Are character actors just bluffing themselves

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aronisred's Avatar
outrageous film reviewer
This observation is only about character actors, not movie stars.
I recently noticed that in interviews character actors like Jeff Daniels, Paul Dano etc. say that they just wanted to be actors and not stars. They just want to be able to play different characters and not try to be movie stars or stars.

To be honest, who are they kidding ? given their facial features and body type, they are not genetically gifted to be movie stars so do they just convince themselves that they want to be actors so that they don't have to face the fact that they are not movie star material in a business called show business ? I bet they would give anything to be a movie star if they had the chance. It all feels like a fake justification



I just have to question the "body type" thing? Is there a body type for "stars"?

I mean, sure there's the "tall, dark and handsome" stereotype for "leading men" - but not all stars fit that standard...
Charlie Chaplin, James Cagney, Dustin Hoffman are a few that come to mind.



aronisred's Avatar
outrageous film reviewer
I just have to question the "body type" thing? Is there a body type for "stars"?

I mean, sure there's the "tall, dark and handsome" stereotype for "leading men" - but not all stars fit that standard...
Charlie Chaplin, James Cagney, Dustin Hoffman are a few that come to mind.
those are exceptions that justify the standards



Do they actually say they don't want to be stars, or do they just say something about being interested in character-driven supporting roles? Because that wouldn't be the same thing. If you can quote them so we can see how much interpretation is being layered onto the words, that'd be helpful.

Anyway, we know from past threads that you can't comprehend people in this industry having genuine artistic interests or motivations, so I assume this is just another expression of that.



This observation is only about character actors, not movie stars.
I recently noticed that in interviews character actors like Jeff Daniels, Paul Dano etc. say that they just wanted to be actors and not stars. They just want to be able to play different characters and not try to be movie stars or stars.

To be honest, who are they kidding ? given their facial features and body type, they are not genetically gifted to be movie stars so do they just convince themselves that they want to be actors so that they don't have to face the fact that they are not movie star material in a business called show business ? I bet they would give anything to be a movie star if they had the chance. It all feels like a fake justification

Are you saying that movie stars have to be good looking? Some of the biggest movie stars are actors who I don't think are good looking, including Humphrey Bogart, Peter Lorre, Charles Laughton, Edward G. Robinson, Boris Karloff, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Nicolas Cage, Sylvester Stallone, and Jack Nicholson. Would you consider any of these people character actors?

As the saying goes, "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.".
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This observation is only about character actors, not movie stars.
I recently noticed that in interviews character actors like Jeff Daniels, Paul Dano etc. say that they just wanted to be actors and not stars. They just want to be able to play different characters and not try to be movie stars or stars.

To be honest, who are they kidding ? given their facial features and body type, they are not genetically gifted to be movie stars so do they just convince themselves that they want to be actors so that they don't have to face the fact that they are not movie star material in a business called show business ? I bet they would give anything to be a movie star if they had the chance. It all feels like a fake justification
I was thinking about this yesterday, actually, because I ended up rewatching The Invisible Man. Elisabeth Moss is not conventionally beautiful (although I think this is more evident in earlier parts like Mad Men and Top of the Lake), but she has a huge range and is extremely expressive. I don’t think she’s a ‘character actor’ as such, though. So not sure I agree with the premise... Daniel Day Lewis is arguably the greatest living actor, and I’d say he does come off as a ‘character actor’ in some sense, but does that really mean he didn’t ‘make it’ in commercial films? I’d say that’s far fetched, it’s more likely that he finds ‘movie star’ parts boring. Same with Tilda Swindon and Joaquin Phoenix, for example, they just don’t want to play parts they don’t find exciting and they get by just fine. Phoenix actually addresses that in some post-Joker interview. They all have atypical facial features, but Eva Green did break into the Bond franchise and then went back to her art house roots. She is traditionally beautiful, albeit a bit of a vamp. I highly doubt they are all collectively kidding themselves instead of honestly preferring quirky parts.



Welcome to the human race...
Yeah, there are clearly only two types of actor and they should both stay in their lanes. The guy who played Batman is a Movie Star so he shouldn't have gotten fat and bald to play Dick Cheney when there are already so many fat bald character actors out there.
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I'm guessing he'll say it works in that direction but not the other one. But yeah, I think this is just the OP assuming that the way they value things is how everyone else must.



