Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Those English Actors

Don't want to disrespect their American counterparts, but when I first saw "Band of Brothers" on HBO I was impressed by the quintessential Americanness of the actor who played Captain Winters. His name was Damian Lewis. He looked like a second banana from the old "Gunsmoke" series, so I wasn't surprised I hadn't seen his sitcom.

Then I saw his twin brother in a British mystery on PBS poncing around with a High Limey accent.
Separated at birth, obviously. Prime subjects for an I.Q. study. And if one were gay: research gold.

But it wasn't his brother. It was him.

Last night I stayed up rather too late watching "Topsy Turvy," the semi-musical about how Gilbert and Sullivan created the Mikado. Appreciation of the multi-level delight this movie brings is a reliable index of how gladly I will listen to your conversation for more than six minutes. (Not to worry. Rather like a donut, I am glazed with politeness so you may natter on.)

About halfway through the movie appeared a tall blond actor who with great pomposity played one of G&S's singer/actors, and who in that character sang a lovely Nanki-Poo. He looked familiar. In what fop role had I seen him on PBS? I Googled the cast list. His name is Kevin McKidd. He was in Trainspotting! He plays the tormented centurion on HBO's "Rome" series. He's lean, he's deadly.
In old Rome, he don't ever sing nor look like he wants to.

For all I know, just as many American actors are multi-faceted and could move just as smoothly between disparate roles. Some established U.S. movie and TV stars or even singers or even hiphopists do allow themselves to be embedded short-term in certain Broadway productions, where they managed to beguile some of the critics some of the time, mostly by just being themselves. If they remember all their lines and don't know down the furniture, points are given.

But in Britain these seamless talents move between roles so different in their demands -- and meet those demands so expertly -- that the actors cannot possibly be the same person, you would SWEAR.

Don't see that much of that over here, do we? Maybe at a certain point in an actor's career Attention Deficit Disorder is a good thing when it comes to picking roles.


G Pabst said...

The movie "Duets" give some pretty fair actors a chance to sing. Paul Giamatti is very good. Gwyneth Paltrow is passible (her Dad directed) but the often-very-scay Andre Braugher is top-notch.
I recommend a rent.
And Richard Gere ssurprised us in "Chicago" that he can sing AND dance.
And, face it, there are fairly few fop parts in American movies - most notably that of Don Diego DeLaVega and Bruce Wayne, both of whch have an opposite nature as their evil-fighting secret selves

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