I greatly appreciate when an actor is able to dissect a character down to its very essence.
Some people are masterful at doing this. Jeffrey Wright is an example. Others don’t bother –- either because they just don’t bother, or because they don’t feel the characterization necessitates this effort, or for some other reason.
Denzel Washington is an example. My friend, Karl is not a Denzel fan at all. Karl sees “Denzel Washington” in every single role he plays. Karl says that whenever Denzel performs, no matter how well he interprets and executes the character, you still see Denzel. I agree that Denzel doesn’t do a lot physically to differentiate one character from the next, except for the basics –- styling of hair and facial hair. He walks the same and talks the same in his roles.
Mekhi Phifer, for example, often presents angst in the same way in all his roles –- even though different people exhibit angst in very different ways.
Denzel Washington’s voice never changes, neither does Morgan Freeman’s. I like Terrence Howard but sometimes he sounds the same in his roles. Don Cheadle changes his voice.
Just because an actor doesn’t change his voice or physical movements, doesn’t mean he or she is not a good actor. And I’m not saying this should necessarily be done all the time. But when it’s called for or useful, I like to see an actor stretch himself in this manner. Sometimes it is not necessary to do this but oftentimes doing so can enhance the expression of the character.
Vocal range is one of the tenets of good acting and credible theatrical technique, in my view. Even the slightest nuance in voice can express things about a character, those necessary things that cannot be unveiled by makeup or recital of dialog alone.
I have a deep respect for those actors who understand and use the power of their voices and who put the character’s needs before their own preferences. I like actors who are acutely aware of the demands of the character.
Voice and eyes are important for film actors. Movement, too.
I really enjoy when an actor changes himself completely. Frankly, it’s what I expect of an actor. And I’m not talking about voice changing within a film; I’m talking about voice changing from film to film, from character to character.
I often wonder why some actors do it and some actors don’t. I suppose it is expected that “character” actors do this and that “lead actors” need not do so.
Character actor, Lead actor, Method Actor, Rapper-To-Actor, Trained Actor, Non-trained actor –- when I am watching a movie, I care nothing about these designations. They don’t matter. Truth does.
All I care about is truth… and it’s optimal cinematic deliverance.
I like complete transformation. Give me a lisp, speak too slowly, speak too fast, too softly, too loudly, too meekly, too authoritatively -- something.
One of the greatest performances I ever saw was Billy Bob Thornton in Sling Blade (1996). Actually, this is one of my favorite films -- very well done in its simplicity. I thought he was genius in the role.
Paul Giamatti comes to mind... Paul Giamatti in Big Momma’s House (2000) was one person but Paul Giamatti in The Illusionist (2006) was someone completely different.
What do you think?
[Yes; I highlight black actors on this blog. To illustrate a point, I have highlighted Billy Bob Thornton here, for his role in Sling Blade.]