Sunday, April 3, 2011

One for Art and then One for the Money...

Ideally, I'll finish the few, short scenes I have left in this low-budget film I'm doing today. I'm looking forward to finishing for a couple of reasons. First, the moment I'm done I can cut my hair. Yes, cut my hair. It hasn't been cut since October of last year because I had to have it long for ADDING MACHINE. And, as it turns out, the director and producer of the film wanted me to keep it that way. So, here I am six months later with this whole 'Bob, your friendly, small town, midwestern, comb-over, insurance man" look going. Or, as I like to call it, the 'Gorbachev with a hangover' look. Oddly, my wife likes it. Go figure. I despise it and can't wait to shave my head later on today.

Today's finishing scenes are all to be shot in 8mm and then later transferred and processed digitally. They're B & W flashback scenes.

I also have the unexpected opportunity (well, 'opportunity' may be a bit strong) to do 'King Lear' in a theatre way south of here. That would be actually playing Lear in the play. I'm passing on that. It's not a lot of money and frankly I just don't want to tie myself up in another massive stage role for so long. Although the idea of doing Lear is rather enticing. It is, of course, one of those roles actors like to test themselves against. It was Olivier's last stage appearence. Finney has done it, most famously in recent times and I read that Kevin Kline is looking into doing it at Lincoln Center soon.

Personally, I've always felt Lear to be a rather silly role; a cantankerous, old man, consumed by jealousy, living solely by his ego. But it's Willy the Shakes, and that alone is challenging. I just don't think it's the role or play that others think so highly of. I always thought I was alone in this thinking but I recently discovered Olivier felt the same way. He writes in his first of two books on acting, "I suppose people think it's such a great part because it's usually only attempted by older, established actors late in their career."

A friend of mine told me the other day that I should reconsider because 'you'll probably never get another shot at it.' He's right, of course, but honestly, after just finishing this huge piece of stage acting in ADDING MACHINE, I just don't think I have it in me right now.

In John Houseman's book about his life and career, he recounts a conversation he once had with Marlon Brando in the mid-eighties. It was a chance meeting on the upper east side in New York. He said he saw Brando getting out of a car (remember, Houseman produced the film 'Julius Caesar' in the mid-fifties with Brando in the role of Marc Antony) and rushed up to him. He begged him to consider doing Lear onstage in New York calling it 'the greatest casting coup of the century.' He says Brando seemed unexpectedly excited about it for a few minutes and then stared off into space for a bit and said, "I just did the whole thing in my head. It was wonderful. But, John, that's the closest I'll ever get to the stage again. Sorry."

I've seen a few productions of Lear over the years. The latest here on the West Coast was, in fact, just a few miles from here with the wonderful actor, Dakin Matthews, in the title role. Matthews, incidentally, won an Ovation Award for it. But after a bit of soul-searching, I've decided I'm not interested in grappling with the role myself.

That is not to say there are a still a few older roles I wouldn't drop everything to assay. For example, I think sometime in the next ten years or so I'll take a shot at Willy Loman somewhere. I'd also like to pull out that old chestnut, Inherit the Wind, and take a crack at Drummond or Brady. But that's all just speculation.

In any event, first things first. I'm nearly finished with my new play, THE PROMISE, which I'm eager to mount somewhere in the LA area. In fact, just yesterday I emailed the script, unfinished but taking shape, to the key players. It's clearly going to be a long one, a three-act piece, and I'm sort of getting excited about it. The inescapable fact is as I get older I take so much more satisfaction in writing than I do in actually performing. I suppose it's only natural.

These days I'm kind of letting my mind and body relax after pouring everything into Mr. Zero. It was one of those roles that simply left me hollow after doing it onstage every night for so long. The thought of jumping right back into another all-consuming role like that, so soon after finishing one, just makes me quake. I think an actor has to let him or herself rejuvenate, get the mojo back, find the excitement again after climbing a mountain like that. And, to be perfectly frank, I haven't given myself that time yet.

There's also that old acting adage about alternating roles. You do one for yourself and then one for money. ADDING MACHINE was for myself. Now I need to do one for the money. It's a sad state of affairs, but a solid truth in this business. Man does not live by reviews alone. Now and then he needs to put a taco on the table.

See you tomorrow.