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Yes, like you mean them, as a good actor would. Of course you are. So, you talented, photogenic prick motherfucker, say the fucking lines the way they were fucking written and then we can all go to the bar pretending to be friends.
And yes, the actor has to believe in the pages, and yes again, he or she is entirely correct to raise questions when a line or a scene bumps, when something seems emotionally inconsistent or implausibly plotted. Filmed narrative is intensely collaborative.
Every now and then, the actor is right. And not Essay on speaking politely I hate to be wrong any more or less than the next man. Understand, I say all of this with the humility of a gentleman who wants at all points to be agreeable and kindhearted, to be yoked in tender harness to any and every soul in our divine human comedy.
Which is a long-winded way of saying that the thing about me letting an actor be right is he damn well better be right. When he makes a choice to go off book or omit some element of the storytelling, he better be servicing not just his character, but the narrative to which that character is in service.
On the other hand, the good actors do know their business. And their business is something so ineffable and extraordinary that when they completely understand a role and the purpose of that role in the context of a story, an argument or two about some dialogue or action is probably unavoidable.
Regardless, it strikes me as a pretty good primer for anyone interested in the inside baseball of filming. What follows is a bit of how we actually do. And the scene in question is the culminating, confrontational moment of a storyline involving the characters played by Isaac and Ryder, the ex-mayor of Yonkers, Nick Wasicsko and his longtime political ally and friend, Vinni Restiano, respectively.
Cornered at the end of his political career, Wasicsko has decided to run against Restiano for the Yonkers council president, and Restiano, finding him alone at a bar, confronts him with the betrayal.
And as Haggis pointed out when we were contemplating the script prior to filming, no one actually talks to themselves aloud in a bar in such fashion. Nonetheless, I was determined to hang on to the line — at least through the filming of it. The compulsion to argue against even a careful established narrative construct for suicide, with all the requisite tells and clues, is so powerful that any story that concludes with a willful act of self-destruction risks a corresponding backwash of disbelief and disconnect by the audience.
Having contemplated the whole of the story for months with great care, Oscar Isaac was nonetheless unconvinced even by this sardonic reading of the line and after revisions were published, he mentioned his concern, to which I replied, with all the manipulative and false equanimity to which an executive producer is entitled: Then, when film editing the whole of the narrative later, we can assess the storyline and our execution of it, and make the proper choice.
What if the writer is unwilling to kill one of his writerly lines, even if it impairs performance? What if a director is unwilling to kill a more dramatic moment, or worse, a pretty shot, for the sake of a real or authentic one?
As seasoned and as talented an actor as we have, Oscar Isaac was working with Haggis and myself for the first time.
Trust goes only as far as it does in such circumstances, and on the day of filming — at the rehearsal of the scene, in fact — it became clear enough that he did not want to give up the line.
If I walked away from this barroom scene without even a passable read of the overt line, would I be cursing Isaac and Haggis later, trying to vindicate the narrative without all the necessary assets?
Get your choices now, or go without them forever. I went over to Oscar to make my pitch. I was doubting him. Trust, it seems, runs both ways.
I went back to the video monitors, frustrated and angry.Politeness is the practical application of good manners or etiquette. It is a culturally defined phenomenon, and therefore what is considered polite in one culture can sometimes be quite rude or simply eccentric in another cultural context.
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