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February 18, 2008


Mes Deux Cents


" I like Terrence Howard but sometimes he sounds the same in his roles."

This is a little off topic but I HATE Terrance Howard. He's so slimy! And on his voice, he narrates a car commercial, Toyota I think. It's one of those car commercials aimed at Black people. You know, the one's that don't tell you anything about the car but tells you how cool you will look driving the car. I can't even stand to sit through the commercial because of his voice.

Back to topic; Denzel changed his voice for Malcolm X, other than that you are right about his lack of vocal versatility.

I think there are a lot of actors who are more celebrity than actor. They tend to just be themselves and read lines rather than transform for the role.

Halle Berry used to be a great actress in terms of her transformational skills. This was in her early pre-sex symbol days. I remember her in Jungle Fever and Losing Isaiah. Now she's just Halle doing a movie.

I agree the former Mr. Angelina Jolie was really good in Sling Blade. Billy Bob actually has good range. He was in a film, can't remember the name, about a barber in a small town and plays a really quiet type. It was a good understated performance.

And on Paul Giamatti; I haven't seen Big Momma's house but he was good in Sideways. Although I don't think he really transformed for the role.

the obenson report

Paul Giamatti was in Big Momma's House? Really? I haven't seen it, but... wow... whouda thunk it?

Anyway... about today's topic... I've always thought that the bigger the star, the more personally we come to know them, then the harder it becomes to separate the star from the actor/performance. I think if you consider many of today's highly regarded actors/actresses, they aren't necessarily big stars per say. They are known more for their performances than their public personas. It's the other way around for people like Will Smith, Denzel and others of their ilk. If we saw and heard less of Denzel or Will, both on and off screen, I think we'll see more from their performances, because each role will be less about the star, less about THAT person, allowing us to focus more on the character being portrayed and less on the person doing the portraying. This is especially true when the character being portrayed is a real-life person, whether dead or alive. It becomes even more crucial that the actor/actress doesn't "over-power" the person they are portraying. I actually thought Denzel did a decent job with Malcolm X. He was in a tough position there, mostly because of who he was playing - Malcolm X!! I think anyone in that role would've been scrutinized quite intensely. But I think he did a decent job with it. On the otherhand, Will Smith in Ali was an abomination! No matter how hard he tried, I just couldn't get past "Will Smith." It was like Will Smith playing Will Smith trying to be Ali, and it just didn't work for me. I really wish someone else was chosen for that role... preferably someone lesser known.


@ Obenson

You didn't see Big Momma's House? What the hellllllllll is wrong witchu?? You must rent it at once!!!

"I've always thought that the bigger the star, the more personally we come to know them, then the harder it becomes to separate the star from the actor/performance."

Yes; I would agree.

"If we saw and heard less of Denzel or Will, both on and off screen, I think we'll see more from their performances, because each role will be less about the star, less about THAT person, allowing us to focus more on the character being portrayed and less on the person doing the portraying."

Well, I see your point on this but...

God, don't you just love film? My friend Karl thought the exact opposite about Denzel in Malcolm and he felt strongly that another actor should have played the part. I haven't watched X or Ali in a long, long time so I'd have to watch them again to have any thought one way or the other.

Will Smith as Ali -- an abomination, heh? LOL. Actually, I may watch it this evening. I've had it for a couple of weeks but kept watching other stuff instead. I'm not exactly dying to see it. :)


I run the risk of being labeled an elitist here, but it seems that the more theatrical elements of the performance are valued by most people who admire the performances in Hollywood films. Directors like Bergman, who use alienation and minimize theatrics, are considered boring by those standards. Acting styles outside of the Stanislavsky stuff aren't really appreciated that much in Hollywood because it asks more of the audience and that translates into less money coming in.

People tend to want to be pulled in or made to believe that the actor has transformed him of herself and Hollywood is more than willing to provide this because that's how they get people to spend money.

It plays into the escapism we've discussed here before, actually, it's an essential part of it. I guess it's only harmful if you don't know when your being manipulated.

As far as why some actors do it and some don't, I talked to an acting coach once who told me that all beginning actors try to impress people with accents, speech patterns, changing their walk, etc. It seems some experienced actors consider these things to be unimpressive, more like being an impersonator than an actor. Of course, not all experienced actors look at it this way, but many do. Some actors, especially method actors, rely on those things to put them in the moment for that character, but it's more of a means to an end for them.

