Armitage as performance critic [Spoilers for “Rabbit Hole”]

Recently rereading this interview from last summer, I remembered a loose end I had wanted to track down for awhile. This is Alice Wyllie interviewing Mr. Armitage in The Scotsman, although this is far from the first time we’ve heard him express a preference against solo performances, and I have a vague memory of him saying something similar about Kidman elsewhere in a slightly earlier interview:

As for other performers, he rather likes a no-actor-is-an-island approach, suggesting that often actors tease the best performances out of one other. “There’s a type of acting where you produce the work yourself which is great and it’s skilful,” he says. “But I believe in the kind of acting where you make somebody else act. There’s a brilliant scene in Rabbit Hole with Nicole Kidman and a completely unknown actor, just sitting on a bench, and he makes her act better than I’ve ever seen her act before. I think I can make another actor act better, and hopefully someone else can make me produce something that I’ve never produced before.”

I thought it would be fun to track this down and ask you what you think, so I checked the movie out of the library. I didn’t see it in the theatre; frankly, although I have nothing against Nicole Kidman (and a copious amount of sympathy for her as a person because she was married to Tom Cruise all those years and then ended up with someone who needed drug rehab), she’s not specifically a reason for me to see a film, either. In fact, I had a hard time remembering films I’ve seen her in other than Eyes Wide Shut (a film I admired, though I don’t remember her performance) and I suspect the last one was The Hours. So I haven’t seen her in most of the roles for which she’s been so lavishly praised. But she seems to be generally regarded as a talented artist, at least if all the award nominations she’s gotten in the last decade are any indication.

Kidman was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress for her role as Becca Corbett in Rabbit Hole. She did not win. The 2010 Best Actress nominations involved serious competition. Natalie Portman won for Black Swan — a film that, like Didion, I can’t assess even remotely objectively because I find the women’s issues addressed personally upsetting, and which, I suspect, if I had not been half-crazed on that day due to the flooding of my office and the loss of my wallet, would have remained much less potent in my memory. Didion’s choice would have been Jennifer Lawrence for Winter’s Bone, and I tend to agree with her, although I’ve now seen Michelle Williams in Blue Valentine and was impressed by her as well. I didn’t see The Kids Are All Right because it was airing about the time I got back to the U.S. from Germany that summer, and none of the criticism I read made me remotely interested in seeing it. So the upshot of this paragraph is: plenty of great female performances were nominated for the 2010 Oscar and after having seen this one, though I liked the film a great deal, I’d have ranked Portman third and Kidman fourth among the performances I saw.

***

The film tells the story of a young East Coast couple — although only the supporting actors successfully sustain that element of the script; Kidman and her costar don’t even feign it, despite an unintentionally funny scene in which they both laboriously mispronounce the word “realtor” in order to give themselves street cred — struggling to deal with the death of their young son, Danny, who was killed after running out into the street to follow his dog. Becca Corbett (Kidman) displays behaviors that suggest both an eagerness to move on and a simultaneous incapacity to confront her loss, while her husband Howie (Aaron Eckhart) finds himself unable to let go. About the time that Becca’s sister, Izzy (Tammy Blanchard), announces an out-of-wedlock pregnancy, the tension in Becca and Howie’s brittle consensus moves toward open trouble as their up-till-then implicit disagreement about how to deal with their son’s death explodes. A confrontation at a birthday party for Becca’s mother, Nat (Dianne Wiest), also a bereaved parent, reveals the contours of Becca’s capacity to push away from herself anything she doesn’t want to hear.

As her marriage disintegrates, while waiting in traffic for a school bus to unload, Becca accidentally notices Jason (newcomer Miles Teller), the teenaged driver who killed her son. She begins to stalk him, following his bus and checking out books he returns to the library, until one day he confronts her, and they go to a park to talk.

[Three of the four scenes that Becca and Jason share take place in the park with the characters sitting on a bench, so it’s hard to know exactly which scene Mr. Armitage might have meant (though I tend to think it’s either the first or the second scene I’ve clipped). Here’s the first one, after Jason confronts Becca. As you play the clips, keep in mind that what we’re looking for here, to answer our questions about Armitage’s statement, is not Teller’s performance, but rather how Teller’s performance affects Kidman’s, drawing things out of her she might not otherwise share.]

By talking with Jason, Becca seems to begin to establish a bridge toward dealing with her feelings about Danny’s death, but even so, matters between Becca and Howie worsen. Becca refuses to continue attending a support group and (accidentally) deletes a cell phone video of Danny that Howie’s been watching obsessively. Becca continues to meet Jason. At their second meeting, she reveals that she’s read a book he checked out from the library on the topic of parallel universes, the scientific theory that the quantum nature of the universe requires that all possible outcomes of events occur somewhere in infinite space. Jason tells her that he’s creating a comic book based on this idea.

