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Saturday, 7 September 2013

The Longevity Factor: Your Acting Career Is Not What You Think It Is

Recently I watched a film from the 80's, 'Turf Turf' starring James Spader and Robert Downey Jr. Spader was the lead. Later on Downey would get the Oscars and the franchises, but for a time, James Spader was the man. 

And I watched 'Say Anything' and 'Singles', where we see tiny parts for Jeremy Piven. He was fun, he was engaging on screen. But he wasn't Ari from 'Entourage.' It just wasn't his time yet -- twenty years would have to pass. 

If we're gonna stick with the Cameron Crowe theme, I also re-watched 'Fast Times At Ridgemont High'. So many of those actors, you say; 'where the hell are they now?' But Nicholas Cage is one of the biggest movie stars in the world. 

But wait, Nicholas Cage was in 'Fast Times..'? Yes, as an extra, just like how Paul Giamatti had one line in 'Singles'. 


Some actors peak early. Ione Skye was perfect as Diane Court. But who would have thought 'Say Anything' would be the pinnacle for her? Who knew John Cusack would go on to have such a great career? 

It's like when I'm making a film, some actors that know me get offended that I only had a role for them with two lines, whereas someone else got the lead. 

But two lines is two lines and twenty five years from now might be your time, when you wouldn't even do my movie because you're too big for me; you're an Oscar winner who commands twenty million a flick. 

But in the immediacy of right now, everyone is racing to reach the top - the top seemingly being the most lines, the biggest amount of pay. 

Paul Giamatti is a bigger actor than Campbell Scott now. But in 1992, when 'Singles' came out - Scott was the right person for the role, and Giamatti was light years from 'Sideways'.


Just like Forest Whitaker in 'Fast Times..' He was hardly memorable, but he did a good job. Thing is, you just wouldn't have given him a leading role then because he wasn't the Forest Whitaker we grew to know and love -- he was just a fairly anonymous actor learning his trade, struggling for roles. 

Actors size themselves up against each other. They get jealous that Marie is a regular on a sitcom, and that Fred got cast in new Ricky Gervais film. But when you look at the bigger picture, there's no need to get jealous in the short term - because someone else's career has nothing to do with your own.

Right now you might think you know what Felicity Jones' career is about, or Jennifer Lawrence, but they rarely work out how you think they will. There was a time when Kyra Sedgwick was in absolutely everything - but now the 90's are gone and times move on. 

And Jeremy Piven did enough tiny roles that eventually, he broke through. I mean, there are different levels of breaking through. But for years he had only two lines in movies. Then he played the best friend sidekick in movies like 'The Family Man' and 'Serendipity'.


That is already great success. 

But then 'Entourage' happened. And you think you know what his career is about and then he gets 'Mr. Selfridge.' Wow. 

What a great career! 

And what looked like struggling in the eighties wasn't struggling, it was the path. The struggling WAS the path. Struggling IS the path. 

You don't just walk into a great role. And sometimes you do, like Patrick Fugit in 'Almost Famous', but where's he now? He just has Cameos in Cameron Crowe movies. 

Right now someone is a superstar, and somebody else is nobody. But that has absolutely no bearing on where they'll be twenty years from now. 

It's a roller-coaster. Maybe it's your time right now, maybe it isn't. At the time of 'Jerry Maguire' it looked like Jay Mohr would be a major actor - but eventually the roles dried up and he stayed with stand-up comedy and, eventually, podcasting. 


The point I am making is that a career is long. James Spader has a fantastic career, filled with truly memorable roles. But it panned out differently to how it might have looked when they shot 'Turf Turf' back in 1985. 

And Robert Downey Jr had talent in that film. But did he stand out above Spader? Well no, not really. You wouldn't have known that seven years after that he'd get an Academy Award. Or that twenty-three years later he'd be Iron Man!

You don't need to guess at your career. You don't need to have it all figured out and you don't need to win an Oscar tomorrow. You just need to get better at your craft. If you're eighteen or twenty six or thirty-two, you might feel like now is the time. But maybe you're not Felicity Jones, you're not Ryan Gosling. Maybe you're Tom Wilkinson. You're Eddie Marsan. Maybe your career is landing in a different way, in a different time. 

It's a craft. And sure, there's luck involved. But if the history of film teaches us anything- it's that it takes time. 

You career is not what you think it is. The way it is now is just the way it is now, tomorrow is a whole different ballgame. 

Care to share?

4 comments:

  1. Good article...just one correction: Downey has not won an Oscar. He has two nominations, but no win. He does have an Emmy, a Globe, a BAFTA, and a SAG award.

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  2. Hi,
    Sometimes I read your blog, and usually it's worth it. You have interesting thoughts. Keep going!
    About the subject of your post, I think we need to be ready. We have to try, try, learn, learn, and finally we'll be ready, and succeed. Some are ready early in their life, some need more time. If you have the passion, you'll succeed eventually. Just keep tryin'.

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  3. One great lesson learned, “If opportunity knocks, make the most of it". Who would have thought that Nicolas Cage would make himself a big name when he just started out as an extra? In anything we do, we should give it our best no matter how small your role is. It is still a role to fill.

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  4. The other day I was thinking about Renee Zellweger and what a big deal she was in the early 2000s when she really just made it and it looked like she was going to stick around and be in Important Mainstream Movies for years to come. Not to say that her career is over, but it certainly doesn't seem to have the same staying power as some of her contemporaries, namely Cate Blanchett, Nicole Kidman, Naomi Watts, who were big when she was big, and are still working. Apparently she's stopped working because she's adopted a baby, but we'll see, I guess.

    However, the expiration dates on actresses seem to be a lot more common than those of their male counterparts. Though, obviously, this isn't always true--Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, Judi Dench are still getting a steady flow of work, so if you have talent and charisma, regardless of gender, you'll stay for a while.

    That being said, I wished Patrick Fugit became a bigger star. Who knew in 2013 that Zooey Deschanel would be bigger than Patrick Fugit?

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