I made a mistake this year. A mistake I’ll never repeat.
I tried to be normal.
On-screen, I mean. There was this role – a hero lead with an attractive family.
I know, I know.
But when they offered it to me, I took it. What possessed me? Old demons, I guess. All my life I’ve wondered what it would be like to be normal. The acne. The scars. The nose. What if? And here’s this chance…it’s like the prom queen suddenly summoning you over and you look around to see who she’s pointing at and it’s you. Pinch me.
Ay yi yi.
Creating a screen character is like giving birth – you let it form in you until it’s kicking to get out, gasping for breath and eager to live. If it doesn’t form up just right, it will come out weak.
In the case of my hero family man character, it wasn’t weak. It was still-born.
The only real requirement for being a camera actor is honesty. You can’t lie. Well, you can, but if you do you get reviews like..
“I guess this guy is an actor, but I’ve seen spider monkeys with more range” or
“He appeared to be lobotomized, which would explain the bad wig” or
“Best acting honors go to Oberst’s screen wife, who has to make out with Harry Potter’s Dobby.”
The role in question, unnamed here on purpose, generated the only bad film reviews I have had in 4 years and 56 projects, and they’re all true (except for the wig part – it was my hair but I had my usual messy mop of brown straw so carefully styled in a vain attempt to seem attractive that it looked like a wig.) I deserved those reviews, because I lied. I knew I was wrong for the role but I took it anyway. That wasn’t fair to a great cast and crew who deserved better. Nor was it fair to my ultimate employers; the audience; hard-working people who pay a couple of hard-earned bucks in good faith to be entertained. Don’t even get me started on the cast and crew. I wanted to send them all apology notes.
The “Take This Lollipop” guy stroking the screen? That’s in me. I’m feeling that. Your cannibals, your rapists, your demons, your assassins? Only takes a whisper to rouse them to life. But a hero surrounded by a beautiful family? I looked like a stagehand filling in for the actor who never showed up.
The people who have said nice things about my screen work have said it, in almost every instance, when they watch me play people who are decidedly not nice.
Why can I connect almost instantly with a character who has that potent mix of rage, remorse and simmering violence but not with a man trying to protect his family (as I myself would do in real life?) Why do I love being inside of the monster? And why does the monster love being inside of me?
Just after the role I write about here, I booked another lead; as cult leader Simon Leach in Jourdan McClure‘s “Children Of Sorrow.” I was so disheartened by what I knew had been an awful performance in the previous film that I put myself in a prison of isolation for “Children Of Sorrow.” I went offline. I shut out the world. I swam in dark seas. I didn’t give a damn about normal.
Jourdan helped by adding scenes that were so unsettling that they demanded I give the camera my trust. “I’ll take care of you, Bill” he said, “I won’t let you look ridiculous.” So I went to the wall for that role and for Jourdan. People may love it or hate it, but it’s real. It’s me. Funny how things work out.
In the penultimate scene of Hallmark Channel’s “The Shunning,” (in which I was lucky enough to play a part) an Amish patriach gives some advice that I think I’ll heed. She says “The miracle ain’t the life you missed. It’s the one you got.”
All my life I’ve wondered what it would be like to be normal. I think I’m done wondering now.
Just heard from a U.K. television viewer that my torso was used on the program “World’s Greatest Body Shockers” on the E4 channel. Apparently a Google search for pics of Christian Bale’s torso from The Machinist returns this one of my own creepy ribcage as the first result and a researcher at the channel snagged [...]Read story