What Makes A Good Actor A Great Actor?

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Mr. Jardine

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Feb 22, 2010, 8:20:58 AM2/22/10
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Steve Newport

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Feb 22, 2010, 12:51:38 PM2/22/10
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I've seen Richard Chamberlain on stage in WEST SIDE STORY, MY FAIR LADY,
THE NIGHT OF THE IGUANA, and BLITHE SPIRIT.

Mr. Jardine

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Feb 22, 2010, 1:55:31 PM2/22/10
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Steve Newport

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Feb 23, 2010, 12:51:27 AM2/23/10
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From: Mail-Del...@webtv.net (Mr. Jardine) an appreciable change
in Richard Chamberlain's performances after his year on the London
stage. To me he seemed more polished as a performer, and his enunciation
was markedly different too.
-------------------------------------
As I recall, his very romantic HAMLET was well received there. His
musical performance in the film THE SLIPPER AND THE ROSE made one wish
he had done more film musicals. He went into the Broadway revival of THE
SOUND OF MUSIC (and then toured) as the Captain, He recently toured as
King Arthur in SPAMALOT.

Robert Bouton

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Feb 23, 2010, 7:54:41 AM2/23/10
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The subject line asks an interesting question.

A great actor is generous, and smart enough to sustain believability.

In a perfect cast, each player makes all the other players on stage
look good.

It takes brains to research characters, figuring out the way they
stand, the way they move, the way they look at others. As a result,
line-readings maximize the emotion within the structure of the play.

Unless you've watched the actor in process, observing the rehearsals
and the show night after night, I don't believe it's possible to know
a great actor from a good actor. And film and television tell you
nothing, because performances are created (or marred) in the editing
room, where it's not the actor choosing which is the best take among
many.

In my experience, these are a dozen great actors:

Stephen Spinella
Jennifer Naimo
Amy Poehler
Liz Larsen
Brad Oscar
Jeff Talbott
Laura Jordan
Alicia Irving
Alma Cuervo
Kathi Gillmore
Mamie Parris
Mary Faber

Mr. Jardine

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Feb 23, 2010, 8:13:36 AM2/23/10
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Joan in GB-W

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Feb 23, 2010, 11:30:24 AM2/23/10
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"Steve Newport" <birdp...@webtv.net> wrote in message
news:18049-4B8...@storefull-3173.bay.webtv.net...

> I've seen Richard Chamberlain on stage in WEST SIDE STORY, MY FAIR LADY,
> THE NIGHT OF THE IGUANA, and BLITHE SPIRIT.
>

When he ran down the beach in The Thorn Birds into the arms of Rachel Ward,
that became one of my favorite scenes in a movie. It's still near the top,
acting aside.

J

John W Kennedy

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Feb 23, 2010, 2:48:29 PM2/23/10
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On 2010-02-23 07:54:41 -0500, Robert Bouton said:
> And film and television tell you
> nothing, because performances are created (or marred) in the editing
> room, where it's not the actor choosing which is the best take among
> many.

A bit of an overstatement, I think, especially when considering major
roles on television, where, to some degree, the performer has to keep
the character alive across a host of directors. (Directing a one-hour
single-camera US TV show is about four weeks' work per episode, so US
TV dramas /require/ a stable of directors.)

Mira Furlan, Peter Jurasik, and Andreas Katsulas did wonders on
"Babylon 5" (as did frequent guest star Walter Koenig). And Taylor
Schilling, on NBC's current "Mercy" right now, is breathtaking.

--
John W Kennedy
Read the remains of Shakespeare's lost play, now annotated!
http://pws.prserv.net/jwkennedy/Double%20Falshood/index.html

Steve Newport

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Feb 23, 2010, 4:36:29 PM2/23/10
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From: jwk...@attglobal.net (John W Kennedy) <<<film and television

tell you nothing, because performances are created (or marred) in the
editing room>>>
-----------------------------------
A bit of an overstatement
-----------------------------------
To say the least!

Steve Newport

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Feb 23, 2010, 4:33:52 PM2/23/10
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From: mpro...@aol.com
Alma Cuervo
-----------------------------
I've been a fan for a long time.

Steve Newport

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Feb 23, 2010, 4:38:29 PM2/23/10
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From: Mail-Del...@webtv.net (Mr. Jardine) To say nothing of
talent?
---------------------------------------
Ethel Merman on Mary Martin: "Ah, she's okay if you like talent."

Robert Bouton

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Feb 23, 2010, 7:54:21 PM2/23/10
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I'll admit I've never heard of, and probably never seen, the actors
you mention. (Have they appeared on the New York stage?) And in some
forms of television, there's no time for alternate takes.

But imagine an actor who requires twenty different takes before a
scene is performed with breathtaking aplomb. Would you call that
actor great? Unless you've been on the set, you don't know how many
inadequate line-readings were filmed before the wondrous one. I know
of many cases when poor actors were saved in the editing room, and the
home viewer saw the best takes, as chosen by the director, and were
none the wiser.

