28 October 2020 517 Views

Academic Actors. Part 2!

by James Murphy

The Second Lecture Begins..

Some stars just convince, immediately, as clever/competent/compelling. It’s like charisma. You cannot learn it or teach it. So here it is: part 2 of the approved academics on film list..pay attention, class!

 

  • JEFF GOLDBLUM: Ah, yah. Obviously! The man just radiates an explorer’s curiosity about life in all its forms. Even now, as he is in his 60s, becoming a Dad, an almost childlike awe at the world around him is present in his every smile. A polymath: Goldblum plays jazz, writes, makes documentaries. And does some acting on the side, where he often plays, yep, academics! Independence Day, The Lost World: Jurassic Pak; The Fly. Always a joy to watch.

 

  • RUSSELL CROWE: The myth about this man is that he is all brute force and action. Not so. Indeed, ANY outburst of anger, be it in character, or offscreen? Comes from a place of thought, of frustration at the ignorance in others who fail to share a certain passion or insight. Maximus is a poetic soul between battles; The Insider sees Crowe as a whistle-blower/chemist. He was a convincing Dr Jekyll! And of course, A Beautiful Mind is just, well, beautiful.

 

  • GEORGE CLOONEY! It helps that the man cannot help but be clever in every conversation he has, offscreen. Seriously, in a non pompous manner, Clooney always gives a potted lecture. Politics especially is a specialism. Never didactic, though. He wants people to think, to ask questions. And we do, because his conviction is compelling and translates to roles that required a certain aura of expertise and field-work. The best television Doctor, ever (Dr Ross in ER: please bring him back sometime in own spin off on HBO?). You buy Clooney as a bomb disposal expert in The Peacemaker. You believe him as astronauts, politicians, investigative reporters. He’s an academic!

 

  • DANIEL CRAIG. Sure, he’s JAMES. BOND! But even his 007 is prone to bouts of brooding and reflection. His looks, though distinctive and framed by muscular stature, look like they blend into libraries and lecture halls and student union bars. There is a gravelly authority to his voice, lending itself well to voiceover and exposition. Enduring Love, Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Archangel, etc.

 

  • NAOMI WATTS: It’s something in her poise. When Naomi stares at the camera, it’s like she is asking you, the audience, to take a pause and consider her next move. Beautiful. Subtle. It does not matter what the role is, that kind of intellect just radiates through. That said, yes, of course, there is a tendency to cast her accordingly as investigators/spies/medics et al. The International springs to mind. Gypsy, too?

 

  • SUSAN SARANDON: The lady just makes you LISTEN. Whatever viewpoint her character conveys, one feels compelled to give them fair hearing. It helps of course that Susan is a compassionate, committed and well informed activist offscreen, who calls out hypocrisy. Watching her is an education. Notably, in the 1990s, she highlighted the tragic irony of being pressed to wear AIDS ribbons, while Haitian refugees suffering the ailment seemed devoid of help. I simplify and paraphrase and do not do her justice. But that was the gist. The Client is always worth a watch: Susan convinces as a Lawyer and has a sizzling intellectual chemistry with Tommy Lee Jones (himself a real life Harvard grad, summa cum laude).

More onscreen academics soon..when I think of them..

Class Dismissed! 🙂

 



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