Finally, Howie appears to give in — he agrees to sell their home and, continuing to attend the bereavement support group, develops an attraction to a fellow victim of bereavement, Gabby (Sandra Oh), who reveals that she and her husband have separated. During an open house, prospective buyers unintentionally confront Howie with how others might see his inability to let go of the material presence of his son in the way that Becca has been encouraging him to, and he concedes to his wife that they will need to remove their son’s toys from the bedroom that had been his. But just as the open house ends, Jason walks into the Corbetts’ house, having seen the “Open House” sign, to show Becca his finished comic. An altercation ensues between Howie and Jason:

This scene seems to indicate that everything is over for Howie and Becca. A day or so later, Howie drives to Gabby’s house with the apparent intention of spending the night, but just as he walks into her yard, he changes his mind. He returns home to find Becca gone. Dashing out of the house the second he left, she tries to return the comic book to Jason, whom she discovers in front of his house, on his way to prom. She waits for his return but falls asleep in her car, where he finds her the next morning. They return to the park for a final conversation.

Becca returns home, afterward, to find Howie despairing that she’s left him. The film ends with the ensuing conversation, in which Howie envisions for Becca how they might stay in their house and host a picnic. I interpreted this scene to mean that they decided to stay together, although my father, who watched it with me, concluded that they did not. (This is an unbelievably strange response insofar as my father is a die-hard optimist and views me as a cold pessimist, although I’d assess myself as a realist.) I understand from reading wikipedia that the stage play (see below) was funnier and sweeter than the movie.

***

Eckhart, Kidman, Oh, Teller, and two Lionsgate executives attend the Rabbit Hole premiere, December 2, 2010, New York City. Source.

Had Armitage said that the unexpected great performance here is delivered by Miles Teller, I would have agreed immediately. (I loved Dianne Wiest, but she’s been memorable in everything I’ve ever seen her in.) Teller so completely embodies the male adolescent on the verge of leaving home that one’s a bit dumbfounded by watching him, and in that performance I saw a distillation of the hundreds of male eighteen-year-olds I’ve encountered in September of their freshman year of college over the last two decades. I can’t exclude the possibility that Teller was simply playing himself, of course (and an interview with him reveals that scars on his face are real and he survived a serious car crash). In that case, however, he has an amazing ability to avoid self-consciousness on camera. I particularly loved his mimesis of what I think of as the “lag time” effect in that demographic — they are smart, potentially sensitive, and often of good will — but they are only starting to be able to access those parts of themselves, fighting through layers of stuff they’ve painted on to cover over their personalities in order to survive their adolescences. Teller gets this fractured, momentarily provisional access to self just right, placing pregnant silences around Jason’s awareness of the gravity of his accident, an awareness that underlies the “clueless” aplomb of the eighteen-year-old that is sometimes a defense mechanism and other times a sincere reaction.

But Armitage’s remark doesn’t praise Teller’s performance as much as it evaluates Kidman’s (or it praises Teller’s performance by evaluating Kidman’s). He’s quoted as having said, “a completely unknown actor, just sitting on a bench […] makes her act better than I’ve ever seen her act before.” In fact, I would say that whatever merits she displays in other settings, Kidman was not at her best in this film. Throughout most of the film, she maintains a surprisingly immobile face, and she infects all her anger with a sort of schoolmarmish vibe that infelicitously recalls Meg Ryan at her twitchiest. At a few points, the viewer even sees Kidman “acting.” It’s preposterously odd, for example, that the scene where Howie tries (unsuccessfully) to convince Becca to resume sexual relationships is curiously devoid of darker forces — sexual attraction, frustration, anger, tension — at all. I’m inclined to agree that her best scenes in the film occur with Teller (or Wiest, but Armitage didn’t comment on that, sorry, Ms. Wiest, I leave you by the wayside here). So in the joint scenes with Teller, what does his eighteen-year-old gravitas draw from her? One thing we see is the mobility of her face in reaction to him, something she doesn’t really achieve in response to her costar — of this more below — and one suspects that this is something that Armitage himself prizes: a face that hints at what is going on underneath even when it doesn’t explicitly signal something. Her facial movements at first recalls the encouragement signal that I find myself performing in conversations with men that age — when attempting to draw them out, for example — but move on to indicate Becca’s own desperation about the encounter, both her need to talk to Jason and her fears about doing so. What’s consistent is the closings of these first two scenes — Kidman gets her eyes open a lot wider than usual, and we can see something flickering behind them, a suffering that we simply don’t see in her scenes with Eckhart.

Rabbit Hole is based on a stage play of the same name that won the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. Its New York production garnered Cynthia Nixon a Tony for Best Actress, a result that points out something about finding the right roles. A great role elevates a middling performer, perhaps — and only the greatest of performers can surmount the problems of a poorly scripted role? In particular, this consideration makes me question my initial reaction to Eckhart, whose acting I found consistently overdone and bothersome to the point of distraction, and whom I at first concluded was fatally miscast in a way that damages the whole film. If Kidman is often bland, Eckhart overcompensates. In consequence, he was not convincing to me either as a bereaved parent or an aggrieved partner, nor even as an East Coaster (he projects a sunny western bonhomie that he can’t seem to put under wraps), and I concluded that he was cast because he’s cute — as he displays neither convincing anger that reaches deep into the character’s pain, nor much emotional depth overall, in this performance. If I reflect on this conundrum on the level of the actors, I would be tempted to conclude that his youth notwithstanding, Teller is a much more thoughtful person than Eckhart. And if it’s true that Kidman, who produced the film, cast Eckhart because she thought he’d be a good husband, then I’m tempted to say, bad choice, if you wanted someone to play a husband whose inner weaknesses are convincingly revealed by life-altering stress. You want a bad husband in spe to play this role, not a good one.

