Thursday, October 04, 2007

Old Smoothie and other types

From the Guardian ArtsBlog.


George Clooney's range of expressions is limited thus: 1) suave amusement; 2) suave distress; 3) suave amusement. Watching him try to pull his features into a rictus of despair in Michael Clayton this weekend I realised that there's no shame in sticking within your range. This is why typecasting is such a success.

Clooney was supposed to be a broken man plagued by his conscience after he realised he was a lawyer for the dark side (like all lawyers, actually). He looked like a GQ model plagued by stomach acid. His face, chiselled out of granite, never came close to expressing the grief he was alleged to be feeling.

When he tries to do suave, though - well, he makes Cary Grant look like Vincent Price. By this measure, the highlight of his career will either be the Oceans trilogy, where his Sinatra-esque charms slick all over the screen, or his Martini ad campaign. He is so good at this one mode that there's no reason for him to move outside it.

This applies to other actors too. Julie Andrews will forever be Maria, even beyond the day she takes her guitar to that Viennese mansion in the sky, so the temptation to escape that must be profound. This must be behind the breast-baring of SOB, which attempted to give her dramatic depth but just made her slightly dirty - Sister Maria Emmanuelle.

Robert de Niro is another good example. As the menacing gangster who always revels in the torture of others, he excels; no one comes close to his sadistic mastery and harsh delivery. But in Analyze This? And Analyze That? Meet the Parents? Meet the Fockers? You get my point.

Vin Diesel - we are perhaps stretching the definition of 'actor' here - every so often gives up his perfectly successful career as a blasting action hero to do turkeys like The Pacifier. Something must have possessed him to think that his ripped abs and stony face would succeed where so many good men have failed.

Typecasting has a bad press - it's a shameful word - but there is certainly something to be said for playing to your strengths: consider all Jude Law's pained metrosexuals and Keira Knightley's many gamine waifs. Moving outside your comfort zone can go terribly wrong - watch Nicole Kidman in Stepford Wives and I'll rest my case.

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