Wednesday, March 21, 2012

POV: Wild Bill

My least favorite part of movie reviews are when the reviewer starts out by saying: "I got a chance to sit down with [insert Hollywood type here]." They might as well say: "I believe I have an awesome job. I court famous people who want to talk to me. And your life sucks."

So I won't say that. I'll do them one better …

I got a chance to
spend the weekend with Wild Bill's director, producer and main antagonist* before their opening in London last evening.

And you didn't.

Yep. That's
way more impressive.

Like my last POV, this is less a review and more of an analysis of how this film impacts the life of a performer.

The critics are unanimous it appears.

Solid Script & Cast.

Solid Performances.

And Solid Direction.
Great Film.

Here's the trailer.

My Point of View

Don't be fooled by a great trailer. There is more heart here then meets the eye at quick glance. To watch Bill's metamorphosis from East End gangsta to devoted dad is pitch perfect filmmaking. And the final knock out punch of a simple smile and dedication at the end credits seals the deal. We see what is important. No huge gun play, no over-hyped drug deal gone wrong, just real people in real situations against the backdrop of the Olympic construction providing the scaffolding: a landscape of people working hard, trying to find their way back together. Hopeful but Hard hitting.

And oh-so-intense acting.

And that intensity intrigues me. As a performer, I have found it increasingly difficult to shut off intensity and the energy we bring toward our characters onstage. The first time this happened was playing a parkinson-ridden Faust a few years ago. The wretchedness of the older Faust was hard to leave "on screen." He liked to follow me home after work. And people near suffer along with me.

I had the opportunity to ask Dexter, Tim and Leo about the incredible intensity you'll see in the portrayals by Poultner, Creed-Miles, Rheon, Serkis and Gregory. In particular, there are a couple scenes where the actors go beyond normal craft and actually get a bit carried away. Above and beyond risk was being taken in how physically confrontational they played against each other. (Iwan…DUDE! I thought his finger might not come out of your nose!) So much so I asked:

"How did the actors really get along? Could they shake off that amount of confrontation or did they retain it off screen?"

Dex: Yeah, it got pretty intense.
Leo: I was making bets with myself whether or not I might pop someone in the mouth during rehearsals. I did feel sometimes things got a bit carried away.
Dex: I have to admit stoking the fires a bit. I saw that the energy created by the physicality was going to do very well on film. And there were a few times I would have to appease some bruised egos and limbs, but [evil laughter] I made the choice to not let it dissipate.
Tim: It was not the easiest of shoots. 
Leo: Well, we found our way and the actors did very good work imo. But I did take pictures of the bruises I was getting from having the shit kicked out of me daily.
Dex: Leo was a gem. But to answer your question, there was a palpable energy off screen that I won't deny. We wanted a reality, an intensity that caution wouldn't allow. These guys gave it their all. And we got it!

then the next day, when Dex was working the phone … 

me: Leo, you said Dex was "the perfect director." What made him that for you?
Leo: Because he trusted you. He listened to your instincts. He let you play, then he made the call. But he wouldn't cram something down your throat from the beginning. He'd encourage dialog and exchange of ideas. He allowed himself to learn along with his actors. Because he's such an accomplished actor, he understood our challenges and enjoyed the interchange of ideas. [laughs] I'm just trying to figure out if I can make any money off those pictures of my bruises, now that I know he egged my colleagues on...

A few days ago it hit me, there really is no easy answer. Play time onstage will always take it's toll. My youngest and I were watching the Garland and Streisand "Star is Born" and we realized that both ladies suffered in their own way from having lived in front of a camera. There's no easy solution to keeping balance. You choose to perform and to engage an audience, there's gonna be a trade off.

Thanks to the cast and crew of Wild Bill for showing me that balance is wildly overrated. And thank you Dexter for this fantastic homage to the challenges of fatherhood, for a man who works hard to become a better man.

See it folks!

6 Degrees to Kevin Bacon: Couple years ago I sang in Vilnius. The fantastic director,  Dalia Ibelhauptaitė directed me in a quick jump in for Werther. She's married to Dexter Fletcher. Dexter knows Jason Fleymng from some really great movies together, who in turn has worked with Kevin Bacon in Xmen: First Class. I'm sure Dexter knows Kevin, and now I know Dexter, so that makes only 1 degree between me and Kevin Bacon.

I told you your life sucks.

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