Debra Winger and Richard Gere in an Officer and a Gentlemen.

As for Alfred Hitchcock being obsessed with Tippi Hedren. I thought he was obsessed with Grace Kelly and only cast Hedren because she was a cheap imitation of Kelly who was no longer available?

Peter said...

What if the actor thought the snuff film was for real, right up until the gun went "pop" (blank cartridge)?

"Nah, we didn't really mean it. No harm, no foul- here's an Arby's coupon to compensate you for your distress."

William said...

Chekhov cast a homeless beggar to play a homeless beggar in one of his plays. Everyone in the audience immediately recognized the homeless beggar as a homeless beggar and the illusion of drama vanished. Too much realism can destroy credibility.......Woody Allen could credibly cast Margeaux Hemingway as his teen age love interest and make it look like a romantic comedy. Very difficult to pull that off in real life.

Christy said...

I've never respected reality in performances. It's supposed to be art, not reality. To what point did Cameron spend a fortune on recreating the Titanic? As an engineer I found it interesting, but don't think it added much to the experience of the movie.

Remember the season of Homicide: Life on the Streets when the wonderful Andre Braugher's character had a stroke? Braugher won critical accolades for his performance and, yes, maybe it was great acting, but it was also boring as all get out. The story ground to a halt while we waited for Pemberton to get out a sentence. Higher art would have found a way to suggest the stroke while getting on with the tale. Last year's canceled Alphas had some of the same problems with the high functioning autistic Alpha, Gary. It may have been an accurate portrayal but it was tedious and annoying. I enjoyed the show well enough, but generally fast forwarded through that character's bits and missed little of import.

As to the cinematic rape -- Weren't laws changed years ago to allow abusers to be arrested even if women didn't accuse them?

Broomhandle said...

The escapist pleasure in drama is predicated on, well, escape.

Unknown said...

Though the story apparently varies depending on who "in the know" tells it, one version of the story is that for a scene in Marathon Man Dustin Hoffman had to appear to have been up for three days, and so stayed up for three days so as to be able to play the scene, and told Laurence Olivier about his preparation, who replied, "Next time, dear boy, try acting."

Edmund said...

What if you knew that the actress in a rape scene had no idea what the scene would be and a willing actor was directed to rape her on the set?

IIRC, a variant of this was used in an episode of "Law and Order SVU". It was a performance art piece where everyone (actors and audience) wore masks.

Michael K said...

"Also the sex really happened. It was a porn movie, not a Hollywood-type movie, where it's understood that any sex is merely simulated.
"

I understand that distinction may not last.

"The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" had pretty good acting, I'd say.

Freeman Hunt said...

You don't get drunk to act drunk. That's disastrous.

As for the rape hypothetical, no, I would never see it, and I would expect the director and rapist actor to do time for it. I also can't imagine that anyone would ever work with such a director after that. The actors have to trust the director. Who could ever trust him?

Matt said...

With regards to BLUE IS THE WARMEST COLOR it seems the actresses went through an ordeal.

But the history of cinema has many examples of directors pushing their actors to the brink. Shelly Duvall was terrorized by Stanley Kubrick on THE SHINING. But he got a heck of a performance out of her. Hitchcock had live birds thrown at Tippi Hendren for five days. But people love THE BIRDS. Werner Herzog pulled a gun on Klaus Kinski in one of their movies together. The list goes on. And we keep watching. How can we not?

While I can’t recommend any director terrorize their actors [and I may not see the film] I would look to the actors to let me know if I should see the movie or not. Note the two actresses from BLUE... have been travelling to festivals promoting the film. They may have hated the experience but they are getting rewarded for it as well. So it's a mixed bag. It was hard earned, yes, but the same could be said for an athlete who has a tough coach who drives them until they collapse or bleed. It has happened.

And note in the case of Léa Seydoux she doesn’t even need this film – she is already a big star in France. So her promoting it is because ultimately she is proud of her performance.

Scott M said...

It really depends on whether or not it's rape-rape.

Alex said...

A shout out to Michael Shannon who just might be the finest actor under 40 today.

Roger Sweeny said...

I can't help thinking of the 1970 Brian DePalma/Robert DeNiro movie "Hi, Mom." There is a 20 minute scene near the end where a group of white theater-goers are kidnapped and terrorized by a black militant group. One is robbed, one beaten. One has her clothes removed and is about to be raped when the group learns it is all a performance.

They then rave about it. "Great theater." "Clive Barnes (a NYT theater critic) was really right. It was some experience. I'm gonna tell all my friends they've gotta come."

Part 1: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lN5Bj5xTdUc

Part 2: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QIp8Vp3LtJI

Freeman Hunt said...

Promoting a film is usually contractually obligated.

PoNyman said...

Can a person in a documentary get a 'Best Actor' award?

ironrailsironweights said...

On a somewhat related note, I was greatly disappointed when I found out they used chocolate pudding in 2 Girls 1 Cup.

Peter

Carnifex said...

Someone needs to rent Tropic Thunder and watch it.

As far as artsy-fartsy, shock the squares stuff. It's boring and pretentious. Go shock a Muj...then I'll give you credit.

Carnifex said...

Algore won an Oscar for that piece of tripe he made. I suspect they'll give one to HNIC when he leaves the Spitehouse. Only thing left for him would be Olympic Gold.

sdharms said...

you missed one question: if a murder were actually committed in a movie about a murder, is that acting? It think the answer to this one answers all the others.

rhhardin said...

My summary of Carell and Hathaway Get Smart (2008), the deadpan male analyst Carell winning over the dismissive feminist Hathaway.

The last photo is not acted.