Saturday, January 02, 2010

Actor Asset: Rage

I believe that one of the most useful qualities I possess as an actor is a fine, articulate rage.  We all know that anger is the most accessible of emotions for most men, and often anger is the first emotion that young male actors crack open--to the point that no man under the age of 25 is allowed to do Edmund's bastard monologue in auditions.  But, less obvious to us is that actors often have trouble accessing the truly ugly, obscene parts of themselves, the gateway to which may be--or at least, is for me--a deep simmering vengeful slithering rage through which one can pry open the invisible disgusting self one would rather no one see.  A successful portrayal of Richard III, for instance, depends on this rage, all the more so because Richard must also be as joyful as he is intermittently remorseful in his sinning.  It is surprising when an actor, perhaps otherwise known for being 'tough' or 'macho' in charismatic male roles, fails to access this ugly under-the-docks, fishy-smelling grimy wet evil.  I know that in one of my more 'evil' roles, as Mr. Klemper in THE BOYS NEXT DOOR, I felt myself surprised by how difficult it was for me.  Nonetheless.  I much look forward to whatever opportunities I get to go there again.

(I know I've written about this before, but I'm taking a moment to restate my feelings, and sometime down the road I'll compare notes with myself.  I find such re-iterations useful.)


Kay Browning said...

As you point out, rage is often what young actors, especially men, go for first. Much harder I would think to dial it down to an eyebrow twitch with a camera in your face, or a character facing inner turmoil that for whatever reason cannot be expressed. Also, genuine evil often hides behind a mask of congeniality and normalcy. That's the only way it can succeed. Rage is easy. Go deeper.

David Millstone said...

I hear you. A rage-filled smile or eye brow curl are different, oilier beasts than ones filled with amour propre. I hope I don't give the impression of thinking that strutting and fretting in bombast and dudgeon are much fun to watch.

Marsha said...

What is it actors think about to make themselves angry enough to portray rage for the camera? It's a strong emotion. How do you come down when it's over? Do you laugh or go to your room and cry?

David Millstone said...

Fun questions:

For myself: what I 'think about' is what's pissing off my character. If I've personalized the dude, that's enough.

I 'come down' fairly instantly, though with an icky sense I don't quite shake off until sometime the next day. Taking an ovation, thinking about the success or failure of the work, etc., do the trick.

Angela said...

Rage is a useful tool, but I don't think that it's difficult to get to. I think the evil inherent in certain characters who also possess great anger is the thing that holds actors back.

When I saw the movie Brothers (don't see it), I thought Tobey Maguire was terrible. And the only part of the movie where he did anything of interest involved rage. Critics seem impressed. I am not. That's the easy part of his role. Look at all the other parts that he didn't pull through on.

David Millstone said...

Angela: hmmn. I see the point you're making a little more clearly now. I was consciously avoiding "evil" because it's not actable, per se, at least not until broken down into actions and component qualities. But, I think by using the word "Rage" (by which I did hope to mean MORE than mere "anger," i.e., I meant something like "violent existential despair") I'm unavoidably misleading both myself and others. After your comment, I think "Evil" is the more useful word, after all. Actors do have a surprisingly difficult time of getting there.