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Sunday, April 09, 2006

Inside the Actor's Studio (Fiennes, Gandolfini, Will & Grace)

I watched a few Inside the Actors Studio back-to-back yesterday. I consider this free, high-caliber class for feeding the acting part of my soul. Here's a brief summary.

Ralph Fiennes

First up was Ralph Fiennes. Brilliant and humble, I am most struck by Fiennes statements about voice acting, sex scenes, and the importance of acting as a medium that elevates and serves a much higher purpose -- personal and corporate -- than to "merely entertain."

James Gandolfini

Next up was James Gandolfini (The Sopranos, Get Shorty, etc.).

I was struck by his anecdote of his "break out moment", where he let go and tore apart a stage in anger during a Meissner class, and the instructor's explanation of the moment.

"See," she said. "Everyone's all right, nobody's hurt. This is what people want to see. They don't want to see the guy next door -- they want to see this."

She went on to explain that being, and controlling that being, is what acting's about.

I think a lot of folks may misunderstand Meissner, and are scared that control part isn't part of the process. If it's not, it's not process, it's anarchy.

I'm really impressed with Gandolfini's honesty, work ethic, and detailed openness about his craft.

"It's just a matter of showing up every day, even when you don't feel like it, even when don't want to be there, and doing what you're supposed to do, that's part of it -- that's a valuable lesson."

I was also encouraged by Gandolfini talking about some of his tough scenes -- particularly some of the brutal scenes he's had with women. He was up front and emotional about how "that stuff really messes with you," and talked about how that generally throws him off for days. This was important to me, because high emotion and tough conflict scenes that are against type for me (especially with women) really shake me up for a few days. Glad one of the greats has the same response.

The Cast of Will and Grace

Third up was the cast of Will & Grace.

Eric McCormack (Will), Debra Messing (Grace), Megan Mullally (Karen) Sean Hayes (Jack), James Burrows (Director), David Kohan and Max Mutchnick (Creators/Executive Producers) were all on hand to talk about themselves, the show, and the process.

For me, ensemble ItAS like this are more fluff than meat, just by nature of having to fit 5 mini-interviews into the allotted time.

These are some seriously impressive folks. many with impressive pedigree, and all of the them with a track record of making stuff happen (in my book, James Burrows is one of the more impressive directors out there).

I did like getting insight from non-actors Burrows, Kohan, and Mutchnick. In particular, Mutchnick had some interesting things to say for actors, and what he wants to see in auditions, and what he doesn't want to see (do people actually try to kiss the Casting Director? I'm sure that's not high on Tracy Lilienfield's list).

Good stuff, all around ...

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Spies Like Us

I caught Spies Like Us on network TV today.

Chevy Chase and Dan Aykroyd were and are so gifted, and this flick took me back to the pop fun and cold war stress of the 80s. I was also struck by the film's subtle us of sex, which was more fun and titillating in 80s films than many of today's films -- where it's abrubt, pervasive, and less fun.

And I'm a huge fan of Bruce Davison (Ruby), one of the most prolific "non-A-list" actors. Spies Like Us, X-Men/X2, and nearly 150 others. What an amazingly talented, hard working actor. I'll take a career like his ...

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Friday, April 07, 2006

Lucky Number Sleven

I saw Lucky Number SLeven, which opened today.

This is a good flick, with top-tier actors and acting (Josh Hartnett, Lucy Liu, Morgan Freeman, Bruce Willis, Sir Ben Kingsley, Stanley Tucci), this is a twisting film with fun characterization.

This is one of those films that's hard to talk about without giving stuff away. I don't read reviews of films I'm going to see before I see them, because I don't want my response to the film colored. I recognize the hypocrisy in my writing about stuff I see. I take responsibility for that. Besides, you choose whether or not you want to read my ramblings.

Anyway, though I'm a fan of all of the actors above (Stanley Tucci's career? I'll take it!), this is Hartnett's, and Liu's movie. Hartnett as a guy who lacks any worry (or any preocupations, really), and Liu as I've never seen her (and arguably with her own personality disorder) are a lot of fun to watch. Their chemistry and authenticity rock, and the editing makes several of the deeper connection moments really nice.

"That lip got you that nose."

It's not a happy film, but it's a good film.

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