Seen from the viewpoint of the script, however, Teller may have had a better chance of drawing a more effective performance from Kidman than Eckhart simply because something unites Becca and Jason that Howie lacks — the struggle with questions about free will addressed by the notion of parallel universes (would Danny be alive if we hadn’t had that dog? why didn’t I drive down a different block that day?). Both Becca and Jason are tortured by the possibility that things could have been different, that a somewhere exists where events would have kept Jason from hitting Danny with his car, which is precisely the notion that ends up rehabilitating Becca in the end — the thought that somewhere else she is not suffering, but making pancakes. The screenplay doesn’t ever give Howie an entrée into that problem; for him, his world is never plausibly different from the one that he actually inhabits, and the only alternative consists of cell phone videos. This state of affairs suggest that Eckhart would have needed to find another way mentally into the problem of suffering if his scenes with Kidman were to have drawn a better performance from her. (One suspects he should have thought more either about his problematic addiction to the cell phone video, or about his temptation to infidelity.) If we extrapolate from what Armitage said about acting to thinking about the screenplay, we could potentially conclude that it relies too much on the formal fact of Becca and Howie’s marital relationship to put them in relationship to each other and doesn’t give us enough indications of their (earlier) connections. Hence, even without having read it, I have some reason to suspect the complaints from some critics that the screenplay negatively reduced the script of the play might be justified.

In other words, the question I would ask Armitage first after reading his remark and seeing this film:

Granted that Teller draws a better performance from Kidman than any other actor in this film, is that result due to something that Teller is doing in his performance? If so, what is so successful about it from your perspective? Or, if the screenplay is the means of constituting the terms of their interaction, does Teller draw a better performance from Kidman because the screenplay puts Becca and Jason into a closer implied relationship to each other than to any other characters? If your theory about interactions between actors drawing out better performances is correct, doesn’t the screenplay give Teller have an inherently better chance than Eckhart to provoke Kidman’s best product?

The next question would be:

If Teller draws a better performance than usual from Kidman, what is she doing for him? And what does your answer to this question to to enhance your theory about the consequences of successful actor synergies?

What do you think?

~ by Servetus on July 1, 2012.

66 Responses to “Armitage as performance critic [Spoilers for “Rabbit Hole”]”

  1. OK, finally got all the video clips to buffer so I could watch them. I have not seen the film so I appreciate your detailed analysis.

    It’s funny, by coincidence The Hours was on again today and I watched it. I hate to say it, but I think the primary reason Nicole won the Academy Award was the nose. The Academy seems to like actors who mar their beauty with prosthetics. I am not saying it wasn’t a good performance, but I’m just not sure it was Oscar-caliber, either.

    Nicole’s curiously immobile face has become a bone of contention for me as the years pass. At times she seems to resort to odd physical tics or use of voice as if to make up for the frozen quality of her face.

    At least for this film, I saw she was actually able to furrow her brow by cutting back on the Botox. There was clearly more animation there.
    This was an improvement. An actor’s face NEEDS TO MOVE. And that may be what RA is alluding to in terms of it being a stronger performance from Kidman.

    The question of Ms. Kidman’s excessive reliance on cosmetic tweaks aside, I did like these scenes with the boy. His naturalness on screen was quite remarkable. After reading your synopsis, I tend to agree that the two characters and thus the two actors had more to work with in terms of being on the same inner journey and dealing with the same demons. We see an emotional connection here.

    It sounds as limitations within the adapted screenplay may have hamstrung the actors to a certain degree.
    Having seen neither the play nor the film it’s a bit hard for me to say more on that subject.
    (Funny what Kidman said about Eckhart seeming like he’d be a good husband. He’s played several roles where he clearly wasn’t or wouldn’t have been.)

    Have you ever seen Beautiful Boy with Maria Bello and Michael Sheen? It’s quite downbeat but there are great performances from those two and we get to see the tragedy of a school shooting from the viewpoint of the shooter’s parents. Not only do they lose their son to suicide, they know he took several lives on top of that horrific loss;
    An already frayed marriage is really put to the test as the public and press alike vilify them as parents and paint their “beautiful boy” as a monster. Alan Tudyk, one of my favorite character actors, is also very good in this as Bello’s brother.

    Michelle Williams and Ryan Gosling were both brilliant in Blue Valentine but I found it so painful to watch, I doubt I will ever be able to sit through it again. It was gut-wrenching for me.