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WTF is a character actor anyways? Don't all actors play characters? So like, wouldn't all actors be character actors?
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To be honest, who are they kidding ? given their facial features and body type, they are not genetically gifted to be movie stars so do they just convince themselves that they want to be actors so that they don't have to face the fact that they are not movie star material in a business called show business ? I bet they would give anything to be a movie star if they had the chance.
Didn’t realize that movie stars have to be “genetically gifted”. Jonah Hill, Orson Welles, Gene Hackman, Joe Pesci, Harvey Keitel - to name just a few - aren’t exactly gorgeous, but they’re definitely movie stars.

I think actors like Bill Camp & Chris Cooper (to name just two) are definitely character actors. The great late Wilfred Brimley himself said he never got the girl in his movies. One actor said (forget who) he’d rather have a small part in a good movie than the leading rôle in a bad movie.
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Got my multi-quotes mixed up. @gbgoodies mentioned Jack Nicholson. IMO, so handsome when he was younger. Definitely a movie star.

@AgrippinaX, Daniel Day Lewis & Joaquin Phoenix, also very handsome & definitely movie stars.

@John McClane, so far as I know, a “character actor” does not carry a movie (like Tom Cruise did in Top Gun, for example).



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@John McClane, so far as I know, a “character actor” does not carry a movie (like Tom Cruise did in Top Gun, for example).
Yeah, I just googled it. I think it's hogwash made up by some elite ******* to feel special. That's my story and I'm sticking to it!

"The term, often contrasted with that of leading actor, is somewhat abstract and open to interpretation."

See! I was right! Hogwash invented by an elite *******.



Got my multi-quotes mixed up. @gbgoodies mentioned Jack Nicholson. IMO, so handsome when he was younger. Definitely a movie star.

@AgrippinaX, Daniel Day Lewis & Joaquin Phoenix, also very handsome & definitely movie stars.

@John McClane, so far as I know, a “character actor” does not carry a movie (like Tom Cruise did in Top Gun, for example).
Well, personally I don’t see why a ‘movie star’ implies attractiveness. Sure, it probably requires that, but I don’t see how that’s in the definition of ‘movie star’. My understanding is that a movie star is someone playing predominantly leading parts in commercial films (not dramas or art house or experimental films).

https://www.google.co.uk/amp/s/www.c...ish/movie-star

https://www.thefreedictionary.com/movie+star

Mulholland Drive:

‘Of course, I'd rather be known as a great actress than a movie star. But, you know, sometimes people end up being both.’

So here Betty is juxtaposing ‘proper’ acting to merely commercial acting, as I see it.

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0166924...ters/nm0915208



Well, personally I don’t see why a ‘movie star’ implies attractiveness. Sure, it probably requires that, but I don’t see how that’s in the definition of ‘movie star’.
As I said before with my examples of male actors, it’s not the definition of being a movie star, but, as you yourself imply, it doesn’t hurt to be beautiful or handsome.



As I said before with my examples of male actors, it’s not the definition of being a movie star, but, as you yourself imply, it doesn’t hurt to be beautiful or handsome.
Fair enough.



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Back during the golden age of cinema 1930-1959, often actors were either cast as leading men/leading women...or cast as...character actors. And once they were cast by the studios in those molds they seldom changed. Usually the very attractive played leading men/women roles and the average or unusual looking actors played character roles.

Today it's much different of course.



Right now I’m watching a special features documentary on my Top Gun dvd. (Just saw the movie for the first time.)

Interestingly, the late Tony Scott (brother of Ridley), who directed the movie, said he envisioned the movie with “great looking actors”. The movie was then written for Tom Cruise in the lead rôle even though Tom initially had no interest in the rôle.



Re: don't all actors play characters. I think (someone more steeped in Hollywood history can perhaps correct me) it's more that old time movie stars were often said to be playing "themselves." Cary Grant just shows up and plays someone suave and similar to the last five guys he played, or maybe just changes around the margins, whereas the "character" actors change to reflect the characters more than the other way around. Probably a glib generalization, but that's what I took to be the explanation/origin of the term.