What Real-Life Person Would You Love to Portray?

October 24, 2013

Chiwetel Ejiofor in 12 Years a Slave.

Chiwetel Ejiofor in 12 Years a Slave.

Films about fascinating, real-life people are always in style, and currently a slew of significant real-people roles are in full effect. Bravely taking on the responsibility of pulling off the essence of another person is always a little risky because you can never completely resemble another human even with the industry’s top makeup artists and hair stylists. After all, you are you, and you will always get in the way of being someone else. But audiences have an insatiable curiosity about charismatic people’s lives, so they are eager to give actors a fair chance at assuming a new identity. The drive to know what daily life is like for remarkable individuals will keep this art form alive forever.

On a hot streak and becoming a household name, Benedict Cumberbatch played the controversial Wikileaks founder, Julian Assange in the recently released, The Fifth Estate. He underwent numerous tricks to appear like Assange including a bleach-blond wig, blue-grey contact lenses, as well as prosthetic teeth. Cumberbatch acknowledges he did “a lot, an awful lot” of research on Assange which seems to have paid off as many reviewers assert he managed to convincingly portray Assange.

Naomi Watts was challenged to pull off Diana, Princess of Wales in the biopic Diana to be released early November. The mostly fictionalized account of Diana’s secret love affair with Pakinstani surgeon, Dr. Hasnat Khan has received a number of poor reviews from the U.K.–including criticism from the real-life Khan–often because of problems stemming from the dialogue. But Watt’s ability to capture Diana’s essence has been praised, as well.

Chiwetel Ejiofor portrays a freeman named Solomon Northup who was abducted before the Civil War in 1841, and sold as a slave in the recently released drama, 12 Years a Slave. The film is based on the real Northup’s memoir. Ejiofor says, “To tell someone the story is one of the most deeply enriching experiences that I have ever had as a performer or an actor.” As the real-life Northup is not someone instantly recognizable to most Americans, Ejiofor didn’t need to go to great lengths to match a specific look. But he did need to deeply delve into the tragic experiences of a real person. Historian David Blight liked the film very much, saying, “Slavery is only rarely ever depicted effectively in Hollywood pictures. This film stays quite loyal to the narrative itself. It’s accurate in that sense. I also found the acting terrific.”

Helena Bonham Carter plays Elizabeth Taylor in the BBC television movie, Burton & Taylor. To prepare for the role, Bonham Carter explains, “I felt I couldn’t do an impersonation because I don’t really look like her, and my job was to capture some essence. I read her biographies and met with some girlfriends of hers, and I met with an astrologist to help distill somebody and their qualities. My aunt analyzes handwriting so she was a great distiller of somebody’s character. I went around collecting characteristics.” Ultimately, she sought to create a hybrid of herself and Taylor, saying her portrayal was going to be its own kind of creature. “It was not going to be Elizabeth. It was as if Elizabeth and I had a baby. A collage,” she laughed.

Additionally, Tom Hardy has been cast to play the pop icon, Elton John, in the upcoming biopic called Rocketman. And considering the recent award-winning films such as Lincoln, My Week with Marilyn, and The Social Network, Hollywood seems to be on a biopic role.

Is there anyone you’re itching to play? If so, who? And is it because you believe you look like this person or because you feel you could convincingly capture his or her essence in another way?

Being the Spokesperson for Embarrassing Products

May 6, 2013

Lisa Rinna in a Depends commercial

Do you experience occasional irregularity? Do your dentures give off an annoying odor, interfering with your confidence in social interactions? How about erectile dysfunction, excessive gas, or athlete’s feet…getting you down? Well, aren’t you glad there are products that address these awkward matters? I’m sure we all are, because no one is immune to the vicissitudes of this life no matter how well we take care of our health or personal hygiene. But where the rubber meets the road for you, as an actor, is when you’re cast in a commercial addressing these uncomfortable conditions. This is something you’ll want to think about before you’re afforded a promotional opportunity.