    Like

    • Oscar for people who mar their beauty with prostheses: hmmm. Who do we know that this applies to?

      I also find myself wondering whether, since she’s so extremely conventionally beautiful, she has an obstacle there as well. her face is just so pretty that when she looks angry or frustrated it’s almost inherently caricaturish.

      Like

      • To a certain extent, Kidman created her own obstacle. Look at photos of her or her roles when she was in the early part of her career. She almost looks like a different person altogether. I thought she was quite lovely then in a more distinctive and less conventional way.

        Then she went and had several cosmetic procedures done along with the Botox and lip injections, starting straightening her wonderful red curls–and become a sort of Barbie doll.

        I miss her old face. I thought it a lot more appealing and expressive. And I think she has possibly pushed herself into a corner by turning herself into a sort of Stepford Wife in appearance. Ultimately I think being perceived as an ageless beauty was more important for her than taking things as far as possible as an actress. Just my thoughts, and she wouldn’t be the first nor likely the last.

        That’s why I admire Mr. A’s willingness to not worry about what angle he’s photographed from or whether or not he looks handsome on camera at any particular moment. That lack of vanity is refreshing.

        Re prosthetics and Oscars–it’s not just “uglifying” actors that seems to bring awards; playing a mentally or physically disabled person often seems to have the same effect on the Academy.

        Ben Stiller’s character in “Tropic Thunder” is an action star who yearns for street cred, so he plays the lead role in a film called “Simple Jack” in an effort to win respect for his acting abilities . . . which has rather hilarious consequences.

        Like

        • Yes, Charlize Theron is a good example, she was uglyfied to the extreme in “The Monster””- lo and behold she got an Oscar for it (I’m not saying she wasn’t good!). Or there is Dustin Hoffman winning an Oscar for playing an autistic person.

          Like

          • Back then autism was this dark secret. Now there are so many autistic kids, I wonder what it would be like to see that film again, if we would find it so convincing.

            Like

  2. For me, the interesting point in the post is the appreciation expressed by Mr. A for ensemble acting, for acting one on another. While Armitage can inexorably draw the audience eye, his capacity to evict reactions from his colleagues (with a few exceptions) is worthy of admiration. This is an Actor.

    Like

    • I have to stop and wonder about those “few exceptions” along with those viewers and entertainment writers who describe him as “wooden” and “one note.” It’s as if we are watching and discussing two completely different performers.

      I always thought Lucy Griffiths learned from Richard and grew a lot as an actor by taking advantage of what she could glean from his generosity towards fellow actors. I think some of his other co-stars could have greatly improved their performances with some effort. Although bad direction could have hampered some, I suppose?

      Like

      • I’ve not seen Lucy Griffiths in anything since Robin Hood. I thought she did a fine job in RH considering that she was so young, but I wonder if she has improved with age? Or is she older but still only halfway decent?

        Like

        • I saw Lucy in Collision for British TV and she was quite good in that and she’d been in at least a couple of other series or films–UBDEAD and one other i can’t recall–but I have not seen either of those. I do know she got good reviews.
          She made a pilot for American television after signing a contract with CBS but it wasn’t picked up. Now she is in True Blood, but we haven’t seen a lot of her character yet (there are so many!). She looks lovely, back to her dark hair after a period as a blonde and now she’s the one in black leather. ;)Hopefully her part will expand somewhat as the season continues.

          I have taken an interest in her since RH and tried to keep up with what’s going on with her career. I think she could become a very good actress.

          Like

          • I heard the first thing she did in TB was a sex scene with the “Viking god”? I have never seen TB as I’m not into vampires but I think opinions greatly vary if a part in TB is a good career move or not. Some people think you can’t sink much lower than that, others think it is one of the best things one can achieve.

            Like

            • Yeah, but that’s par for the course in TB. 😉 EVERYBODY has sex scenes of some sort on TB. And if you’re going to do one, it might as well be with the gorgeous and talented Alexander Skarsgard.

              And in case anyone was wondering, she wasn’t naked, so don’t worry, we didn’t see Maid Marian’s naughty bits, alhough she did let the profanity fly in the last ep. But then, she was being tortured, so who can blame her? 😉

              I love the show, It’s over the top, it’s cotton candy batsh*t as someone described it online, but it’s entertaining OTT cotton candy batsh*t.

              And it has some really good actors, too. I don’t think it will hurt Lucy’s career to appear in it. It will certainly raise her profile in the US, and that’s what she has wanted.

              Like

    • I’m interested in the ensemble point, too, but I want him to be more exact. (Shoot me, I’m an academic.)

      Like

  3. Your analysis of Teller’s actorial embodiment of eighteen-year-old (or analysis of that threshold age) is, simply, a gem.
    What puzzles me is why Armitage chose „Rabbit Hole“ as an example for his point – I agree that, apart from Teller and Wiest, no superb performance can be seen in a movie which is not likely to be long remembered (I suppose its destiny is to be mentioned only in a cluster of thematically similar bereaved-parents movies). My only guess is that RA had had recently seen the film, so it popped out in his mind while discussing joint acting. What first popped out in my mind is, for instance, interplay of Paul Gleeson and Colin Farrell in „In Bruges“, where that increscent interaction of the pair seems to me more obvious – a synergy, that goes both directions, as you point out in a last question.

