Friday, May 22, 2015

How 'True West' (John Malkovitch & Gary Sinise) grounds the actor in me...

Years ago, in my early 20's, I caught a broadcast of a teleplay of 'True West' by Sam Shepard. It was filmed in 1983 on the Steppenwolf stage, and starred John Malkovich and Gary Sinise. The performances were so nuanced and powerful, and it really pulled me in. 

A short synopsis from the playwrights website: "TRUE  WEST is a character study that examines the relationship between Austin, a screenwriter, and his older brother Lee. It is set in the kitchen of their mother's home 40 miles east of Los Angeles. Austin is house-sitting while their mother is in Alaska, and there he is confronted by his brother, who proceeds to bully his way into staying at the house and using Austin's car. In addition, the screenplay which Austin is pitching to his connection in
Hollywood  somehow gets taken over by the pushy con-man tactics of Lee, and the brothers find themselves forced to cooperate in the creation of a story that will make or break both their lives. In the process, the conflict between the brothers creates a heated situation in which their roles as successful family man and nomadic drifter are somehow reversed, and each man finds himself admitting that he had somehow always wished he were in the other's shoes.

From highschool musicals, college plays, and community theater in my teens to my 20's, I definitely considered myself more of a song and dance guy, more of a performer and less a serious actor, and I certainly came from the school of funny faces/voices. There's always that part of me (at the ready) to perform as such, but I remember catching this viewing of 'True West' and thinking... 'Huh. I'd like to try my hand at serious acting.'. Once in a while, from there on out, beyond a comical, schticky, quirky role, I have been known to be given a dramatic role to tackle. I love the challenge. There's that old quote, 'Dying is easy...Comedy is hard.' I've always felt it to be the other way around (for me). When I was younger, I found it easier to make people laugh than to go deep within and pull out some dark and gritty stuff to show for others to see. Watching 'True West' reminds me of this possibility in a profound way. 

Most people can remember something that inspired them. A play, a musical, a movie, a TV show, an experience, that had them inspired. This is my go-to on the dramatic front. An A-HA! moment where it clicked. I've even had the fantasy of producing a stage version of it in LA, getting to play with my buddy, actor Tripp Pickell, although we don't look like brothers at all. But neither did Gary Sinise and John Malkovich, really. 

I'm excited that the world wide web has become such a great resource to view old clips and such. This is the link to actually watch the full movie of TRUE WEST on YouTube, if you're inspired... 

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