Actors Playing Actors

Watching Men in Black III, I found myself struck by Josh Brolin. I enjoyed the whole movie, but Brolin especially held my attention. I had to keep reminding myself that he was not actually a younger Tommy Lee Jones.

Brolin stepped into the character of K so seamlessly, that the persona Jones spent the last fifteen years crafting completely enveloped him. He interacted with Will Smith just like Jones. He captured the nuances and mannerisms that others might miss. That’s great acting.

Brolin not only had the test of portraying a beloved character, but of stepping into those polished black shoes that Jones had already broken in. He chose to play the character as another actor playing the character. He did it perfectly.

His role in MiB III got me thinking about how often actors take on the challenge of playing a real person with lack-luster effort.

A few years ago I watched The Aviator, about the legendary Howard Hughes, and was torn. The movie spans the time from the golden age of Hollywood through the 1970’s. Hughes was involved with many of the greatest Hollywood legends. Some of the actors poured themselves into their parts, portraying the people in Hughes’ life with great vigor. Others seemed to get their parts based on looks alone. They simply showed up and smiled—a cardboard cut-out might have sufficed. Their inability or unwillingness to let go of their own personality distracted from an otherwise intriguing film.

The Aviator is not the only movie that suffers from this brand of hiccups. Often movies fail completely because a talented actor refuses to release themselves fully into the heart of the person they are hired to play.

I’m keeping my fingers crossed for Hitchcock, due for 2013 release. Anthony Hopkins will play the title character, and I know full well that his talents are sufficient for the task. The rest of the cast has a high standard to meet, but I’m hoping for the best.

That’s a wrap for this Toast to Cinema. Thanks for reading.

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