    Like

    • “In Bruges”–yes, a wonderful film as a good reference when discussing joint acting. I just ran across it by chance on television and I have watched it several times now. I thought Farrell and Brendan Gleeson were brilliant–
      I wonder if RA has seen it? I am assuming the same as you, that “Rabbithole” was a film he had recently viewed at the time and so it was the first thing that popped into his mind during the interview.

      Like

    • Need to apologize for the lapsus I made and consequently to correct the name of exquisite Brendan (not Paul) Gleeson.

      Like

    • This would be fun to speculate on.

      A lot of people I know who are interested in in film make a habit of trying to see all the nominated performances, just out of curiosity. Maybe he’s interested in stage to screen adaptations. Maybe a date insisted he see it. Maybe he likes to make fun of Nicole Kidman … the possibilities are endless.

      Like

  4. @fedoralady, you know I am with you on Lucy Griffiths. I hope for much better than vampire stuff in her future. At the same time, Armitage reacted and drew his other actors in RH, and (with those exceptions 😀 ) in Spooks. We know those exceptions – not so much GoR, but a couple of others?) Just wondering…:D

    Loved and hated In Bruges. Invested in the characters. Farrell is an actor. If he doesn’t waste it…

    Belizec,I think you are right about “recently seen” – top of mind. Actors are constantly evolving, sensient people. Interviews are full of pitfalls. Intelligent actors/actresses respond with trying to make sense of the inherent chaos of their calling? And I think that Richard Armitage has done that not too badly to date? 😀

    Like

    • I am genuinely hoping for big things in Lucy’s future–she seems a thoroughly nice young woman in addition to being a talented one–and hey, TB is a way for her to get her foot in the door here in the States.

      RA raises the bar for any production he is in, IMHO. Think about the new Strike Back *shudder” without him. No, on second thought, DON’T think of it.

      I do believe once it sunk in for Jonas that he really was losing the show to Richard–not because Richard was trying to do so, but his performance was so layered and brilliant as Guy and he won our hearts as well as our libidos–he stepped up his game, too. And you know I am not a particular fan of JA.

      I loved Guy and Allan–great chemistry there between the actors–and RA and Hermione on Spooks were just fab. Far too little screen time with RPJ as Adam. I tend to think Richard is at his best when he is acting opposite strong talents rather than just pretty faces (sorry, “love interests” on Spooks).
      Compared to so many “celebs” you see/read interviews with, Richard consistenly comes off as intelligent, thoughtful, insightful, good-humored, articulate and gentlemanly. I can’t WAIT to see him do his stuff at Comic-Con!!

      Like

      • I started watching Wire in the Blood, and I have to say Hermione Norris was better opposite Armitage in Spooks than she was opposite the forgettable actor who played the male psychologist in WITB — a huge disappointment to me because I love Norris, and I love the books, but I stopped after the first episode.

        Like

    • Maybe Kidman is a particularly good example of someone who does better in ensemble — if he was looking for an example to illustrate that point. In that case you need the example not of people who are frequently succeeding, but of someone who often doesn’t.

      Which makes me wonder what he thinks of her work otherwise beyond what his statement implies.

      Like

      • I wondered too what he thinks of her work overall. Although I think he would be too polite to say so, does he feel that Nicole Kidman is a marginal actress and this was the best he had ever seen her? Meaning usually she is poor but this time she was slightly better?

        Like

        • yeah, so, going even further out onto the interpretive limb here, given his “nil nisi bene” strategy in interviews, it makes you wonder if in his own circles, it’s commonly agreed that Kidman isn’t that great of an actress and this is actually a defense of her?

          Like

  5. I’m sympathetic toward Jonas (he wouldn’t thank me for that) As I think he performed well, the character had serious flaws, and JA was simply outclassed by a decade-older, more nuanced, and experienced actor. Yes, I think that RA is put on his mettle by really good colleagues – Ros, Joe Armstrong and Keith Allen. I did think Lara/Isaballa worked well with him. Thorin will clearly be a make/break role. (Actually, there are other options – Indie films, etc.)(Big screen move from break-out N&S)I think, while we wish him well in big screen, we are agreed that we just wish better and better roles? OK, if he has to strip off occasionally, no big deal. BTS was actually not entirely gratuious. It worked into the script. Didn’t it?

    Like

    • Good roles in interesting projects–well–written, well-directed, whether in film or television (which is producting some great stuff nowadays) and well cast, that is what I wish for him.

      Happiness, fulfillment, satisfaction with the quality of scripts he’s getting and the opportunity to do the projects HE wants to do, no matter what we may prefer or desire.To paraphrase “Field of Dreams” — If he acts in it, I will go and see it.

