One of the beliefs that an actor should suspend is the fact that they are not “the actor” when on screen, but rather the character that they are portraying in the commercial, the TV show, the film, the movie.
For example, I found a new love for George Clooney (considering I’d had no reaction for him at all before) when my mother forced me to watch “O Brother Where Art Thou?” the winter after it came out on DVD. I was also astounded, as most of America was, by Johnny Depp’s ability to turn what could have been a Blackbeard knockoff into one of the most iconic and sexually questionable pirates in movie history.
Some directors realize that an actor’s star power could kill the message they’re trying to get across and will dodge that bullet altogether. It is for this reason that Peter Jackson selected “unknowns” to represent the beloved players from the Lord of the Rings franchise. Rumors flew for a while that Elijah Wood nearly lost the role of Frodo for the very reason that he was recognizable. Thankfully, his ability to act for Frodo, and not for his fame, averted this disaster.
There are directors who write for an actor that they have in mind. This can include formulating a character that won’t have to work much beyond what they’re used to. This, of course, leads me to the crux of this article.
Anyone who knows me knows my love for wrestling. Anyone who knows me more knows my love of wrestlers. However, I don’t think anyone knows how viciously cynical I am of wrestlers acting outside of the ring. As a 20-year wrestling fan, I’ve seen my share of superstars headlining mainstream films. I’ve watched stars shine; I’ve listened to the critics, and I’ve watched the crowd stand up and roar.
And nearly each time, I’ve thought to myself, “Really?”
I don’t like to think of wrestlers as a different breed of humans. At the end of the day, they walk, talk, eat and defecate just like any other person on this planet. So it really perturbs my goat when I sit down to a movie to enjoy the latest release of John Cena, The Rock, or Triple H — and merely see John Cena, The Rock or Triple H stuck in a movie with actors and a dull, generic plot.
If I wanted to watch a wrestler pause dramatically, announce every line at the same volume, and pose after every speech — I’d watch wrestling.
This is not with glee that I write this. It’s unadulterated, sickened, highly annoyed disappointment. It took my nonwrestling friends dragging me to the theaters to sit down and watch the Rock in “The Scorpion King”. When it was over, they were stunned when I voiced my anger at how awful it was.
“It wasn’t that bad, Brandee,” they soothed. “I mean, it’s not like it was the best movie ever, but it was watchable.”
Just the words a mother wants to hear when her child is forced on stage and has their lines fed from a teacher on the sidelines.
It’s not that the movies are terrible or that even the wrestlers are acting under par against the classically trained performers. I believe the whole purpose of a good performance, like a good book, is meant to suspend your current reality and lead you into a new land of wonder and awe. It’s impossible to do that when the Rock is giving his true love the “People’s Eyebrow, “ or Shawn Michaels as a mob leader is conveniently giving his hostages knee lifts and head butts.
The night before Wrestlemania 28, I sat down and listened as the Rock stated in an interview that he would love to win an Oscar.
He paused after stating it, and his eyes lit up as he contemplated this possibility. “I mean. You know,” he said, and smiled quietly into space.
I yelled at the TV, “Well, you’re not going to do it with ‘The Tooth Fairy’ or ‘Mysterious Island’!”
My underlying goal for the last several years has been to find a movie where the wrestler blends seamlessly with his cohorts. From what I’ve heard, Rowdy Roddy Piper was surprisingly successful as an action star, to the point that he was given reviews from critiques that didn’t include the puns of his sports entertainment persona. (Example of this? Just watch any interview where the host mentions that “you can’t see” Cena.) My mother happily watched several of Piper’s movies – considering she’s sworn off watching any film with a wrestler, I was wise not to inform her of this deceit. I’m not a big action film watcher, but I am intrigued to see how he performs.