Forgive the visual pun but I simply have to say it. There’s no way to act in a film without getting your hands dirty (or bloody as the case may be.) I recently acted the lead in my friend’s short horror/romantic comedy genre-straddler The Courtship of Ronson Crumb and it ruined me emotionally and physically for hours at a time.
Guys, let me start off by saying that I do not claim to be an actor. I have never studied acting. I’m not even sure I know what “acting” is. For a long time I believed what an actor friend of mine told me: Acting is lying. To be a good actor you have to be a good liar. Well, it didn’t take long into the shoot for me to realize that this, like the Abominable Snowman before it, was horse feathers.
From my limited experience playing a delusional psychopath I have come to the conclusion that acting is not lying. Acting is far more similar to telling the truth.
In order to make Ronson real for the camera, for the audience, I had to believe in what I was doing. Look at my eyes in these photos! I’ve tried to look scary in the past only to be dismissed with scattered chuckles but here… here no one is laughing. I don’t even see myself in that face. I became someone else entirely. Someone who bubbles underneath with intensity. A snake that studies their prey before striking and teeters on the edge of violence and depravity. I didn’t even fully understand how I achieved this until I broke down crying in a corner of the set, so horrified at what I had to do to make the scene real and sell this ludicrous character and his insane story to the audience.
After we finished a particularly brutal day of shooting for me, several physically taxing scenes that required sick cruelty on my part, I returned to my lovely home and adorable loving wife with Ronson still riding shotgun. I know it sounds like a Stephen King novel but I swear, he was still in there and would sometimes bubble out at inoppurtune times. For two days I wrestled him back into my subconcious before he could do any damage. I literally had to kill off the character I’d created through a slow process of hugs and mugs (of hot tea or cocoa).
Eventually I returned to myself but I wonder what others experience in acting for film has been like. Do they warn you of this abyss in acting school? Has Heath Ledger become a cautionary tale? Was I foolishly dabbling in the black arts side of acting like a child with a pocket knife -likely to lop my thumb off?
Frankly, I can’t wait to act again when the opportunity comes up. It was a lot of fun and although I went to some very dark places for this performance, I think it’ll be worth it once y’all see the finished film.
There are worse things than having to feed the most terrible parts of yourself a steady diet of fear, pain and longing to create a monster of misery for a bunch of weirdoes to get off to.