“Ooh God, Fassie.” The phrase that caused one of the most irritating moments of my life.
To my tremendous dismay during a screening of 12 Years a Slave with some girl friends, there was an abnormally hefty amount of giggling, swooning, and "estrogen-ing" for a film about oppressed slaves. About midway through the film, Edwin Epps, the brutal and barbaric slave owner, was introduced into the story. And what was his entrance greeted with: a grab on my wrist, a small female induced gasp, and a whisper of, “Ooh God, Fassie!”
That is Fassie for Fassbender—Michael Fassbender, the actor portraying Epps and a major hunk.
When an actor is a celebrity, we disassociate them from the character’s they play. They are no longer a character in a story, but that super sexy guy on the cover of People magazine.
Actors are artists. Actors create a bond between viewer and character that has the potential to transport the audience into a different life, a different time, a different existence if only for two hours. They have the power to generate performances that will resonate with audiences forever.
An actor has one main objective: to convince the audience he is someone else. But how can he do that when his face is plastered on the cover of every magazine, which features an in-depth interview about his favorite ice cream flavor? An actor is meant to be unknown, not a pop culture icon.
Actors need to stop seeking the life of fame and fortune because it is destroying the essence of what an actor is: anonymous.
So what needs to be done to restore the art of acting? Step one: stop “celebritizing” yourself. It’s as simple as that. Don’t fall into the dreadful trap of becoming a… celebrity.
“Fame just comes with the territory,” you may say. Oh contraire, mes amis. Being a successful actor does not mean selling your soul to voracious Hollywood producers. Instead of popular success, aim for critical success. Because that’s what you all want anyways. You’re not going to win that Oscar by telling your life story to “60 Minutes.” Am I right, Leo?
Ben Whishaw and Cillian Murphy are actors who made a creative choice to avoid media attention. They’re what I like to call “professionals.” Both chose to keep their personal life, well, personal. They don’t talk about themselves when interviewed and they seek out roles that won’t make them household names. Murphy didn’t even appear on a live talk show until 2010; 13 years after his career began. They stay ambiguous to the public, like actors are supposed to.
Actors devoted to anonymity become easier to relate to on screen because you don’t know them. You don’t see Cillian Murphy the Irish actor, but Thomas Shelby, a violent gangster from 1920s Birmingham. You don’t see shy, timid Ben Whishaw, but the gluttonous, slightly dramatic King Richard II. It might be a peculiar idea, but actors are meant to portray characters rather than themselves. Funny, huh?
In the interview “Cillian Murphy: Playing A Blinder” written by Nosheen Iqbal for The Guardian newspaper, Murphy blatantly states: “’Logically, the less people know about you, the more convincing you are playing someone else. It’s glaringly obvious to me. I get the bus, I get the tube, I go to the shop and get the milk. […] As an actor, you’re supposed to be playing real people so it seems essential to live like a normal person.’” Wow, what a crazy idea! Can you imagine George Clooney doing the Sunday shopping? Celebrities… They’re just like us!
Dan Davies, an author for The Daily Mail, commented on Whishaw’s devotion to character work rather than fame in the article “How Ben Whisaw Became Britain’s Next Big”: “This, it becomes apparent, is a star with no desire to be famous for anything more than the characters he plays. And one reason for not talking about his private life is he doesn’t want Ben Whishaw to come between those characters and the audience.”
Similarly, Ed Power, of Independent.ie, praised Murphy’s decision to stay ambiguous to his audience in “The Eyes Have It: The Rise and Rise of Cillian Murphy”. “He has acted in blockbusters […] and yet he has never given the impression of relishing the view from the summit of the entertainment industry. Instead, whenever the opportunity has presented, Murphy has burrowed back towards obscurity […]. By never putting himself forward as a movie star, he has avoided the inevitable backlash—people can’t grow sick of Murphy’s face if they aren’t quite sure who it belongs to in the first instance.”
Both Whishaw and Murphy have built a career based on the art rather than the fame. This has gained them respect from their colleagues and critical success. They’re not mocked by the public for being narrow-brained celebrities, but their praised for their talent.
Actors are artists. They’re storytellers. We need to restore the respect back into the acting profession. So don’t fall into the celebrity trap. Don’t give your whole life story to journalists, no matter how much they’re paying. When interviewed talk about your characters and the work itself, and try to divert those intruding questions as much as possible. Don’t let your branded name outshine yourself as an actor. And most importantly, don’t become an actor because you want to be a celebrity. Just star in a reality TV show and save us all the pain.
Actors are not Kardashians. So stop acting like it.
Originally posted on ActorNerdFashionista.blogspot.com on December 5, 2014
Photo Courtesy: worldofcelebrity.com