Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Now, Gods, Stand Up For Sabretooth!

http://www.npr.org/rss/podcast/podcast_detail.php?siteId=5183214

In this week’s episode of “NPR’s Wait Wait, Don’t Tell Me” they have a good deal of fun with actor Liev Schrieber who is currently playing mutant Sabretooth in the new movie Wolverine.  But he is also an accomplished Shakespearean, and they have a grand time with that.  Schrieber himself makes the X-Men / King Lear comparison, first noting that today’s comic book movies are very similar to Shakespeare, then later going with “Shakespeare is easier.”

“I’m just glad you didn’t say Snagglepuss.”
     “Also a fine Shakespearean actor, not a lot of people
       know that.  Exeunt, stage left!”
”I can’t believe I never squeezed that in.”

9 comments:

Willshill said...

...comic book movies are very similar to Shakespeare, then later going with “Shakespeare is easier.”

Well...I think that statement has veracity only when considered from the viewpoint of someone who might be 'Shakespeare-capable'. Once learned, classical technique can be applied to any genre in varying degrees. And Shakespeare is infinitely more well-written than most of what is churned out today; this is a great help in translation to an actor; and is a great help when applied to dialog made difficult simply because it's badly written. --never mind the hurdle the costuming itself creates initially. Can you imagine Magneto played by someone, shall we say, less adept than Sir Ian? The possibility of a descriptive adjective on the order of 'ludicrous' comes to mind.

Duane said...

Did you happen to listen to the bit? They cover those points, noting that "the best villains are the Shakespeare actors" (a nod to McKellen, obviously), and Schrieber's explanation of Shakespeare being easier is, "Well, there's no green screen. And it's not like you're going to argue with the writing."

Willshill said...

No, my comment was 'off the cuff' so to speak. Nice to be confirmed once in a while--thanks for the flag:) I'll go listen to it.

Willshill said...

Fun Interview--
I only wish, in cases like this, that time would allow for a wee bit more development. Younger actors would benefit greatly from this knowledge; they have a great tendency to shun involvement, both practically and technically, when it comes to Shakespeare. In the US, Actors Studio "Method" rules; playing oneself is the Maxim, "type-casting" the Rule--respectively, both an impossibility and something of a non-necessity when it comes to achieving true success with Shakespeare's work, where one has to "be someone else" altogether.

Duane said...

http://blog.shakespearegeek.com/2009/03/sir-ian-pretending.html

"And I say to him, you are aware that I am not really a wizard? And he said Yes I am aware of that, what I want you to do is use your acting skills to portray a wizard for the duration of the film."

"How did I know what to say? It was written down. How did I know where to stand? People told me."

Willshill said...

Pretty much says it all, I think, Duane. Learn how to do the Words; learn the Words; don't bump into the scenery. Oh...and in the URL for Sir Ian--the word 'pretending'--Remember how to Imagine. If you've forgotten...ask a kid.

Craig said...

I sympathize completely. Lots of actors make their motto, "_Trust_ Shakespeare." That is to say, give yourself to the text and the character, and even the seemingly inscrutable or absurd will probably end up making sense and maybe even be wonderful and powerful.

No one ever says, "_Trust_ the rogues' gallery of hacks, studio executives, marketers and money men who produce the third sequel to a Hollywood movie based on comic book characters."

Though the McKellen bit is wonderful, too. You really have to appreciate it when a guy like that is willing to pull his own nose a bit. "Everything you need is in the text," indeed.

Willshill said...

Graig wrote:I sympathize completely. Lots of actors make their motto, "_Trust_ Shakespeare." That is to say, give yourself to the text...

Of course, there's effort involved in learning HOW to do that. But once acquired, the knowledge of what's embodied in the text--the totality of what he was actually doing-- provides an amazing foundation from which to THEN extrapolate.
One of the best instructions I ever received from an acting teacher: "Learn HOW to trust Shakespeare's Words and they will 'Act You'." After all, he was an Actor first. It's really his Technique we need to uncover and explore. The best of them have done that 1st, or have, at least, eventually learned to put that first.

Willshill said...

Craig, I was skimming over past topics and it struck me that there's a lot more to your statement:

" No one ever says, ' Trust_ the rogues' gallery of hacks, studio executives, marketers and money men who produce the third sequel to a Hollywood movie based on comic book characters.' ".

That's true if we're speaking of those "in the know"--those who understand the value and primary importance of the Text as vehicle to characterization.
I don't know about you, but it's been my experience in all areas; acting, directing, and teaching that, in general, most are still under the spell of those "hacks" of whom you speak; not directly but indirectly through the philosophy and examples set in both the academic and professional arenas where the exercise called "Acting" is learned and practiced.

Unfortunately, there are many fewer 'heroes' to worship who aren't still mouthing the Method Maxim that the words don't matter. And unfortunately, both the neophyte and the experienced are under the impression that even these heroes--they who might otherwise be perceived as cutting against the grain of the status quo--espouse what's regularly regurgitated in our acting schools and college and university programs.
I participated in an extended discussion about this on the playshakespeare blog a while back. It seems the impression is still that 'Stanislavsky' rules--under the very different guise of Mr. Strasberg, of course, who gave us not Stanislavsky at all, but rather his own (rather egotistically tainted and somewhat sick, in my opinion) overworking of a very small, totally misconceived, piece of Stanislavsky's theories on acting.

This, unfortunately, has proven itself to be the case, over and over again, in my own experience. Most actors I've had occasion to direct and/or teach, on whatever level, are still trying to "find or 'be' themselves" in the role, rather than realizing that they must actually give themselves up and "assume" or "wear" a Shakespearean character. Simply put, they fight the Words instead of embracing them.