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Shakespearean actors and actresses
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kxmode
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PostPosted: Mon Feb 13, 2012 1:49 pm    Post subject: Shakespearean actors and actresses Reply with quote

I've noticed something that I find interesting. Many Shakespearean actors and actresses appear in many science fiction and fantasy films. Case in point.

Patrick Stewart - Dune, Star Trek: The Next Generation, Star Trek films, X-men
Ian Mckellen - Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Hobbit, X-men
Helena Bonham Carter - Harry Potter, Alice in Wonderland, Terminator Salvation, Planet of the Apes
Kenneth Branagh - Harry Potter, Wild Wild West, Thor (director)
Emma Thompson - Harry Potter, Men in Black III, Treasure Planet
Judi Dench - The Chronicles of Riddick, Ćon Flux
Michael Caine - rebooted Batman films, Inception
John Gielgud - Merlin, DragonHeart
Helen Mirren - Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole, National Treasure 2, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy,
Michael Gambon - Harry Potter, Sleepy Hollow, The Book of Eli, Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow
Richard Attenborough - Jurrasic Park
Brian Blessed - Flash Gordon
Brian Cox - X-men, Chain Reaction, Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes, Bourne Identity films
Chiwetel Ejiofor - Serenity, 2012
Ralph Fiennes - Harry Potter, Strange Days, The Avengers, Clash of the Titans, Wrath of the Titans
Ian Holm - Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, Alien, Time Bandits, Brazil, The Fifth Element, The Day After Tomorrow
Derek Jacobi - The Secret of NIMH, Gladiator, Underworld: Evolution
James Earl Jones - Star Wars, Conan the Barbarian, Judge Dredd
Ben Kingsley - AI: Artificial Intelligence, BloodRayne, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time

Is their decision to be in these movies based on more than the paycheck? Is there some underlining reason why they choose roles in such films? Is there some sort of love affair actors and actresses have with these film genres? I ask because I remembered a scene from The Captains where Patrick Stewart tells William Shatner, and I'm paraphrasing, "If, when my time comes, the only role people remember me for is Captain Jean Luc-Picard, I'm fine with that. That's my legacy." I'd imagine an actor would want people to remember them for their body of work, instead of one specific role, and yet if you look at the list above these actors will always be remembered for their roles in science fiction and fantasy films instead of their Shakespearean roles.
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Jory
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PostPosted: Mon Feb 13, 2012 2:48 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Most of them are British, and famous British actors have a reputation for a lack of snobbishness. They'll appear in just about any trashy genre movie, and they'll put just as much effort into it as they would put into something more "literary." You rarely see big American actors like Tom Cruise or Gwyneth Paltrow doing movies like X-Men, Trek, Rings, Batman, etc, but British actors tend not to look down on their material. This is one of the many reasons I like the Hammer Horror movies of the 50s, 60s, and 70s. They're so lurid and trashy, but you've got actors like Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee treating the material like it's Shakespeare.
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Xyzzy
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PostPosted: Mon Feb 13, 2012 3:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think that it's a false correlation. There are far more actors and actresses that have performed Shakespeare that have *not* gone on to do science fiction and there are far more SciFi performers that have never done Shakespeare. I think that if you tried to correlate it with broadway, summer stock, etc. you'd find similar distributions.

I vaguely remember a story about Bobby McFerrin being really pissed about the fact that "Don't Worry. Be Happy" was so much more successful than his other works.

I can certainly understand being upset and dissappointed by having your "real work" eclipsed by what's popular. Though in the grand scheme of things, success provides you with the flexibility and resources to do the things that *you* want to do.

However, I'm really surprised at the comment that the people in your list will be remembered for those roles. Half of them I didn't even realize they had played. (Judi Dench, Michael Caines, Helen Mirrin, Richard Attenborough, Brian Blessed, Ralph Fiennes, Ben Kingsley). A good chunk of the others I recognized in the roles, but wouldn't automatically jump to that role as the defining one of their careers. (Ian McKellen, Helena Bonham Carter, Kenneth Branaugh, John Gielgud, Brian Cox).

Seriously...John Gielgud's defining role in Merlin?!?!? Brian Blessed in Flash Gordon?!?!? Michael Caine in Batman?!?!? Richard Attenborough in Jurassic freakin' Park? Wow....just...wow. No offense intended, but most of these people have had decades worth of more impactful and recognizable roles. I understand Patrick Stewart since he's been associated with one role for the past 25 years, so that tends to eclipse his prior work. But the others?