      As for BTS–well, the show was titled “Between the Sheets” and it was about dysfunctional sexual relationships. Nudity and sexual content were appropriate for the storyline. it’s not like the “new and definitely NOT improved” Strike Back in which a nude sex scene is thrown in in the first few minutes just because it’s now on Cinemax/HBO and more boobs, butts, bullets and blood are expected. *sigh*

      Like

    • The closer we come to the premier and hopefully the announcement of his next project the more I think that I really want better roles for him, not necessarily international fame. When I look at Hollywood movies and American TV series that might become available to him, there is so little that I really want to see him in. I hope as an alternative he gets the chance to do indie film and high quality British TV productions. The much hyped Tom Hiddleston mostly owes his fame to Thor/The Avengers but has a big part in the current BBC Shakespeare adaptions. Like so often before I wonder why RA isn’t in that and have to remind myself that he’s still in NZ! The BBC likes to cast actors with film experience in their best shows, if RA can get himself into that league a lot will be won.

      Like

      • the interesting things that are happening in U.S. cinema at the moment are not happening in the big Hollywood films, IMO. E.g., “Rabbit Hole”, which was the kind of film with an interesting script that you’d be happy to see your favorite actor in, the faults of its cast notwithstanding, cost $4.2 million to make — now, you sort of assume that Kidman didn’t pay herself (she was a producer), which probably helped. But yeah, the really intriguing stuff, the stuff with storylines, etc., is all being made on the scale of a very large tv budget and the interesting drama has moved to tv. My TA from year before last had a theory about this — that the film industry has put itself into a too big to fail position and so the people who move markets are all scared to move beyond what they think will sell to the larges tpossible markets. TV is easier.

        Like

        • I read in a recent article in EW that there are no mid-budget films to speak of being made in Hollywood anymore. It’s one extreme or the other–films under $10 mill or costing hundreds of millions of dollars and thus needing to be as marketablle to the masses as possible.

          Like

    • I would add: the RH scriptwriters had no idea how to write conflicted hero. No idea. He really suffered from poor plotlines. (and was cast against type, I feel).

      Like

  6. Gratuious is the key. Srrike back was a wee bit indifferently written. A bit of SX-exploitation of Armitage. He did it. No great harm done. No great gain, either. Did it raise his profile? Pays the bills…

    Was just lent Game of Thrones S1, (lender a bit dubious as he thought it might offend) No offense – all those playboy bunny centrefolds running around – utterly gratuitous, rather funny, (not really required on set :D) cut a few of them from scenes! 😀 But not a bad production, on the whole. The Borgias had its share, too. But blood and guts and pure violence is more offensive than nudity and romps in the hay. (Besides, A has a very nice form….)

    Like

    • GoT actually gets better as it goes along IMHO.I wasn’t too sure about it in the first few eps of S1–it took me some time to get into the story and so many characters!!–but during this second series I confess I got hooked and each ep just flew by. Some very good performances, good production values and the little girl who plays Ned Stark’s youngest really comes into her own in the second series. I love the scenes between her and Charles Dance.
      Re violence, there is such a thing as pornographic violence to me–and I don’t mean such violence necessarily has a sexual connection, just that it’s so explicit and gratuitous and makes me feel, I don’t know–violated somehow.

      I don’t seem to mind violence in period and fantasy pieces such as GoT as much as contemporary dramas. Perhaps it is because I know life was nasty, brutish and short in past centuries?

      Like

    • When you take away the violence (you don’t have to show how people’s heads get cut off, it is enough that it happens) and the naked whores running around, GoT offers a lot of opportunities for great acting. Great, multi-layered characters that are slowly evolving.

      Like

      • They do love the naked whores, don’t they? 😉

        Seriously, there is some great acting, definitely. I’ve loved Peter Dinklage since I saw him in The Station Agent a few years ago. Lena Headey as his villainous sister actually showed us some vulnerability this season in terms of her young daughter that allowed us to feel some empathy for her, not an easy tthing to do.

        I already mentioned young Maisie Williams as Arya. Such a talent. So much plotting and intrigue and treachery and politics–and dragons, too! What more could a girl want? 😀 I admit I watched the episode of the great battle no less than five times.

        I would love to be at that panel but I am not sure yet what my schedule will be at Comic-Con.

        Like

        • I like how GoT actually is not very action and fantasy heavy but has long dialogue scenes that allow us to get to know the characters, their motivations and development. It just takes some time to get into the plot and to differentiate the characters. At first I couldn’t tell all the young people and kids living in Winterfell apart.

          Like

          • Yeah, I think that was my problem at first-not having read the books, I was having a hard time differentiating between all the characters. But one of the advantages of all those characters is how all their stories are interwoven as the plot moves along, keeping us interested as we move between the different families and kingdoms.

            And yes, character development is not sacrified at the altar of special effects and action sequences. That’s why I watched the Blackwater ep so many times–as impressive as that green fire sequence was in the harbor, it was the dialogue and interplay between the characters that kept me riveted. And Martin himself actually wrote that ep, as I recall.

