Sunday, February 22, 2009

The Golden God

Boy I do miss the days when the Academy Awards used to be on Mondays, do you remember that? That was back when I worked at William Morris and my headset still had a cord. Around lunchtime, the motion picture agents, still hungover from Ed Limato’s Saturday night ICM party and rife with dirty gossip, would start barking at their assistants to wrap up their phone sheets (well at least return the important calls) and make sure that they were on the appropriate party lists. They would pace up and down the hallways, cell phones to their ear, tuxes half on (most of the agents by my office were male) yelling to find out if the wife was ready at home and if the car was on the way. Once all the tuxes left around 2pm, we assistants got to leave early; half day because of the Oscars! I loved the frenetic energy that doused the WMA hallways as we peons shut down our computers, locked the inner sanctums, then headed out for cocktails- imagining the day when we would be on our way to the red carpet or better yet the Vanity Fair party afterwards.

Today is Oscar day…whoohooo.

That’s about as much enthusiasm as I can muster. I’m pretty non-plussed over this Gil Cates manufactured, ad-driven (though barely this year) and already predicted (click if you want to see the supposed winners) event. The stars, the gowns and glitz, even the announcement of the winners don’t emotionally resonate with me this year. As an actor now, yes, I admit to having those random moments of visualizing myself on the red carpet, and better yet, at the podium receiving my statue, giving my perfect acceptance speech. Yes, I would like to hold that little golden man in my hands and feel the world’s approval of my artistic talents (or the studio’s publicity machine) raining down on me. But as soon as those images pop into my head I banish them to the ‘bad ego’ part of my psyche. This award, or any award, isn’t why I entered this field of storytelling.

So, the capricious grey sky today pretty much reflects my mood towards watching the show. Except for one little ray of light peeking out from the ominous clouds, one golden cuff that is shackling me to the telecast. I could try to break free but what’s the point. The world’s newest heartthrob, an actor who has spawned more websites, facebook fan pages, and 6 ft cardboard cutouts than any other actor in history, (I’m assuming for theatrics sake and taking into account that the internet wasn’t around when James Dean was alive) will be presenting. Robert Pattinson aka Edward Cullen aka king of the crooked smile and floppy hair will be walking on stage…to present an award…at some point (I’m assuming towards the end to keep us all glued). Cue the screaming.

I step back and just shake my head. I mean what madness has swooped down and bewitched so many of us that the man-child’s 30 second presence could actually make one want to watch the entire awards show. That is insane! Ever since Hitfix confirmed that he RPattz would be presenting, I’ve followed the digital trail. Twitter feed @RobPattznews is the best for linking to the up-to-the-minute news and pictures of his mundane (but still dreamy because it’s him doing them) activities since arriving in LA. Lunch with his agent! Walking to his car! Wearing a white t-shirt that shows off his biceps! Revealing his hair and weird beard! Honestly it’s mind boggling that this young British gent inspires such mass hysteria (though I do have some theories). He is undoubtedly Hollywood’s new Golden Boy. Golden Boy meet little Golden statue- say hi! “helloo”. (yes, just like in the Biology class scene).

Why am I once again embarrassing myself by talking about my Twilight/ Robert Pattinson obsession? Because it actually ties back to a (legitimate) topic that I have been musing over for the past few months, ever since two tidbits of Hollywood development news struck my interest. Movie stars are a dying breed.

Baz Lurhman is supposedly set to direct a new adaptation of ‘The Great Gatsby’. I love Fitzgerald and have read the book numerous times, and have recently dipped into a bio book about his Scribners editor Max Perkins as well as the Hemingway book ‘A Moveable Feast’ that details the adventures the two authors had while together in Paris. Fitzgerald’s characters are a mirror of his flawed genius and tell stories in a sprawling, colorful and tempermental time in our history. And I love Baz: ‘Moulin Rouge’ changed my life (that's another post) and his visionary approach to storytelling inspires the way I try to approach this business.