These are mostly UK personalities, so it's completely understandable that they've been involved in Shakespearean theater. It's a more common part of training as an actor in the UK. This also probably contributes to your view that these roles are the defining ones in their careers. I think that it's more an issue of what you've personally seen or been exposed to. I suspect that you might be American (or primarily a fan of recent US TV and cinema) and so you've only been exposed to that portion of their portfolios. If you were brought up on BBC, you'd probably have a different view of them.
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kxmode
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PostPosted: Mon Feb 13, 2012 3:28 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Xyzzy wrote:
I think that it's a false correlation. There are far more actors and actresses that have performed Shakespeare that have *not* gone on to do science fiction and there are far more SciFi performers that have never done Shakespeare. I think that if you tried to correlate it with broadway, summer stock, etc. you'd find similar distributions.

I vaguely remember a story about Bobby McFerrin being really pissed about the fact that "Don't Worry. Be Happy" was so much more successful than his other works.

I can certainly understand being upset and dissappointed by having your "real work" eclipsed by what's popular. Though in the grand scheme of things, success provides you with the flexibility and resources to do the things that *you* want to do.

However, I'm really surprised at the comment that the people in your list will be remembered for those roles. Half of them I didn't even realize they had played. (Judi Dench, Michael Caines, Helen Mirrin, Richard Attenborough, Brian Blessed, Ralph Fiennes, Ben Kingsley). A good chunk of the others I recognized in the roles, but wouldn't automatically jump to that role as the defining one of their careers. (Ian McKellen, Helena Bonham Carter, Kenneth Branaugh, John Gielgud, Brian Cox).

Seriously...John Gielgud's defining role in Merlin?!?!? Brian Blessed in Flash Gordon?!?!? Michael Caine in Batman?!?!? Richard Attenborough in Jurassic freakin' Park? Wow....just...wow. No offense intended, but most of these people have had decades worth of more impactful and recognizable roles. I understand Patrick Stewart since he's been associated with one role for the past 25 years, so that tends to eclipse his prior work. But the others?

These are mostly UK personalities, so it's completely understandable that they've been involved in Shakespearean theater. It's a more common part of training as an actor in the UK. This also probably contributes to your view that these roles are the defining ones in their careers. I think that it's more an issue of what you've personally seen or been exposed to. I suspect that you might be American (or primarily a fan of recent US TV and cinema) and so you've only been exposed to that portion of their portfolios. If you were brought up on BBC, you'd probably have a different view of them.


I was merely providing a list of examples and not for an absolute truth. You shouldn't take my comment as a hardened fact of all Shakespearean actors. It's was merely an observation I noticed among many. To that end I was hoping for an equaled response.

Jory wrote:
Most of them are British, and famous British actors have a reputation for a lack of snobbishness. They'll appear in just about any trashy genre movie, and they'll put just as much effort into it as they would put into something more "literary." You rarely see big American actors like Tom Cruise or Gwyneth Paltrow doing movies like X-Men, Trek, Rings, Batman, etc, but British actors tend not to look down on their material. This is one of the many reasons I like the Hammer Horror movies of the 50s, 60s, and 70s. They're so lurid and trashy, but you've got actors like Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee treating the material like it's Shakespeare.


Excellent! I had not contemplated that, but you're right. Maybe because these actors have roots in Shakespearean acting they've learned to see past the words and look into the character and material, and then try and construct their characters with merit. Perfect example is Patrick Stewart. He could've played the role of Captain Jean Luc-Picard with a sense of American wit, but he infused the character with his Shakespearean roots. The writers saw that an even incorporated Shakespeare into various scripts.

My favorite line comes from the episode “Hide and Q” when Picard replies to “Q”: "I know Hamlet. And what he might say with irony I say with conviction: ‘What a piece of work is man! How noble in reason, how infinite in faculties, in form and moving how express and admirable, in action how like an angel, in apprehension how like a god!’” That last line "how like a god" got Q's reaction. A Shakespearean actor of Stewart's caliber could only pull off such a work. Smile



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Xyzzy
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 14, 2012 3:15 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

kxmode wrote:
I was merely providing a list of examples and not for an absolute truth. You shouldn't take my comment as a hardened fact of all Shakespearean actors. It's was merely an observation I noticed among many. To that end I was hoping for an equaled response.


Sorry if I came off badly. I was actually quite amused by the list and associations and failed to translate that properly into my post. There was no offense intended.
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kxmode
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PostPosted: Wed Feb 15, 2012 1:33 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Xyzzy wrote:
kxmode wrote:
I was merely providing a list of examples and not for an absolute truth. You shouldn't take my comment as a hardened fact of all Shakespearean actors. It's was merely an observation I noticed among many. To that end I was hoping for an equaled response.


Sorry if I came off badly. I was actually quite amused by the list and associations and failed to translate that properly into my post. There was no offense intended.


No offense taken. Smile
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