Monday, January 22, 2007


Newsweek's annual pre-Oscar nomination actor roundtable is up on their site for this year, with participants Cate Blanchett, Penelope Cruz, Leonardo DiCaprio, Helen Mirren, Brad Pitt and Forest Whitaker, a staggering collection of talent. I've been a big fan of this feature every year and coming out of Sundance it's kinduva perfect segueway back in to Hollywood. Brilliant artists talking about their art, but artists with per diems that could finance a couple of Slamdance entries at a time.

One nice thing this year is that they have clips of the actors talking. Forest Whitaker seems like a particularly cool guy and Helen Mirren gives away some fascinating tips on her Queen Elizabeth portrayal, slipping into character here and there. But I think the decision to do the roundtable in front of an audience (for the first time) is at the cost of candor. Now the actors aren't just gabbing and sharing secrets with mainly crew around, they're on a live stage in a performance situation. The roundtable is suggested by the shape of what the actors sit behind but it is no longer a seamless 360 degree gathering surface. Lateral seating position is now a factor. Do the two actors seated in the middle have the best agents? It's a talk show format rather than a semi-private conversation, although Brad Pitt deserves credit for trying to incite more interplay among the panelists.

It's still interesting because they are all amongst this year's more interesting, accomplished performers, and I thought DiCaprio in particular came across guileless and grateful. His is my favorite quote from the (edited, of course) transcript:
You're all rich. You're all famous. You've all received critical acclaim. Why work? Why keep acting?

DICAPRIO: I love it. There's no other art form in the world that affects me more. There's nothing that I walk away from feeling transformed by the way I do with cinema. There's something so gratifying about being burned into celluloid and knowing that I can look back later in life and have stories about those experiences. It's an amazing gift.

While I never got myself burned into celluloid during my brief stint working on features, the sentiment about the stories, the experiences, rings true. You got that buzz at Sundance/Slamdance, partying with the cast and crew of American Zombie, hanging out at the Producer's Brunch where the participants don't have to convince each other that it's their movie, too, and doing the little crazy production there with Ester Goldberg for Zannel.

That's what keeps the movie making junkies coming back for more.

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