Tuesday, November 05, 2019

On The Other Hand

During the first half of Once Upon A Time In... Hollywood I was wondering why Brad Pitt agreed to take the part. He and Leonardo DiCaprio were co-leads, but Leo was getting the best of it.  The story seemed to be about Leo's character while Pitt played his assistant.  It was only during the second half that I got it.  It's there that Pitt comes to the fore.  DiCaprio's tale is still the focus, but Pitt gets to be the talented, manly, cool guy.

It's not uncommon for stars to take the showier role that may seem secondary on the page.  Think of Dustin Hoffman in Rain Man--he's the one you remember (and the part that gets the Oscar), even though Tom Cruise plays the main character with the larger role.  The same with Meryl Streep in The Devil Wears Prada, where she's the boss who has all the power while her underling, played by Anne Hathaway, is the focus of the story (though, of course, Streep could only have played the boss, age-wise).

So sure, why not take the cool part?  I looked back at Pitt's career and saw he'd done it before.  In A River Runs Through It, an early breakout role, Pitt plays one of two brothers.  The main brother--we see the story through his eyes--is played by Craig Sheffer.  Pitt is the firebrand brother who doesn't make it to the end--a smaller role, but more exciting. (I'm not sure if Pitt was a big enough star at this point to choose roles, but I can see him preferring the part.)

Then there's Fight Club.  The story is seen through the eyes of the Edward Norton's character, who narrates.  Meanwhile, Pitt is in the smaller role of Tyler Durden, the mysterious character who moves the story forward. (Spoiler: it turns out they're the same person.) Pitt was a bigger star at the time, but he also knew which part was more fun--let Norton carry the plot, I can be the dangerous one.

Even in Ocean's Eleven, an ensemble piece, the leading two characters are played by George Clooney and Brad Pitt. Clooney is the ringleader, Danny Ocean himself, while Pitt plays the cool guy standing in the corner, handing out advice and getting the job done.

So let that be a lesson. If you're ever lucky enough to be a movie star, don't choose roles by the number of lines, choose them by how effective they are.


Anonymous SOP Writer India said...

As a viewer, what matters in a film for me is the role played by each actor. Even if it is not a lead role, if the actor justifies the character then that is a success. And such characters will live inside people's mind forever. There are similar cases in other film industries too.

10:16 PM, November 10, 2019  
Blogger LAGuy said...

I agree the quality of the role trumps the quantity. However, some actors, used to playing leads, like to make sure they get the most screen time, and also their character "wins" the scenes they're in.

2:13 AM, November 11, 2019  

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