Category Archives: Acting

The Chess Game has Ended: R.I.P. Max von Sydow

A towering presence in cinema –literal and figurative– had died. Max von Sydow, an actor we’ve seen on screens since the 1950s, has died at the age of 90.

You can read (and listen) to accounts in the BBC, Variety, and NPR among many others.

What struck many of us moviegoers was the wide range of parts he would play… and could play with such quiet conviction. Here is a man who played the Son of God as well as the Eternal Adversary. But whether as tormentor or tormented, he would bring a bit of gravitas to whatever work he was in, even if the work was more than a little cartoony (I’m looking at you, Ming).

You never ask why Max von Sydow is in a film, but you may ask, “How much?”

His unequivocally prolific body of work means that audiences will find him in dozens of films for decades to come — and personally, that has always been a delight. Especially for some of his later work, where he moved from leading man to supporting character, his presence wasn’t always announced, so I adored his appearance in Intacto and wished for a few more scenes of him in Star Wars, but enjoyed it nonetheless.

It’s hard to wrap your head around him being gone.

As some have noted, he’s been a presence in our cinema lives for so long, it’s hard to imagine him not popping up again in this TV show or that movie, whether to be chilling or entertaining, but always affecting.

It’s been one amazing chess game, sir. Well played.

Rule of Law: Theatrical Edition

I haven’t been in a stage production for an age, but I was both on stage and backstage enough times to lose count — and I was a theatergoer long before that.

Larry Blyden

So I greatly appreciated Mark Evanier sharing actor, director, and all-around theatrical Larry Blyden‘s theatrical laws. Laws, do you hear?

Okay, to be honest, I haven’t always followed Law #5 or Law #10, but I definitely do my best with Law #17. Law #2 applies to films as well as plays and Law #6 applies just about everywhere.

So if you feel the need for greater regulation, check ’em out.

Rejection and Gary Owens

How does Space Ghost take rejection? Stoically. Very Stoically.

I’ve linked to Mark Evanier’s series on rejection before. It’s very useful for writers — and many entries perfectly connect to film and TV actors and voiceover artists.

This latest installment may resonate particularly with voiceover artists.

In the realm of voiceovers (and frankly, in plenty of realms), people like to work with who they know.

And it’s not only who you know, it’s safe bets. How does this relate to Gary Owens (aka the voice of Space Ghost to many of my generation)? Read on!

“Every winner begins as a loser”

This past weekend, I was talking about the National Theater Institute of which I am quite a happy alumnus. They practice a maxim of “Risk. Fail. Risk again” which is kind of like the positive spin of the War Boys’ outlook in Mad Max: Fury Road. Same flamethrower guitars (metaphorically), less desolation.

I’m pretty sure this was a movement class we took. My memory is hazy.

But that’s all artsy stuff, what about science? This is where David Noonan writing in Scientific American comes in. Apparently, some folks did some “big data” crunching and have a theory that an integral part of success is failure.

And if that isn’t something to motivate you on a Monday, um, I guess focus on being shiny and chrome?

Where I’ll Be: Escape Velocity 2019

Wow, has it really been over a month since I’ve posted anything?

Okay, well, I can’t go into everywhere that I’ve been, but I can tell you where I will be this weekend: Escape Velocity!

Escape Velocity 2019 Promo from Museum of Science Fiction on Vimeo.

I’ll be part of two panels and one performance….

Friday @ 8:20pm: Alien: 40 Years of Fright

I get to chat with Charles de Lauzirika all about Alien and such.

Saturday @ 3:30pm: Nostromo 2: Electric Alien Boogaloo

If you don’t know about Jabberwocky Audio Theater‘s live performance lovingly sending up Alien and Buck Rogers, you clearly haven’t been to our website.

But even if you didn’t know until now, join us as we give you more sci-fi references than a Cyberman can shake a Dalek plunger at.

Sunday @ 12:15pm: So You Want to Make a Film? A legally-sound producer’s guide

For those of you who aren’t adverse to making lists and know that producing a film means you need to know what Inland Marine insurance is, this is the nitty-gritty (albeit lightning-paced) panel for you as we go through the unglamorous aspects of filmmaking.

Ann Dowd and Acting Success Later in Life

Ann Dowd, 2012 For whatever reason, back when I was in school busy with acting training, many instructors felt the need to let me know that I’m not a “leading man” type of actor. My guess is they dealt with many acting students who would feel that was beneath them or represented failure. Little did they know that, having grown up with my Dad giving us Turner Classic Movies before TCM existed, I already enjoyed the work of George MacreadyArthur Hunnicutt, and Victor McLaglen — to say nothing of the rest of John Ford’s “stock company.” And I also was noticing and following the careers of the current generation of character actors whose work I kept on seeing and enjoying like David Warner, Bob Balaban, and Charles Martin Smith.

One of the better instances of this truth being delivered to me was from a director who was an actor himself — and he said that one needed to put in the work and work hard, and then in one’s 50s, things bloomed. Without prompting, he said, “You work hard, you’ll wake up one day and be a David Warner.” I kept my poker face on, but inside I was “Hell, yeah, that’s a goal!” It was incredibly motivating.

I would like to think Ann Dowd’s essay recently in Glamour will be similarly motivating, because being an Ann Dowd-type of actor would be very good indeed.

 

And Now For Something Completely… Enjoyable

As much about writing as it is about acting, here’s a 20-minute video for GQ with Monty Python’s Eric Idle explaining many of his acting roles over the past 50-odd years.

Speaking for myself, this makes me want to go out and create something.

Praise for the Non-Human Character Actor

I’ve always loved character actors and spotting them in myriad movies and TV shows is a habit I’ve inherited from my dad. I also like “creature features.”

So really, when someone put together a video honoring the very talented Doug Jones, I had to share it:

Actors and Cats

I have a number of events coming up in the next 30 days, so I fear my posts may become a tad more erratic. Luckily, indomitable blogger Mark Evanier had a post this past week that perfectly meets my needs: how actors are like cats.

Yes, I know many actors who are dog lovers. Don’t worry guys and gals, you can still love your dogs (just as surely as they love you), but you’re still cat people. I’m with Betty White on this one.

As it happens, I’m speaking at the Women in Film & Video (WIFV) Talent Roundtable next week about something of a related subject. I’m mainly going to talk about mass auditions, since I’ll be running one the following week. But part of what I’ll be talking about is how actors can remain sane while looking for their next acting gig.

Hey, I know it’s not easy. Just refer to what Betty White told Mark Evanier. However, it’s doable. For more details than that, I’ll see ya next week.

Quid Pro No

Mark Evanier added to his long-running series on “Rejection” last month. This one is about his own personal experience that writers (and others) don’t actually get hired by friends who then hire them back.

I’m not going to lie, I probably like this because it scratches me right in the confirmation bias. Nevertheless, his personal experience rings true with mine. People like to work with people they know, sure. But they also want to work with someone who can deliver for the project in question.

As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, I’ve experienced being on both sides of the equation. I know that sometimes I’m not the best choice. And when I’m called in as a “pinch hitter?” You better believe I do my best to make sure that even if I’m not the first choice, that I’m not a bad choice (one acting role with a couple hours notice comes to mind).

It also helps that, 26 years running,  the people I’ve met who insist on this baseline “you hire someone simply because they’re a friend” are uniformly schmucks.