No one ever fully agrees on this stuff.


I didn't mean to post that last comment the way it is. I meant to say Bresson for minimizing theatricality and Bergman for alienation, plus some other little things I should have added and deleted, but the general idea is there.

I meant to keep that comment and edit it, and send a finished comment I had for another blog, but I dozed off and ended up sending the wrong one when I woke up, sorry.


In terms of actors that constantly try to challenge themselves and take on roles that require them to transform and stretch themselves...Don Cheadle immediately comes to mind.

Cate Blanchett, Philip Seymour Hoffman are others.

I think in the beginning Halle HAD to transform herself in her roles in order to be taken "seriously" by Hollywood. I think Halle is an adequate actress, but she lacks that element that allows actors to transform from the inside out and not just rely on outward appearance changes to make their characters believable. i.e. Meryl Streep(back in the day, in anything she did)

Will Smith is another one. Although I think Will has greatly improved as an actor, it's hard for me NOT to see Will Smith on the screen.

"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." - I think the reason my lie in the very terminology you used. "Character" actors are expected to do just that, bring character, depth, and texture to a role/movie. The "lead" is more so expected to bring in the money and provide the "star" elements to the film.


@ Qadree

Your contribution here is most valued, Qadree. I think myself and the readers got the gist of your thoughtful opinion. That's interesting too, what the acting coach said. It's all good, Q. Thanks.

@ Nicole

Don't you just love Philip Seymour Hoffman? :) I agree with you re Halle. I tend to use the word "fair" when I think of her. :) But yes; I agree with you, Nicole; she's adequate... I hope... I think... maybe. :) As for Will Smith, my opinion about him is not fully formed but I don't think your view is far-fetched or anything like that. Well, then KILL ALL THE LEADS. LOL. I prefer character actors. :)


Don Cheadle has been mentioned several times here as a versatile actor. When I think of his role in Mo Better Blues vs. Hotel Rwanda vs. Talk to Me, amazing differences. Charlize Theron is another actor that never seems to look or sound the same. She becomes the character.
Remember the big deal about Denzel in Training Day because he was so un-Denzel like. The changes were subtle but he made that character walking evil, and women were all upset. I like the actor who can transform himself, but also like the subtle nuances with mannerisms, attitude and especially the eyes. I love to see a change in a character's eyes.
Great post.

LaJane Galt

co-sign on Giamatti. I call it "changing one's countenance". You can see certain people transform into a whole 'nother person.

Jeffrey Wright (King, Basquiat, Dominican gangster, eccentric dude on the lam) can do that.

Phillip Seymour Hoffman is good too.


re: Denzel - I think Training Day & Malcom X were the only performances that seemed different. This is an interesting blog cuz I never thought about it before, I like Denzel altho he does seem to play the same character, but is this opinion due solely his acting ability or his movie choices? More often than not he's playing a cop.

I have always said this about Steven Segal (altho I wouldn't call him an actor in the traditional sense). You know what his flick is about before it even comes out: somebody messes with his loved one & he goes on a vengeance rampage. That's the basis for ALL of the flicks I've ever seen by him.

I didn't think Will Smith was bad in Ali, but it did seem like I was watching Will Smith, he wasn't bad or good to me, it just was what it was.

I think Tom Hanks has done a great job of transforming himself via his films, but he seems to always choose different types of roles/films, unlike most actors who always choose the same role, like Denzel imho.

For example, my hubby was slightly outraged Denzel didn't get an oscar nomination for American Gangster & while that flick was entertaining enough, I thought Russell Crowe really deserved the oscar nom & got the shaft. Crowe is another one who can transform himself but after all the grief he's given Hollywood over the years he will probably never get nominated.

while Jada Pinkett Smith may not be on the top of anybody's greatest actresses list, I think she' does a good job in picking & portraying diverse roles. Same for Kimberly Elise, she has changed her voice in some roles as well, like Set if Off or maybe she was just younger & whiny-er lol


People like actors for different reasons, every actor isn't a Daniel-Day Lewis or Don CHeadle. Jack Nicholson, Al Pacino , Morgan Freeman, Julia Roberts are definitely not like that. That doesn't make them bad actors, art is subjective and sometimes people tend to forget that.

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