EDITORIAL: In Defense of the Actors
Why are fans so quick to attack actors wanting to leave our beloved medium? Are we too easily offended? Pardon the rant, but I think there's a few things that need to be said.
Actors have not always been glorified for their talents. Before the time of cinema, many actors were some of the lowest of the low in society. People were enamored by their talent, but notsomuch their actual occupation (especially in comparison to their own). Flash forward to the present where now, of course, people have wild obsessions with actors and entertainers. Despite the fact that we know what they do is provide visual and interpreted fiction, they still manage to captivate us by channeling emotion and bravado through intensive character study, practice, and training.
And there remains this hatred of actors for how they are issued or paid for their jobs. Many see their fame and paycheck as undeserved for someone who merely "gets in front of people and fakes something." And they point to those who are incredibly "spoiled" and yet celebrated for their profession. The targets don't go too far from routine in Lindsay Lohan, Amanda Bynes, Charlie Sheen...and I'm not here to defend their personal lives. I'm not here to say anything along the lines of, "They're actors, they get a freebie." I think that actors, musicians, any sort of celebrity who breaks the law should face the appropriate consequences. But that's not what this is about.
This is about the recent backlash of actors like Hugo Weaving and Natalie Portman (though, at this point in time, we have no official statement from Portman) wanting the termination of their contracts to multiple projects. There've been talks from fans, many of whom have changed their opinions on their previous performances in Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger unfairly, about how this "disloyalty" to the franchises is some unforgivable sin. That these are people who should just "buckle down" and deal with it, because they "knew what they were getting into." So, let's run through a few things.
You're right. These are seasoned actors. They know what they're "getting into." But the filmmaking business is not the same as your average work week. This is not just a matter of showing up, saying lines, and leaving. In fact, the press tour, interviews, and the like for the film are often done for months after shooting. This includes travel, interviews, press screenings, etc. etc. And these aren't robots. These are people. And remember that they're also not exactly playing the leads in these movies. "There are no small roles" doesn't apply, here. Actors like to explore different worlds and different characters. It's a major factor in why they do what they do. And some actors just don't get fulfillment out of certain parts. It just doesn't happen, and they don't want to get stuck doing it. Many have trained for years, extensively, learning, just as someone else would in biological studies, the ins and outs of character psychology. Learning from the classics and modern techniques. The world of acting is enormous. Mind-blowing. And quite frankly, it's really *ucking difficult. Sure, it's possible to fake it, but genuine actors don't want to fake it. They're in it for the entire experience. The art in the craft.
Do you honestly think that Natalie Portman, someone who went to Harvard to continue her education because of her love for learning, has a desperate desire to return to a fairly one-note character? That's not pompous thinking. This is an actress that is very much in her prime and is also a new mother. She's fully aware of the importance of dedication to a film. Weaving as well. And they're both probably fully aware that they aren't detrimental to the film in absence. If anything, shouldn't we encourage them going to other projects?
And don't take that as an opportunity to make the "they'll just phone it in" case because they're doing a "movie they don't want to do." An actor's product is their body. Their voice. Their being. It doesn't do any actor any benefit to purposefully try and destroy a film, merely because they don't want to play a certain part. Do you really believe that Hugo Weaving is going to continually get offered parts if his phoned-in, horrific performance in a Captain America sequel leads it to be disastrous? The business doesn't work that way. Actors have to be consistent in their craft, or they won't get work.
The problem here is the insecurity of the fans. We think that this breaks up continuity. It's almost as if these people think these actors are the characters. We feel unjustified and betrayed, because we trusted these people to bring these characters to life. And now, because their passions do not fall in line with our own, we attack them. We attack their past performances. We attack their work ethic. Their craft and their talent. We become juvenile. We form a cult where, unless their beliefs about the characters and comics mirror our own, we banish them as if they never gave us anything at all.
It's important to remember that actors do have it rough. Fame is often the price many actors don't necessarily ask for. They try to live behind shields or even live in a different country to escape the spotlight. The paychecks are big because they're big parts of big projects. When projects have budgets of $100 million plus, the fact is that the major players are going to get a big cut. They're responsible for the success of the project. They are the face on the movie body. Do actors sometimes ask for unspeakably obscene amounts of money? Absolutely they do. I don't deny that. But the logic makes sense in that huge projects garnish huge paychecks.
At this point in time, I'm an aspiring writer and actor. I work off-jobs and am a full-time student. But do I get upset when I'm cleaning the aisles in a movie theater making minimum wage, knowing that actors are getting paid millions of dollars to make a movie? No. I just don't. I really couldn't care less. It'd be senseless. I can't compare myself to those people. My life is too different. Too many different things and paths have crossed me in relation to all the different opportunities that have passed them. They have their own path or work, I have mine. I don't understand all the ins and outs of contracts. I've never had to deal with one. I've never been offered what they have. I, frankly, wouldn't know what to do with it.
Do I think that in comparison to jobs of service like that of teachers, and firemen, and such that it doesn't seem fair that all this money goes to one person? I do. But I also understand that movie studios are working with budgets that many small towns and cities just don't have. And do I think the world needs to be more charitable? Absolutely, and these are the people who need to lead the way. And hundreds of them do.
All I ask is that the next time you attack an actor for their "work ethic" or "job," that you understand that you don't really understand. You're at an arms length, watching through the lens, and paying to do so. I'm not saying we should unabashedly worship actors. I'm saying we should check out the bigger picture before we ignite our torches.
And with that, I say let the comments ignite. There's plenty left to say, but I'm not the only one with a voice. Have at it.
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