View Full Version : acting question for emperor jargo,

12-29-2001, 12:16 PM
hey jargo,

i was watching a crappy straight to cable movie yesterday with some really bad acting. i don't even recall the films name, but it was some cheesy sci-fi rip off with actors about portman's age when she filmed episode 1. this got me to thinking about our discussions(disagreements:D ) regarding her acting ability. i then recalled you yourself have some acting experience.

i know you don't like her's or ewan's performances in episode 1. i think we can both agree that at least ewan is a skilled performer.(?) anyway, as an actor, if you're performing a role, and the director gives no direction at all(like lucas is rumored to do) or tones down your performance(like lucas is also known to do) can the actor really be blamed for their "bad" performance. maybe the kids in the above mentioned film had some potential, but just needed a good director. or maybe they were truely hopeless. the question i have is how important is the director? if he/she won't let you "act", or if you've been given shody lines, can the actor be held totally responsible?

also, in our past discussins, i suggested you view portman's other film performances to properly guage her talent. at the time you expressed no desire to do so. at the time though, i didn't know you were an actor. i could understand some die hard star wars fans refusing to watch her other films, but as an actor, do you, as a general rule, limit yourself to viewing only certain kinds of films? it would seem to me, for a performer, watching all types of films would be a learning experience.

anyway, thanks for reading.:)

12-29-2001, 01:25 PM
It's a hard question to answer Derek.
As a general rule I watch very little TV and go to the movies on an infrequent basis. I'm an intuitive actor and rely on my own experiences and perceptions of life and the world at large to inform my performances. By and large this has stood me in good stead. Although playing a 10,000 year old female monkey was a stretch...!
If a director is a technical director rather than an artistic director you can pretty much wait forever for any kind of lead in to your character and the way it's supposed to be played. This is where being intuitive is a handy skill to learn. I've been at the mercy of this kind of director many a time and you basically get the mental wequivelent of a blue screen room to act against. You have to gain clues from the dialogue itself. read between the lines and relyon a personal knowledge of types of person and a broad knowledge of experiences that others have gone through. You get to be really good at eavesdropping on trains and buses for example. Those conversations are useful in figuring out the different speech patterns people use. The way certain intonations are layed into a sentence in a particular way to imply something other than what the person is actually saying. You learn to read subtext in conversation, body language. All kinds of things from basic observation.
If a director is an artistic one then you really got lucky. these directors are the ones who spend weeks in rehearsal and alow you the freedom to explore the character andtry new things until it feels right.
The script is the most important element. the words are the windw to the soul of a character. What does a character say about the other characters is the first way of determining who you are playing. What do the other characters say about your character? That leads to more insight.
If a script is cliched and dull. Or written by a complete idiot who hasn't a clue about anything. Really enthusiasm in a performance is all you have to go on. Whatever you do don't let anyone see that you don't believe a word of what you say.

The biggest drawback of TPM for me was the way that Ewan gets the inflections and intonations of a sentence wrong. He doesn't say things with conviction. Liam Neeson gets it spot on by way of comparison.

Also, with star wars, the script is only delivered on the day of the shoot so the actors don't have time to grow into the words. I have to give that to Ewan and Natalie, they didn't get much time to learn the dialogue really. So little wonder that it sounds iffy. But if you do some dialogue in a long shot with a group of other actors who you can play off nicely, then you do a close up shot a week later where there's only you and the second assistant director and a continuity girl reading in the other character's lines, then it's understandable that the dialogue won't match up or one section will sound animated and the other flat and lifeless.

As far as natalie and Ewan go, they both have naturally weak voices. Ewan has a thin and reedy voice and Natalie has glottal problems. All her vocals are formed in the back of her throat with her epiglotis rather than deeper down using her vocal folds correctly. she therefore sounds gravely and grating. It's a common problem among actors who get nervous. basically over time the vocal folds get damaged and develop nodes along the edges which make the voice unbearable and like a whiskey drinker down and out.
Natalie and Ewan need to learn breath control and breathe from the diaphragm instead of shallow breathing from the top part of the lungs. This will effectively deepen their voices and give them more power in speech. Natalie would lose the growl too. :)

The performer is utterly responsible for the performance and the level of credibility they bring to a role. A director can completely rob the actor of credibility by way of bad edits and dropping scenes that were fimed that made sense of other scenes. The emotion in a particular scene may then seem over the top but if the cut scen had been left intact then all would have made sense and the performance would have seemed natural.
So I suppose that ultimately it's an equal thing. Both parties are responsible. Ewan was being a lazy actor in TPM but Lucas is a lazy director too. His method is style over content. Looks great sounds great but the acting and the story stink.

That's only my opinion of course :)

Acting in my humble opinion is not something that can be taught. Much like art you have an inherent ability or you have none. You can explain the principles to people until you are blue in the face but you can't teach anyone to act.
The movie industry is mostly like this: Ugly but has talent. Damn ugly and has no talent. Pretty and has talent. Pretty and has no talent.
People are categorised into piles of usefulness and the casting agent will browse the people like a mail order catalog. Going by the script they know who needs to be able to act so pull people in from the different corresponding piles.
Watch any movie and you'll see that the four categories apply to everyone. Try it for a laugh next movie you watch and you'll see what I mean. :)
Thaere are always exeptions to the rule of course but they tend to be the stars. People who can make a camera love them. Arnold Shwarzeneger is one of these as is Sly stallone. But I'm talking about the ordinary actors who you see all the time. Not in the blockbuster movies.