John W Kennedy

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Feb 26, 2010, 1:08:24 PM2/26/10
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On 2010-02-23 19:54:21 -0500, Robert Bouton said:
> I'll admit I've never heard of, and probably never seen, the actors
> you mention. (Have they appeared on the New York stage?) And in some
> forms of television, there's no time for alternate takes.

Mira Furlan was in Harris Yulin's permanent floating "Don Juan in Hell"
company for a while, right after she came to the US as a refugee from
the Yugoslavian Wars of Succession, and she was in something called
"Cranes" in NYC a few years back. She's also done some regional
theatre, including a well received "Antigone" in L.A. You may have seen
her as "Danielle Rousseau" on "Lost". Andreas Katsulas spent fifteen
years with Peter Brook, but his biggest exposure was as the one-armed
man in the Harrison Ford "Fugitive". I don't know about Peter Jurasik
in NYC, but he's done some regional. You might remember him as "Sid the
Snitch" on "Hill Street Blues". Walter Koenig, of course, has been the
subject of headlines in the last few days due to a family tragedy. (He
was once quoted as saying that he did more honest-to-God acting in any
one episode of "Babylon 5" as in his entire "Star Trek" career
combined.)

Taylor Schilling is in her early 20s, and has a very short resum� at
present; she recently won praise in an "Uncle Vanya" at Bard College,
Annandale-on-Hudson. Her series, "Mercy", is mostly stuff we've seen
before on other hospital shows, but her portrayal of a nurse just back
from Iraq and dealing with PTSD is stunning, running half a dozen
emotions at once as easily as Shakespeare juggles plot threads in
"Cymbeline".

> But imagine an actor who requires twenty different takes before a
> scene is performed with breathtaking aplomb. Would you call that
> actor great? Unless you've been on the set, you don't know how many
> inadequate line-readings were filmed before the wondrous one. I know
> of many cases when poor actors were saved in the editing room, and the
> home viewer saw the best takes, as chosen by the director, and were
> none the wiser.

"Babylon 5" was a special-effects-heavy show, not so much because of
the space battles (though there were many), as because of its
pioneering use of virtual sets (and at least one standing
false-perspective set, too), so /some/ scenes had to have a good many
takes. But the casting emphasized stage experience, and many famous
scenes were done in a single take of one long shot.

I can't address that aspect of "Mercy", but I know that it spends a lot
of time on location in and around Jersey City (even for interiors), so
I imagine there's not too much free time to spend on endless retakes.

--
John W Kennedy
"You can, if you wish, class all science-fiction together; but it is
about as perceptive as classing the works of Ballantyne, Conrad and W.
W. Jacobs together as the 'sea-story' and then criticizing _that_."
-- C. S. Lewis. "An Experiment in Criticism"

Christopher Jahn

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Mar 2, 2010, 6:43:36 PM3/2/10
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John W Kennedy <jwk...@attglobal.net> wrote in
news:4b880e18$0$4996$607e...@cv.net:

>> But imagine an actor who requires twenty different takes
>> before a scene is performed with breathtaking aplomb. Would
>> you call that actor great? Unless you've been on the set, you
>> don't know how many inadequate line-readings were filmed
>> before the wondrous one. I know of many cases when poor
>> actors were saved in the editing room, and the home viewer
>> saw the best takes, as chosen by the director, and were none
>> the wiser.

Those actors do not last long. Endless takes eats up a lot of
budget. Sure, there are numerous poor actors who whose
performances were saved in editing; but I don't know of one whose
career was made there.

--
}:-) Christopher Jahn
{:-( http://soflatheatre.blogspot.com/

I love the absolution of all jocks and preps -- Skate or die!!!

Robert Bouton

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Mar 5, 2010, 1:21:21 PM3/5/10
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On Mar 2, 6:43 pm, Christopher Jahn <xj...@yahoo.com> wrote:
> I know of many cases when poor
> >> actors were saved in the editing room, and the home viewer
> >> saw the best takes, as chosen by the director, and were none
> >> the wiser.
>
> Those actors do not last long.  Endless takes eats up a lot of
> budget.  Sure, there are numerous poor actors who whose
> performances were saved in editing; but I don't know of one whose
> career was made there.
>

Well, I do. Actress A had done one Broadway play before getting cast
in a sitcom. Frequently lorded it over her co-stars, saying she was
"of the theatre" when in fact, all the co-stars had done more theatre
than she, with Tonys to prove it. Take after take, she was unable to
nail her punchlines, every week, and time ran on. So, the studio
audience was dismissed so that she could be shot without the
distraction of strangers in the same space. And it still took several
takes. She was a huge star, on the cover of TV guide, and won an Emmy
(out of seven nominations). Eight years, beloved by audiences, doing
one role.

Actor B relished giving a different spin to his lines every time he
said them. Drove directors crazy. You see, often, they'd like a
particular reading, but there was something else wrong in the shot; on
the re-take, they asked Actor B would repeat his performance, but no -
he was a real dick about it. Different show, but also eight seasons,
followed by an Oscar nomination.

I wouldn't call either Actress A or Actor B a "Great Actor" but many
who've seen them on the screen would

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