My first thought, well after my general feelings of glee and how can I be a part of this production, was who will play Gatsby? Jay Gatsby is an iconic figure. Golden, glorious, yet ultimately desperate for love and imbuded with ambition- heavily flawed. I loved Redford in the role, even if it was just the way his golden hair was backlit like a halo. I believed him in his na├»ve bravado and smug 'host with the most' persona and bought it when his vulnerable, deep obsession with Daisy exploded. Who could capture that tricky combination of qualities on screen? Ummm, hmmm, any ideas? No one is really coming to mind (not adding Rob into the equation). Nikki Finke even posted out that question but the myriad responses only confirmed my sneaking suspicion that there is no one in Hollywood who is right for this role of Gatsby. It’s not about acting, it’s about the being.

Cut to a few weeks and I read a post about a new Steve McQueen biopic in development. Steve McQueen! What can I say- the name says it all. His characters spanned the genres, from a ramblin’ gamblin’ man in "Cinncinnati Kid" to a steely detective in "Bulitt" to a slick playboy thief in "The Thomas Crown Affair", not to mention his western and war movies. His characters all jumped off the screen and attacked you with their realism and raw intensity. He was sexy in his stillness, the way he drank his coffee at the opening of "Bulitt". He, for lack of a better term, was a manly man but, much like Newman, could steep his characters with dose of silliness and levity. Most importantly, he always let his characters’ vulnerabilities peak from beneath their masculine surface. In short, he was the most watchable man on the planet. (Still have to rent the "Getaway" can’t believe I’ve never seen that film). So who on earth will play this super man? Apparently Brad Pitt is front runner (he owns McQueen’s mugshot) and Colin Ferrel and Daniel Craig have been mentioned. I am a Clive Owen fan but he’s not right. And more importantly, this film is supposed to be about McQueen’s younger years, late 20’s, early 30’s. None of the previously mentioned actors, except Colin Ferrel are even close to that age! And no one possesses those on screen McQueen qualities at that age, I'm sorry, no one.

So it seems like (and definitely point it out if I’m wrong) there aren’t any young male actors that are taking up the torch of movie icons past. No one seems to have the 'presence' to step into the shoes of Gatsby or McQueen. But in the same breath I don’t think actors like Brando or James Dean could ever survive today’s onslaught of press and paparazzi. The demons and darkness that made them infinitely watchable would be aired out as dirty laundry on everyone’s Yahoo home page and quickly lead to their destruction. Those who are succeeding today in Hollywood are smart and saavy, keen to play the publicity machine and maneuver the red carpet. That move allows them a career but it drains them of mystery, of authenticity- don’t you agree? Young stars know that the red carpet and pics of such are the life blood of their career…if they can get on enough websites and into tabloid mags, it gives them currency, enough so that studios will put them in more films. 

The mass hysteria around Robert Pattinson makes me believe that he is different. He doesn’t court the media but he doesn’t punch cameramen in the face either. He lets them co-exist with him, if they can actually find him. I can’t imagine how many events he has been invited to since Twilight came out but he’s made his requisite Twilight premiere appearances and then jetted back to London to hang out in pubs and show up at open mic nights. He likes his music, likes his buddies and seems very committed to his job as an actor. He also seems to like to say ‘no’ to the Hollywood machine. And that makes him even more appealing. As @RobPattznews messaged me, ‘Rob has that Beatles and Elvis quality’. My husband shook his head in staunch disagreement but I quite agree.

So I will watch the Oscars tonight, not care if I see Brad Pitt, George Clooney, or lord forbid Zac Efron or the Jonas Brothers on the red carpet. I’ll feel genuine happiness towards those who win because it definitely is a great achievement (even if we do already know who does). And I will gleefully scream (with my inside voice) when Rob walks out on the stage. Oscar will have its golden moment. But it’s future is pretty bleak.

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