Jamie Lee Curtis brings humor and a down-to-earth openness to the topic of digestive irregularity in her role as the spokesperson for Activia yogurt. Florence Henderson, otherwise known as the beloved Carol Brady of The Brady Bunch is the spokesperson for Polident denture cleaner. And Days of Our Lives and Melrose Place star, Lisa Rinna is shown in a Depends commercial walking the red carpet wearing an adult diaper. Lisa stands behind her decision to tout what could be considered an unglamorous product saying, “I am a champion of positive self-image for women; the new Silhouette makes a woman feel confident.” So, it’s obviously not the career kiss of death to endorse one of these delicate products. But it should be noted these women have long and storied professional resumes behind them.

In this regard, you–as an up and coming prospect–might want to give some thought to the products you want your image attached to; or, more specifically, the products you’d rather not be associated with. It’s a good idea to talk with your agent and get clear on your professional image and how you’d like to be perceived by the public. If you don’t have an agent, talk with your friends and family to dial in your professional goals and the decisions you’ll make in getting where you want to go.

While there’s nothing wrong with experiencing ailments like bloating, male pattern baldness, acne, or serious medical conditions, it’s not something people generally care to discuss with large groups of people. Thankfully, some people come forward to put a face on such issues. But in your career you need to clear as a bell as to who you are and how you wish to be perceived. This is true of just about every profession, but acting is a particularly conspicuous endeavor. That being said, success can certainly be achieved after being featured in such commercials. After all, starring in a 1980’s Australian Tampax tampons commercial didn’t stop Naomi Watts from having an outstanding, multi award-winning career.

“It Only Takes One”

February 18, 2013

Naomi Watts in The Impossible

“It was total naivety that got me to Hollywood. I thought it was going to happen straight away. I told myself, ‘Give it 5 years, there’s no way I’ll be here after that if it doesn’t happen.’ Cut to ten years later!” –Naomi Watts

British-Australian actress, Naomi Watts‘ performance in the real-life thriller, The Impossible is being described as nothing less than “astonishing.” In fact, she’s currently an Academy Award nominee thanks to her portrayal of Maria Bennett, one of the victims of 2004’s devastating Indian Ocean tsunami. And after 20 years in the business, Naomi’s career is still growing by leaps and bounds. Watts is currently shooting the long-awaited biopic, Diana, in which she plays the legendary Princess of Wales. Is there a bigger role for any star in the known universe? Probably not. But Naomi’s ascent to mega success was not, by any measure, a shoe in.

As a teenager living in Australia, Naomi shared a cab after an audition with a girl who would become her best friend, Nicole Kidman. Later on, Watts moved to Los Angeles in pursuit of her acting dream, but desired roles proved hard to come by. And finding agents, producers and directors proved to be frustrating as well. She struggled with serious money woes including not being able to pay the rent, and losing her medical insurance. Sound familiar? Of those early years, Watts says, “I had gotten to a place where I truly believed everything I was called: ‘not sexy,’ ‘not funny,’ ‘too intense,’ ‘desperate.’ All those labels they gave me, I took them because there wasn’t a trace of my true self left.” 

Naomi Watts and Nicole Kidman

She was forced to take jobs outside of the industry–one of which was working as a nanny for Nicole Kidman and Tom Cruise. Nicole kept Naomi motivated and enlivened her spirits through ten years of rejection, near misses in important callbacks, and having to suffer lesser roles on TV shows and B-list productions. Naomi credits Nicole for keeping her in the game:

“Oh my God, I mean, I considered myself fairly sensitive, but I don’t think a strong person could cope with it over and over again… there were moments when I was sure I was done. Oh yeah, but I didn’t have a plan B really, I didn’t. [Nicole] She kept saying, ‘It’s just going to take one thing, one thing, Nay, and you know, if you’re in a hit film…then everything changes.’”

That one hit film proved to be David Lynch’s psychological thriller, Mulholland Drive. When she auditioned for the role of Betty Elms/Diane Selwyn, Naomi says, “I was literally at the lowest place, and yet he (Lynch) managed to pull away all those masks.” What followed was an outpouring of best-breakthrough-performance and best-actress awards for Watts.

Nicole was right. It only took one.

So as tough as it is, hang in there, actors! It only takes one pivotal role and your whole life could change. And be sure to find supportive friends. Hey, come to think of it, be sure to be a supportive friend. If we’re not going to help one another, what’s the sense?