So far, the agents of five potential actors have approached me, getting wind of the project through my Twitter account of course: Gilles Duceppe (many years of performance on various stages in la belle province), Jack Layton (very big on the Toronto stage), Michael Ignatieff (many years in front of the TV camera in Britain), Steve Harper (who’s been doing his one-note over-the-top angry bit in Alberta political theatres for quite some time and has recently brought his act to Ottawa trying to go national but hasn’t been all that successful so far), and Elizabeth May (who is a less seasoned performer but a fresh face). Now in the film business, when you’re casting, two considerations mean everything: what we call less-is-more and screen presence, not really mutually exclusive categories. Who does the camera love, who’s infinitely watchable, who does the small things well, who’s “natural?”
I’ve seen all five now, and, in consultation with the Director (who shall be nameless since he used to be a journalist) I’ve hired, we think we know who might sell this project with viewers. Here’s our assessment of each:
Giles Duceppe: No charisma and no acting talent whatsoever, too matter-of-fact in his delivery of lines, scripted or not. Natural, but no screen presence. Difficult to know how he got into the business or how that agent of his could possibly imagine we’d be interested given his limited Canadian experience.
Michael Ignatief: Apparently has two nicknames, Iggy and the Count. I never know which of those to use. There’s a certain charm -- I think it’s called the crumpet motif that derives from old British ladies’ affection for certain TV types or Opal’s infatuation with Alex Trebek. Not sure which. Has become adept at delivery, getting slicker everyday, and not bad at improvising lines, which does, however, get him into trouble with other cast members occasionally, but unfortunately the camera knows that HE’S PERFORMING. In his case, less-is-more is just not working because it’s far more dramatic than it should be. That desperate urgency just doesn’t work these days except in soap operas. I’ve recommended to his agent that he give Days of Our Lives a call.
Jack Layton: Slick, well-oiled, clichéd delivery but interesting look, especially the moustache and baldness. Good teeth too. Unfortunately, all his performances are routine or predictable. He’s one of those actors who just doesn’t know how to surprise us, sad to say, and it’s unlikely he’s ever going to make the big time. Still we wish him luck in the small theatres, for his heart would seem to be in the right place.
Stephen Harper: Far too many nicknames to list here, especially since some children or the parents of children might be reading this, but I am fond of Hair-in-the-Fridge. It has a certain ring to it. Not sure how to describe all the problems of performance here. The Director and I, having both steeped ourselves in Freudian analysis years ago, think there may be some issues haunting this actor from the past -- probably something to do with loyalty and trust. We think that perhaps, some time ago, one of his fellow actors whom he thought was loyal betrayed him and that incident has generated a distrust of everybody in the cast, not to mention the viewing audience itself. His performances are edgy, true, and that makes them watchful, but they drift towards resentful in tone far too often. And he cannot deal with the paparazzi or fans that might want to get in and see him at all. But he’s natural, too: we do see the man for what he is; there’s no performance here for the most part. In fact, when we do see a performance, especially when we see him working at his desk, playing the piano, or wearing a sweater, unfortunately we know he’s performing. I haven’t told his agent yet that we’re rejecting him. To tell you the truth, I’m a bit scared to do so.
Elizabeth May: a fresh face, an up-and-comer, getting better known all the time, but not as well known as Charlie yet. We producers are always on the look-out for fresh new faces, and we think she might be able to pull it off. Totally natural, what you see is what you get performances in all her other stage and film work, a total absence of artifice, no acting tricks, smooth articulate delivery and a great sense of working with the other actors comfortably -- which sort of surprised us -- and the viewing audience, whom she seems to respect for their discerning abilities -- not something that can really be said about the others who auditioned.
But we do see a possible problem with the project. Sun, it turns out, might be having second thoughts, especially since we said we were going with Elizabeth. Turns out, they thought we would automatically cast Hair-the-Fridge. Seems like we might have to wait for a while to get the film up and running.