Finding a Character…

5 Mar

Think of a film where you were captivated by a particular character; who was it and why did they grab your attention?

Was it because they were very different to you, or did they hold similar values and/or represent the  sort of person that you would like to be?

Did you want to be with them or did you want to be like them? (I often want to be with them I admit it.)

Were they selfless or did they just not seem to give a rats ass about other peoples opinions?

Perhaps when it comes to creating characters for the screen there is no right or wrong only real… to have human resonance.

I’m thinking of Hannibal Lector… and no I don’t want to be with him… but do I want to be like him?

Converse with me… which characters in film truly engaged you and why?


10 Responses to “Finding a Character…”

  1. geofftalbot March 6, 2009 at 8:34 am #

    Great comments… thanks John & Sarah. I think we delight in recognizing ourselves or potential selves in these people… or maybe we just like em

  2. sarah grimmer March 5, 2009 at 11:54 pm #

    and i am inspired when a character bears a trait that i – and every human being – admires: usually fearlessness and courage, loyalty and love, e.g., james bond casino royale, the unwavering loyalty and love of pai for paka in the whalerider.

    and then we all adore characters who make us laugh.

    your question has me up past bedtime.

  3. sarah grimmer March 5, 2009 at 11:31 pm #

    tonight: grazia in respiro (because she was so alive and free and yet trapped. i loved valeria golino’s acting and her beauty); randy the ram robinson in the wrestler (this character was so real, lovable, grotesque, ordinary, and one of a kind ). for me i am inspired when i believe in the character and suffer when they do

  4. John E. Smith March 5, 2009 at 11:18 pm #

    Hi, Geoff – great question. I definitely choose characters who I admire and desire to emulate, at least in some fashion. I find it hard to narrow down to even a few, but here goes.

    1) Russell Crowe in “Master and Commander . . .”. Like several others, I found his performance compelling, but for somewhat different reasons. Looking at it as a study in leadership, Crowe’s character displayed a good sense for situational leadership. His interactions with the crew and with specific characters showed an awareness of each as individuals. While he was obviously “in charge” and somewhat obsessed with that French vessel, he also knew that some situations demanded flexibility. I was particularly taken with his brief talk with the young, insecure officer when he tried to move the boy to higher levels of self-confidence.

    2) Michael Douglas in “An American President”. Maybe it’s just because I agree with the politics, but the final speech in this underrated movie continues to move me. Douglas, in my opinion, struck the right balance of light humor mixed with some very dramatic scenes. Not surprisingly, I would nominate Martin Sheen as President Jed Barlet from “West Wing” as first runner-up, for much the same reasons.

    3) (Please do not laugh) John Wayne in “She Wore A Yellow Ribbon”. Another favorite movie which I can watch again and again – while not particularly well-acted, I found the interplay between Wayne and his fellow soldiers touching and reassuring. Wayne is Wayne and he always played some version of his public persona in his movies. This particular role seemed more human than most – the heroics are understated, the subject is a man’s “retirement” from what he knows and loves. The little touches in this character, such as spending time at his family’s graves, pulling out glasses to read a farewell tribute, and how he handles the young officers in his charge . . . this is good stuff.

    I could go on and on – thanks for the question.


  5. geofftalbot March 5, 2009 at 4:35 pm #

    Ah hah all good choices… actually I must concur most patriotically about Russell Crowe… his characters always seem to convey inner conflict but with a determination to overcome … His performance in … The Insider… still grips me.

    I was also captivated and horrified by Daniel Day Lewis in “There will be blood” although I am not sure I want to be like him… but then again there is something alluring and obscene about absolute wealth & power…

  6. John Hegg March 5, 2009 at 4:11 pm #

    Several – Bill Murray in Groundhog Day, Clooney in Michael Clayton, Russel in Master and Commander and Jack Black in School of Rock… hmmm. The thread I see is the conflicted character (me) that struggles mightily (also me) but finds resolution (hopefully me). I like the occasional pure action film (The Bourne series) but I revisit the above often and seemingly uncover one more tidbit, realization or simply experience, once again, the satisfaction of completeness. (Also…Tim Robbins adn Morgan Freeman in Shawshank, Slum Dog Millionaire, Office Space…)

  7. Curtis Walker March 5, 2009 at 2:36 pm #

    Francis Farmer–No Contest.

  8. geofftalbot March 5, 2009 at 1:31 pm #

    So it seems that we like characters who are real and who reveal a little something about ourselves…?

  9. Ross Perrin March 5, 2009 at 11:19 am #

    Ok hard to pick a character. Lets try 2 for a start – Bill Murray & Scarlet Johansson in Lost in Translation. Why? Well i guess i thought the acting was understated brilliance – the ability to convey the directors wishes by not throwing it in your face like so many American movies. It was touching without being overly soppy – and the ending was one of the best i have ever seen – kind of summed up the movie for me.
    So i guess it all comes down to a wonderful example of actors who appear as though they aren’t acting (i know that is so cliche but it still makes me cringe when i see bad acting) who are able to deliver all their talents with the aid of a great script and wonderful understated direction.
    And just to throw out another one in a completely different genre – Arnold Swartzinager in Terminator – again understated acting (don’t laugh!) – and i don’t think you could have picked a better actor for the role if you tried.
    So for me i guess i like the ‘less is more’ – if it’s delivered in the right fashion it can result in a truly memorable performance.

  10. Duane Moyle March 5, 2009 at 9:32 am #

    Bertram Pincus in Ghost Town. It’s a great movie and a terrific performance by Ricky Gervais. Pincus is a dentist who doesn’t like people. He isn’t deliberately nasty but certainly doesn’t go out of his way to help people or show any human kindness. People and their problems are just a nuisance and something to be avoided. His rude and selfish antics are hilarious and all too familiar. I caught myself having Pincus moment recently on a long night flight. I was sitting in the exit row just by the toilets and trying to sleep when I was rudely awoken by people falling and flopping all over me. As the cabin crew rushed over with oxygen for the fainters my first thought was “why don’t you faint in your own chair you weak, flimsy, unfit pansy!” I am Bertram Pincus. Sometimes.

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