Actors and performers generally are a bit like normal people only not quite. Back in the day – and maybe this remains true today for all I know – it used to be said that, at any given moment, 90% of actors were out of work.
Equity (the actors’ union) is in a not-dissimilar position to the Musicians’ Union – 5% or less of its membership makes mega-millions, appears on television chat-shows, wins BAFTA awards, knighthoods, MBEs, appears in magazine supplements and become national treasures … and the rest, broadly, starve.
In this life, people get used to what they get used to. Or, to put it another way, they become complacent.
What’s the hardest thing to take about getting old for an elite professional sportsman or woman? It’s not so much the fact that it becomes harder and harder to improve, or stay at the pinnacle, as younger pretenders fight their way to the top and eventually challenge you. It’s the sad but inevitable fact that – as a sportsmen and women decline – they can no longer command the wages they enjoyed when they were at their absolute peak.
Think about it. In most other professions, generally-speaking, the older and wiser – indeed, the better – you become, the more you get paid. It must be frustrating to be a great sporting star. You can fight the ageing process, but you cannot beat it.
Meanwhile those in the performing arts (e.g. actors, musicians, dancers) have a certain edge to their lives, viz. the chance to benefit from a strange random ‘plucked from obscurity’ potential impetus to their careers at any time.
No doubt he’s a brilliant actor, but he also had the good fortune to get picked at the age of 11 to be the movie face of the Harry Potter phenomenon.
One actress may live from hand to mouth, playing bit-parts and supporting roles, forever.
Another actress may do similar for twenty years – and then suddenly get picked for a part that makes them a household name, takers them to a new level – better opportunities, meatier roles … and eventually life as a Hollywood superstar.
Not many accountants get that sort of opportunity.
One of the things that irritates me most about the acting profession is the emotional and intellectual incontinence of their egos.
There was a time, maybe forty years ago and more now, when the biggest talking-point about the annual Oscars awards ceremony in Hollywood was not the list of nominees for any of the categories from Best Film, Best Screenplay, Best Supporting Actress or Best Actor, or even who won – but in whatever-crasser way would the next winner disrespect the evening, the Academy, their fellow actors and the television audience watching at home by using the occasion to make some [reasonable, ditzy, obscurest or bizarre] political protest about something?
Who can fail to remember George C. Scott refusing to accept the Best Actor Oscar for Patton in 1970, describing Oscar night as a ‘demeaning two-hour meat parade’?
Or Marlon Brando sending a female Native American activist to accept his Oscar for The Godfather in 1973, in protest at the way in which Native Americans had been portrayed in Hollywood films?
Or Halle Berry’s speech for Best Actress Oscar in 2002 for Monster’s Ball, in which she referred to all the black women before her who had not received such recognition in the past?
What is it with actors that makes them feel that their personal/political views somehow matter?
Step forward motor-mouth Russell Brand as a British case in point …
Last night – by default – I watched the British Academy Television Awards, hosted by Graham Norton, on BBC1 at 8.00pm. These, I believe, were broadcast as if ‘live’, but in fact had been delayed by an hour in order to allow the producers to squeeze what amounted to a long, long evening in a theatre into a tight 120-minute transmission slot by ‘cutting out’ the longeurs, pauses, embarrassments and cock-ups.
As a television viewer – but not a political animal, I hasten to add – I found the experience ‘reduced’ by the fact that no fewer than three of the award winners last night chose to pass snide adverse comments in their acceptance speeches upon the outcome of last week’s General Election, presumably because they were bemoaning the fact that the bulk of the UK public had been too thick, racist, right wing and posh to come to the ‘correct’ decision (which – in their view – obviously would have been to vote Labour).
Call me old-fashioned and reactionary, but I found this all rather inappropriate. Most actors are weird individuals with warped ideas about life and their position in it – very rarely are they role models for anything.
The only thing that did surprise me was that – with the ‘hour of editing time’ available to them, the BBC producers – mindful of their supposed Reithian responsibility to be impartial – didn’t use some of it to excise these blatantly-political statements from what was broadcast on the night.
Oh, wait a minute … I forgot … silly me!
This was the BBC after all, the most lefty-biased organisation in British public life.
And, of course, when you get the acting profession and BBC insiders combining together in an enterprise, you inevitably tend get ‘luvvie propaganda’ by the bucket-load …