In 1989, during a performance of Hamlet at the National Theater, Daniel Day-Lewis walked off the stage. Like Hamlet, he claimed, he’d seen his father’s ghost. He never took to the stage again. With this week’s announcement that Day-Lewis is retiring from acting, it looks like his film days are over, too. And when Daniel Day-Lewis commits to something, he really commits.
Cue the public mourning for one of our most dedicated actors, a man as famous for avoiding the cameras as he is for standing in front of them. Day-Lewis embodied Acting with a capital A, embracing all of its finicky pretense. The end of his career may also be the end of an era for the great method actor — and the brilliant, if reluctant, male movie star.
Geronilla is mercurial. Mussed hair, holes in his sweatshirt, shattered iPhone. He listens to the xx on vinyl and shares his bedroom with two brothers, one of whom has enlisted in the Army. The room is lined with cameras, including a Red Epic digital, and videotapes of “Dr. Zhivago” and “Some Like it Hot.” He sleeps on a roll-up futon, edits and shoots commercials and music videos. Aside from the two other scripts he’s working on, he’s writing a thriller set in an auto shop that he estimates will cost $500,000 to make, or “maybe $100,000 can still make it look good.”
Hoston is slender and her hair falls deep south of her shoulders. Glasses perched on her nose, she likes precision; a quiet presence who on-screen can glow bright as a filament. She has a quick laugh and on most days is bigger than her doubts. On her way to a recent acting class, she worked on “not smooshing words together” when reading lines. She has a new agent and manager and head shot photos for pilot season. She’s been told to edit her demo reel down to 40 seconds. “How can I show them who I am in that time?” she agonizes.
You see, the pitfalls of the audition room and the airport interrogation room are the same. They are places where the threat of rejection is real. They are also places where you are reduced to your marketability or threat-level, where the length of your facial hair can be a deal-breaker, where you are seen, and hence see yourself, in reductive labels — never as “just a bloke called Dave”. The post 9/11 Necklace tightens around your neck.
I had so far managed to avoid this in the audition room, but now I faced the same threat at US airports. It didn’t help that The Road to Guantánamo had left my passport stamped with an Axis of Evil world tour — shooting in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Iran within six months. I spent the flight sweating in defiance of air-conditioning, wondering what would await me.
When I landed, the officer assessing me shared my skin colour. I wondered whether this was a good sign or if he was one of the legendarily patriotic Cuban border officers I had heard about, determined to assess how star-spangled I was with a thumb up the anus.
He looked at my passport, then at me, frowned and drew a big ‘P’ over my immigration card. I immediately thought it stood for Paki.
I was led down a long corridor, without explanation, before turning into a side room that felt instantly familiar.
“Michael Cera, I had seen him in a pilot and I reached out through the casting director, like, ‘there was this kid in this pilot, can you please try to track him down.’ Two weeks went by, and we’d seen all these — you know, kid actors in Hollywood, a lot of them come up through that Disney channel, or through — back then it was Barney. So you get really, like, these hammy kids. Precocious, you know. So I’m waiting to hear, and finally the casting director says to me, ‘great news, Michael Cera likes the script.’ And I’m like, ‘who’s Michael Cera?’ ‘The kid that you wanted us to get.’ ‘That was Michael Cera? We’ve been waiting to see whether this 12-year-old likes the material? Good, uh, I’m glad he likes the material.’ And, you know, that’s Michael Cera — you know what I mean? Only Michael Cera would be as a 12-year-old, ‘Yeah, I like this. This is good.’ It’s such an important part — television is so much about continuing to work with people, and I mean, that was just fortune. All of them.”
In its subject matter, “Orphan Black” broods on the nature-nurture debate in human biology, but in its execution, the show cleverly extends the same question to matters of genre. What does the exact same woman look like if you grow her in the petri dish of “Desperate Housewives” or on a horror-film set in Eastern Europe? What about a police procedural? The result is a revelation: Instead of each archetype existing as the lone female character in her respective universe, these normally isolated tropes find one another, band together and seek to liberate themselves from the evil system that created them.
By structuring the story around the clones’ differences, “Orphan Black” seems to suggest that the dull sameness enforced by existing female archetypes needs to die. Early in the first season, there is a serial killer hunting down the clones — it turns out to be Helena, the Ukrainian — who ritualistically dismembers Barbie dolls after dyeing their hair to match that of her next victim. It’s a creepy touch, but one that can also be read as a metacriticism of how women are used on TV: the punishing beauty standards to which they’re held, the imposed uniformity. (Need a new sitcom wife? Grab the prototype and change the hairstyle.) Our low tolerance for difference among female characters means that they will almost always be less interesting, less memorable and less beloved than their male counterparts. In this context, Helena becomes a kind of hero, slaughtering televisual conformity and constituting, in both her savagery and her warmth, a radical expansion of what women on television can be. And each character, including the criminally insane one, gets considerable attention and respect, even when it comes to questions about butter.
Mike Nichols, the beloved director of stage and screen—from Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and The Graduate, to Barefoot in the Park and Working Girl— died Nov. 19, 2014 at the age of 83. Here are four pieces on the life of the artist.Read more…
“In my mid–20s, an actor told me, ‘Acting ain’t no puzzle,’ ” Hoffman said, after returning to his seat. “I thought: ‘Ain’t no puzzle?!?’ You must be bad!” He laughed. “You must be really bad, because it is a puzzle. Creating anything is hard. It’s a cliché thing to say, but every time you start a job, you just don’t know anything. I mean, I can break something down, but ultimately I don’t know anything when I start work on a new movie. You start stabbing out, and you make a mistake, and it’s not right, and then you try again and again. The key is you have to commit. And that’s hard because you have to find what it is you are committing to.”