you just need to know where to put the commas, right?

A friend of mine was telling me about a friend of his who represents a certain young A-list actress (someone who is genuinely A-list, not just central tabloid fodder). The guy got a call from the head of a studio. Ms A-list was holding up production on a movie set in Europe and costing them thousands and thousands of dollars. Her complaint: her dialogue for an upcoming scene was “bullshit” and she wanted it changed. She wasn’t coming out of her trailer until they agreed to change it (…and she’ll hold her breath until she turns blue!…). The studio head was hoping the friend could somehow intervene, but his reaction went more along the lines of, “So what the hell am I supposed to do?” Apparently she is also in the process of convincing other cast members that the entire section of the script is “bullshit,” which is not exactly making for on-set camaraderie — and makes one wonder why the actress chose this project in the first place, among all the other things that are routinely offered her before working their way down the chain of everybody else.

Ah, movies. I did a workshop once with a bitter Hollywood screenwriter (even the successful ones can be quite bitter, at least in moments) who talked about the film made from her adaptation of her own novel. Except her script ended up getting basically rewritten by the two stars — the male and female leads — who were given, in her opinion, “way too much power” to do so. She was disgusted by the final product and fought to take her name off it. It bombed with both the critics and the public. She remains deeply embarrassed about how “treacly” and sentimental and overearnest people who have never read her novel* now assume her work to be, based on the movie they never saw either, because word-of-mouth warned them away.

The main problem here, I think, is that a) actors are so involved with their own parts — which, after all, is their job — that they lose sight of the fact that they’re only one part of a much larger creative picture — and you can’t change one thing without sending out ripples that end up changing (or perhaps crippling) other things and b) everybody thinks they can write. Studio execs who have never written anything except whatever stuff you need to submit for your MBA think they’re masters of storytelling and have no problem overriding writers and directors — you know, the actual storytellers — so why not the stars who have the power to get those stories made in the first place?

But isn’t acting supposed to be about working your performance out of the script, finding the motivations and reasons and backstory and expression, instead of working the script out of how you would like to perform it?

And on a completely different note, my above friend is also the second man to tell me that another bombshell actress — a thirtysomething known for a recent high-profile breakup who is currently dating an actor friend** of my above friend (as well as a much more famous guy, which is the relationship the tabloids are all reporting about) is “actually not that pretty in person”. How tough is that, knowing that you can never live up to yourself?***

* and I would have been one of those people

** I really like this actor, actually — I noticed him when he was starring in a witty, intelligent sit-com that of course got immediately canceled, before learning he was my friend’s friend. Turned out my friend helped get him the role by mentioning him to a frustrated casting director. Small world this is, yes yes.

*** Said actress was also the subject of partly overheard gossip at a Beverly Hills salon yesterday. Two very pretty gay men were bitching about some woman who had “ordered [famous actress] to get out of her life! Just get out of her life!” I wish I knew the whys and wherefores, but alas, their voices were too low and I was not close enough.

Westside LA really is like some weird, glorified version of high school.


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