            Like

  7. What a beautiful and thought-provoking thing for RA to say: to comment on how a film might have a mini-moment during which an unexpected scene can transform an actor and take his/her performance to a new level. It actually makes me think, Servetus, that this must have been a wonderful quote to find — because it indicates so nicely (albeit too briefly) one of the ways he thinks about acting and what two actors can do for one another in a scene.

    I hadn’t watched that scene with Armitage’s insight — I too found the film disappointing — but now that I see it again I’m reminded how much I thought about how Jason allows Becca to be something other: she gets to be a little maternal, but also a little bit attractive, and a little bit like a teacher, and a little bit forgiving. It’s as if that conversation allows her to try out all manner of other ways of being.

    And Serv, what a sweet spot of a post about acting. Love it.

    Like

    • Hi Serv,
      I agree with what Didion said. Thanks so much for bringing this film to our attention as an example of how Richard Armitage views his art form. It was most illuminating.
      Cheers! Grati ;->
      P.S. And given his understated performance, I think Teller is someone to watch for the future.

      Like

      • Teller: me too. He’s cute but not stunning, which bodes well for the aging of his face, too.

        Like

        • I was struck by the thought while watching those clips that Teller was not cast for his looks but his talent. There are far too many young actors who seem to be chosen more for their beauty than for their ability or suitability for playing the role.

          The last adaptation of Great Expectations offered a Pip who was prettier, frankly, than the actress playing Adele, but who didn’t offer much more for me than the surface gloss.

          Like

    • it’s also an ethical statement, I think, which is fascinating.

      Thanks.

      Like

  8. I’m watching Strikeback Project Dawn again (I know its sad but I did buy it on DVD as I don’t have Sky) and now I’m not hanging out for every word about Porter’s betrayal I realise the programme is awful………I lent SB1 to everyone I knew and was very happy to do so but not SB2 i’m so glad RA couldn’t continue with it.
    However the billboard for SB did get him Capt America which just goes to show luck and being in the right place can be so important.
    RA always praises his fellow actors which is commenable but I just wonder if other acors also do this…………sometimes I am so biased in my support for RA that I don’t read about other actors. I did make the exception about Jonas Armstrong the other day but he has been in trouble with the police and I’m not going to repeat it but I was suprised to discover he was another public schoolboy.

    Like

    • I am not that interested in other actors. I don’t hate them — I just don’t care — but Armitagemania for me is not about drama per se, it’s definitely about Armitage.

      I do think other actors praise each other’s performances, but I don’t think they go out of their way to do it the way Armitage does.

      Like

      • Is it wrong to notice that this behavior plays into both ‘Autotelic’ and ‘Furtive’ Armitage tropes?

        Like

        • No, and that’s very perceptive. If you talk about other people a lot, you can get away with saying less about yourself. People don’t expect it from actors — who often appear so self-involved as to be narcissistic — and so people who behave as Armitage does get extra virtue points.

          Like

  9. Has TV snaffled the quality market? Most films I want to see are not on general distribution (Best Little Marigold Hotel 😀 etc.) TV is more accessible.

    GoT is definitely engaging. It does take some time to sort out the characters, and Sean Bean seemed to rather dominate the first series – but perhaps that is because we are familiar with him. Sherlock is really good, and Cumberbatch’s odd features fascinate me. Rather amazing facial structure. PBS is reprising Zen; the more I see that, the less I think of Rufus Sewell as just a pretty face….Hoping that the upcoming “Young Morse” will prove itself…

    Like

    • I just watched “Young Morse” and I am suitably impressed. Re TV and the quality market, one of the best things I have seen in a while is “Homeland” which is on–Showtime or HBO, I can’t remember at the moment–with that amazing Damian Lewis once again demonstrating he can do a most credible American accent and act well indeed.
      And Claire Danes as the CIA agent struggling with an illness she has tried to hide is dazzling.
      I would love to see Mr. A do something like that for television–well scripted with strong characters and an involving storyline.

      Like

      • I have often said that I’m strongly against accepting a role in a long running series again. A mini series is just fine, but a series that runs for several years and has a large number of episodes (as opposed to something like Sherlock with just three) leaves no room for anything else and can potentially become a trap. On the other hand I understand that it may be a desirable thing for an actor to create a character over a long period of time and to work in a familiar environment and with familiar cast and crew instead of starting anew every few months. I’m just still mourning the opportunities RA might have missed because of his long-term commitments.

        Like

        • he needs a more supervisory role, so he can make more decisions — then a longer commitment would be okay.

          Like

    • Didion would totally agree with you about the distribution problem w/r/t films — it’s really hard to see a lot of great films until they go to DVD.

