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ACTORS GOING BY THE (COMIC) BOOK

by | Jul 27, 2008 | Detroit Free Press | 0 comments

I’m a very serious actor.

And I’m wearing a cape.

I’ve done Shakespeare in the Park. I’ve done Circle Rep. I’ve done experimental performance art workshops in which I played a half-eaten apple.

I’m a very serious actor.

And I’m wearing tights.

I have stage cred like you wouldn’t believe. Worked in London’s West End and New York’s off-Broadway. Been to Russia to do Chekhov, to Germany to do Brecht. Been to Ireland to do Beckett at the Abbey Theatre. They loved me. Brought the house down.

I’m a very serious actor.

I’m wearing a utility belt.

I am playing Aquaman. Or maybe it’s Superman. It could be the Flash – he’s the one who runs, isn’t he? It’s so hard to keep straight. Most of the time, I am hanging by wires in front of a giant green screen. I could be anybody. Well, anybody who flies through the air. I hang while they get the lights and the wind and the computers just right.

Then all I do is look straight ahead.

I’m a very serious actor.

Under my mask.

Everybody’s doing it

What else can I do? What is everyone else doing? Playing a superhero, that’s what they’re doing. Take Robert Downey Jr. An actor’s actor. We all love him. He did one small art film after another. Played drug addicts and psychotics. Played Charlie Chaplin, for pete’s sake. Got nominated for an Oscar.

But once he put on the Iron Man suit, everything changed. That movie has made, like, a half a billion dollars. And now Downey rules the world.

What about Edward Norton? His chops are immense. Did you see him in “The Painted Veil” or “The Illusionist” or “Primal Fear”? No?

I bet you saw him in “The Incredible Hulk.”

Once you go green, you never go back.

What about Heath Ledger? Poor guy. Played Casanova. Brilliant. Played Ned Kelly. Brilliant. Does “Brokeback Mountain” so well it makes you cry. But only when he paints his face white and his lips red in “The Dark Knight” is he immortalized.

OK. Also because he died. But I’m not going that far for my art.

These rubber gloves are tough enough.

Battle is on for superheroes

Playing superheroes used to be beneath serious actors like me. You wanted the Hulk, you got Lou Ferrigno. You wanted Batman, you got Adam West. Superheroes were for bodybuilders or ex-athletes. Why do you think they got Schwarzenegger for “Conan the Barbarian”? It wasn’t because Olivier was busy.

But now Arnold is governor, and Tobey McGuire is Spider-Man, and Will Smith is Hancock and Christian Bale is Batman and, well, the bloom is off and the battle is on. We are all scrambling for capes and rubber suits. We are all grabbing at power boots and night vision. We are all ready to wear our underwear on the outside.

We are fighting to be Captain America, Nick Fury, Green Lantern, Green Arrow, the Avengers, the Justice League, Wonder Woman, or the Sub-Mariner. Whatever’s left. Any character, anywhere. Above ground. Under water. You name it. There are just two words that matter in Hollywood now.

Comic.

Book.

So I’m a very serious actor. And today I punch a dragon. Or maybe it’s an eel. It might be a sorcerer, or it might come from another planet. Hey, I might come from another planet. Or I’m the tragic victim of an experiment gone wrong. Bugs. There could be bugs involved. Or green skin. Or a midnight transformation.

All I know is Godot will have to wait. No Salesman will be dying. “The Importance of Being Earnest” is less important than the Importance of Being an Earner.

I’m a very serious actor.

Excuse me. Gotta fly.

No, seriously. I gotta fly.

Contact MITCH ALBOM at 313-223-4581 or malbom@freepress.com.

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Mitch Albom writes about running an orphanage in impoverished Port-au-Prince, Haiti, his kids, their hardships, laughs and challenges, and the life lessons he’s learned there every day.

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