Has any of this helped at all Derek or have I gone off on one again?:crazed:

12-29-2001, 01:51 PM
one thing i notice is even the "great" actors, like robert de nero, for example, basically play themself in every film. i really enjoy his performances, but whether he's good or bad, in a gangster film or a comedy, it the same ol' bob. brad pitt seems the same way also.

how, as an actor, do you avoid letting your own facial expressions and mannerisms get in the way of the role? and do you think there is a difference between acting and doing impressions, like jim carrey does? the only actor i can think of who completly delves into a role is gary oldman. i've seen many of his films and only realized later it was him. he's my current favorite non-superstar.

how did you decide to pursue this craft? do you work in theatre or on film? are you able to generate enough cash in this line of work or do you have something else to pay the bills?:)
when you are dealing with people on a daily basis, do you ever go into character for the fun of it, or un-consciously?

feel free to not answer any of the above questions if they are too personal.:)

and as a side note, one actress i used to like, but can't stand lately is julia roberts. ever since she won her oscar, she has become really annoying. if i ever have to hear her laugh again, god she has an annoying laugh, i just want to wrap her mouth with duct tape.:)

12-29-2001, 02:35 PM
Q:how, as an actor, do you avoid letting your own facial expressions and mannerisms get in the way of the role? and do you think there is a difference between acting and doing impressions, like jim carrey does? the only actor i can think of who completly delves into a role is gary oldman. i've seen many of his films and only realized later it was him. he's my current favorite non-superstar.

A: Each role is approached from a different direction depending on the nature of the piece. If someone is the same in every piece of work then they aren't a real actor in the literal sense of the word. De Niro is a one horse cowboy whereas Oldman is a horse rustler. he ropes the best looking horse and rides it intuitively and instinctively, the way he thinks it should be ridden. I do the same thing.
I never rehearse a reaction unless I'm specifically asked to. Each time I react to a line said by another actor I vary the way I say it by a fraction so that it remains an organic process and I seem to be reacting in a natural manner. Some directors want the same reaction every time you say the line which is perfectly valid direction but dull and boring for an actor. it's with directors like that, that problems occur with performances.

Q:how did you decide to pursue this craft? do you work in theatre or on film? are you able to generate enough cash in this line of work or do you have something else to pay the bills?:)
when you are dealing with people on a daily basis, do you ever go into character for the fun of it, or un-consciously?

A: I got into acting as a child. My uncle was in an amateur group and took me along, where I played a frogman/diver in a small show the kids put together for parents. I think I was seven at the time. But I got hooked on performing right there and then.

Later, when I left school and had to decide what to do I made up my mind to go for the acting life and spent many years at various places of theatrical schooling. I also spent some time behind the scenes in as many departments of production as possible to gain a knowledge of the way the industry works. from the inside to the outside.

Work is scarce for a jobbing actor, you take what work can be found and mostly it's dross. little roles in crappy fringe shows in some godawful backwater town that smells of fish and sewage. But bills is bills and they have to be paid sometime.
In between times it's a case of taking any other kind of work that comes along to gain more work/life experience and help with the taxes. Security work, waiting tables, bar work, courier jobs... you name it I've done it. Usually badly and never for very long but the short time in a strange life is great for storing to use later in a characterisation.

Oh yeah, and I work mostly in theater. But I do community stuff too. Work with handicapped kids and blind kids. Work with training organisations - roleplay scenarios within a work environment. or for government agencies.
I tried for the film industry and was seen by some big casting agents from the UK, Australia and the states. But it wasn't to be for me. I'm just too short for the kinds of roles I fit. Facially I'm good but casting agents always want the tall guys first. Damn stereotyping!!! :rolleyes:

Actually, I'm a very shy guy up close and personal. I wake up and then put on a character depending on what I have to do that day. I can't think of a day I didn't wear someone else to go out. Sounds weird doesn't it? but what do you do to combat shyness? As an actor, you act! It works too. :)

01-22-2002, 01:49 AM
I'd like to comment on some things as well.

I like Ewan McGreggor. I think that he did a good job in TPM and plus have you seen Moulin Rouge. He is amazing in that.

As an actor myself the perfomance depends on two things 1)the script and 2) the directing. If you get a horrible director that wants you to do something that doesn't feel right, then it might translate that way into the audience. A directors job is to convey the message to the audience. If a director makes you do something and people don't like it, then it is his responsibility for the performance, not the actors. After all, you're just doing what he told you. If you had it your way you'd do it differently.

The script is always important. I don't know how many times I go to see a movie and just cringe at how horrible of a script the movie is (ex. Dude, Where's My Car?). It is amazing that movies like that even get considered let alone made. The actors can't be held totally responsible for such dialogue or the way they were directed. My take on the whole thing is, don't do something unless you like the script. If you don't like it, then don't do it. I know that there is the ocassional, I need to do it to pay the bills, but I try to not do it as much as possible.

But it also has to do with the actor themself. I hardly even go see a movie if it has, what I consider, a bad actor in it. An example would be Keeanu Reeves. He plays the same character in every movie that he is in. You would think that over the years he would have grown as an actor, but no. This is clearly obvious in A Midsummer Night's Dream. It sounds like he doesn't know what he is saying half of the time, but the rest of the cast is amazing. The only movie I can stand him in is the Matrix. Unfortunately Hollywood doesn't care about talent, but more like "Oh, they're a pretty face." Sad, but true.

Also, in film, since the lines are handed to you basically the day of shooting or the day before, that doesn't give you much time to develop a character, motivations, and such. Plus movies are not shot chronologically. They are filmed is scattered pieces, so it can be hard to relate where a certain scene fits into the whole picture.

Anyway, enough of my ranting. Perhaps I'll write more later.