Friday, October 19, 2007

Inside the Actors Studio: Leading Men

I am not an actor, I am a writer. But for now there is no Inside the Writer's Room. So all that's available to me is actors talking about their career and craft via the Bravo series, Inside the Actor's Studio. Not that I have anything against actors. Some of my best friends are actors--Elizabeth, Hollie, Chris...So it was in deference to their pursuit of this career that I watched the the Leading Men DVD set of Inside the Actor's Studio which featured interviews with four of Hollywood's best actors.

But first, let me speak about host James Lipton. Before this DVD viewing, I had seen the vaunted series exactly ONCE. The amazing Carol Burnett was the guest and she was warm and wry and witty. I thought, "What an excellent idea for a show! Actors talking about where they came from and how they got to where they are today. Speaking about their philosophies and their process instead of dutifully plugging a movie..."

So this is the first time that I've had the opportunity to not only get a better feel for how the show works, but the idiosyncrasies of its host. I hear that Will Ferrell does an excellent impression of Lipton. This I have to see...Because from the resonant intonations filled with pregnant pauses (that brings to mind the kitsch of Orson Welles doing Gallo commercials), the hyperbolic speechifying delivered with steely gaze and arched eyebrow and the paradoxical combination of sycophancy and self-congratulation, James Lipton is oh so very mock-able.

At times during the interviews, I felt like yelling out, "Your honor--Counsel is leading the witness!" due to Lipton's by-the-numbers querying that comes across more like an interrogation than an interview. But once you get past the odd caricature that is Lipton's hosting style, you are left with the creme de la creme of the acting profession. The particular boxed set includes a two hour special interview with Al Pacino (currently co-president of The Actor's Studio), and an interview with his contemporary Robert De Niro, as well as the next generation's Pacino and De Niro--Sean Penn and Russell Crowe.

First off, let me say I love Al Pacino. Love, love, LOVE Pacino. Dog Day Afternoon, And Justice for All (Once upon a time, a friend nabbed the poster of this movie for me. I kept that poster for many, many years...), The Godfather. Amazing. Enthralling. Hot. Well, not so much now--but when he was younger. Yum! And I've gained a greater appreciation for De Niro over the years. I was really impressed with his direction of The Good Shepherd, which was released last year. But the interview that captivated me most was from the actor who--out of these four anyway--I would have rated last on my list. Russell Crowe was thoroughly engaging and accessible in discussing his experiences and views on acting. Sean Penn--who quoted Bukowski and Saroyan with ease--was also very eloquent and interesting in his interview.

The 3 DVD set of Inside the Actor's Studio: Leading Men also features episode introductions by James Lipton (well, you can always fast forward to the next chapter) and portions of the interview that didn't make the televised version. Interspersed with great film clips, anecdotes, wise advise and witty quips, the interviews make for interesting viewing. And even better than Lipton's Q&A are the questions from the students at the end of each show. It's a fascinating look at the humble beginnings to the celebrated heights of four men dedicated to their art.

No comments:

Post a Comment