      Like

  10. When I heard RA mention this scene with Nicole Kidman, I assumed he considered the movie worthwhile as well as NK’s acting. (But I’m biased and would never believe RA could ever intend anything other than positive motivation for anything he says or does –just kidding) I’ve seen a lot of Nicole Kidman’s movies. Some are awful and some are quite good. The movie “The Others” is one of the scariest movies I’ve seen in years. It reminded me of movies from the 60’s like “The Innocents” with Deborah Kerr or “The Haunting” with Julie Harris. I also liked Cold Mountain (where her beauty overshadowed her acting) but as usual the book was better than the movie. She was pretty bad in “Austrialia” even to the point of embarrassment which I believe even she admitted to. But I think that’s what happens when actors take risks. It’s better than being the same type of character in every movie.

    Like

    • To make justice to Nicole Kidman I’d like to recall Gus Van Sant’s “To Die For” (1995), where NK made perhaps the greatest role of the career (teamed with Matt Dillon and young Joaquin Phoenix). I also liked everything around Baz Luhrmann’s “Moulin Rouge” including singing, dancing and blood-coughing NK (but here I’m not sure in this case I can tell dancer from the dance). I also agree that that entire silicone-botox thing reduced expressiveness of her face (as I can remember she had quite remarkable capability of asymmetrical eyebrow moving, as well those tiny twitches of the corner of the mouth, all now dead due to botulinum).

      Like

      • all I can say is I have no real opinion; I haven’t seen enough of her work (as the post says)

        Like

  11. Thank you so much for your analysis, Servetus!

    I so want RA to tell us all about the casting process. I have a hunch that THIS was THE scene he had to do as Thorin during his auditions:

    “Armitage does a great job with Thorin’s inner struggle. The look on his face isn’t someone locked into a decision. Gandalf urges him to seek Elrond’s help, for the good of quest. Instead of playing it like a stone-faced general, Armitage does weigh his options and mostly in reaction to Gandalf’s words, not in his own dialogue.

    In other words he conveys the struggle with his face, giving Thorin a depth I was anticipating. I’m sure the inclination would be for Armitage to play it stubborn and he does, but he layers it with some real emotion.”

    thttp://www.aintitcool.com/node/52094he

    Like

  12. Skipping the comments here, so pardon if it’s already been mentioned, but the whole expressionless thing with Kidman … isn’t she Botoxed to high heavens? That could be why …

    I take RA’s comments about Kidman to have the underlying meaning of “I don’t think she’s a particularly good actress normally”.

    What if RA had been the husband instead of Eckhart? Now there’s a thought …

    How an actor can draw a good performance out of their co-stars is something that’s been discussed at lengths in the Sam Neill fan community. He’ll be in something and his co-stars will get the award nominations, because he draws a great performance out of them and at the same time, puts himself in the shade. Then again, like RA, he seems to like hanging back and let the spotlight settle on others rather than himself. A sort of humble modesty. Darn attractive trait in a bloke. 🙂

    Like

    • Thanks for sharing the story about Sam Neill, Traxy! He’s always so dependably dependable!! I still remember his character from ‘The Hunt For Red October’ as 1st Officer to Sean Connery’s submarine captain. He was the PERFECT supporting actor in that film, although that movie had plenty of other excellent actors in it too. 😉

      Like

      • It sure did! 🙂 Sam Neill is my OTHER favourite actor, who I technically found maybe five years before I became a fan of RA.

        Like

        • Yeah, he’s a keeper, that Sam Neill. Although, how is it that ‘The Hunt for Red October’ came out in 1990? 22 years ago!! Egads.

          My other favorite character from that movie (after Sam Neill’s) was Seaman Jones, played by Courtney B Vance. He seems like another super sweetie and his real-life story sounds quite wonderful as well, which makes me happy.

          Like

    • yeah — the kind of guy you want to marry.

      Like

  13. […] the answer). I suspect this notion lies at the basis of Richard Armitage’s conviction that he does best when he’s reacting to someone else in a scene (and his desire to avoid situations in which he’s not reacting to anyone present, although we […]

    Like

  14. […] know the answer). I suspect this notion lies at the basis of Richard Armitage’s conviction that he does best when he’s reacting to someone else in a scene (and his desire to avoid situations in which he’s not reacting to anyone present, although we […]

    Like

  15. […] activity and wonder who went along with him to judge. Plus: Urbinati’s styled Miles Teller, whose work Armitage has complimented as transforming the acting of Nicole Kidman.) He will be wearing something predictably fashionably spectacular. Of course, fashion involves […]

    Like

  16. […] is the flip side of one his strengths: his ensemble playing. Armitage has repeatedly stated that he prefers ensemble work and he thinks the level of an actor’s work is substantially raised by…. In that sense, too, The Crucible was a good choice for him because although Proctor’s […]

    Like

  17. […] films (guilty pleasures); he joked that he missed his scene in Star Wars: The Phantom Menace; he has seen Rabbit Hole and liked Miles Teller in it; he occasionally will see films like Into the Storm if he needs to relax or space out (which […]

    Like

  18. […] is listening to phone messages from Claudia — all she has left of her friend. The act of replaying media of deceased friends has become a kind of cultural trope recently, but for various reasons I still find it moving — perhaps because my father kept my […]

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

 
%d bloggers like this: