Wednesday 20 March 2024

Actors who don't act

Some very famous and respected actors have a deficit that is not so much they can't act, but that - for whatever reason - they just don't act. 

The much awarded Eddie Redmayne is one example: he just doesn't act. 

I'm not sure how I would describe what he is doing, but it isn't acting. Just look for yourself - setting aside that you have been told he is a great actor - and you will see; especially if you compare what he is doing with somebody in the same movie who is a good actor. 

This effect can be simulated by bad direction or poor script working on a good actor. For instance, Nicholas Cage is an excellent actor, but has been in a a lot of badly-scripted and/or poorly-directed movies, so you might get the impression he is a bad actor. 

On the other hand, to be accurate; at his worst, Nick Cage seems like a bad actor - but what he is doing is, nonetheless, still "acting". My best guess is that Eddie Redmayne can't act, since he apparently never does, and always seems exactly the same. 

I have reached the same conclusion about Millie Bobby Brown. She is neither a good nor a bad actor: she just doesn't act at all. Which is probably why everything she is involved in, that I have seen, was embarrassingly awkward and the ensemble just didn't work. 

Both ER and MBB have a an inhuman, android, replicant quality about them; a deficiency of empathic connection; which reveals itself in blank eyes...

It must be a literal kind of nightmare for an actor to be compelled to participate in a scene with one of these not-actors. They function like anti-drama vampires. It's almost a "super villain" ability - the ability to negate the acting-powers of any actor within their force field radius.  

Don't-act-ors destroy dramatic coherence and make everybody else look bad, by themselves being sub-bad to the point of making a powerful impression on the casual viewer. 

They exist like blank-eyed rocks, while all around collapses into frustrated impotence. 

And that's apparently what gets you the big awards nowadays!



WJT said...

I’d never heard of Eddie Redmayne, and I couldn’t pick Millie Bobby Brown out of a police lineup, but the “actor” who immediately came to mind when I read the post title was Anthony Hopkins.

Then there are actors who basically play the same character in every movie they’re in, like the Marx Brothers or Jason Statham.

Bruce Charlton said...

@WJT - I disagree about Hopkins.

I regard him as a good actor, who has been in a lot of movies - including plenty of mediocre ones. Like many other busy actors (such as Cage) I think he just rolls-up and does the job; based on what he finds in the script - and it relies on the director to make him do more than an on-autopilot, standard-Hopkins, performance.

But Hopkins is, I think, very professional; and even when bad he doesn't spoil movies or vampirize other actor's performances.

Karl said...

Someone who was an extra on the Harry Potter movies told me ER just scrolled on his phone endlessly between takes and did nothing else.

Of course he's also been involved in the woke protest against JK Rowling.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Karl - "ER just scrolled on his phone endlessly between takes and did nothing else"

The thing is, that's exactly what it looks like.

I expect some real actors might appear to be similarly distracted, but they can act. It's a strange gift, not correlated with intelligence (although fake actors are usually high IQ - like ER - they use their intelligence to fake act; like intelligent uncreative people try to fake creativity/ genius - by stealing ideas and applying algorithmic variations).

e.g. In Friends, I don't suppose Jennifer Aniston is very smart, but she's an excellent, natural actress. Whereas the one who plays Phoebe (Lisa Kudrow) is smart, but a not actor.