Saturday, 13 August 2011

The Thin Line between Much and Much too Much

Back in the day, when I used to look at American Idol there was one particular running theme with Simon Cowell that always irked me. In his usual Cowell style, after any performance that seemed immersed in feeling, he’d lazily roll his eyes and drawl, “That was sooooo theatrical.” I don’t know what it is, but Broadway always seems to come off as the “starving artist” section of acting, and I’m not ignorant to the fact that money is essential to the development of any art form. So, I’m hardly miffed film/TV stars constantly make the trajectory to the stage making producers more likely to invest in some highbrow theatre piece. Twitter was a buzz this past Thursday with the news that Andrew Garfield is set to star in the 2012 Broadway incarnation of Arthur Miller’s Pulitzer Prize winning Death of a Salesman - not my favourite play of his (that’d be either The Crucible or A View from the BridgeSpiderman is being rebooted but Garfield – from what I’ve seen – is a fine actor, and he seems amiable enough. But, and it’s possibly I’m being facetious; this seems like one in a thousand example of producers’ being guilty of tunnel vision. An actor gets tossed into the spotlight and suddenly he’s on the FYC list for every role and Garfield just seems wrong for any role in Death of a Salesman.
For the less obsessive literary folks out there, Death of a Salesman is a stream-of-conscious drama about the suicidal Willy Loman and his wife Linda, and their two sons Biff and Happy. There was a relatively successful adaptation in 1951 – gaining five Oscar nominations with Lee J. Cobb is the eponymous salesman. Biff is the 34 year old prodigal son, returned home – pensive, deliberate, practical. He was Willy’s favourite until he realised that his father was a “fake”. Happy is the younger one, about 28, the ladies’ man and idealistic dreamer. Malkovich was a particularly moving Biff opposite Hoffman in 1983.
Garfield is set to play Biff, he’s 28 so Happy makes sense (technically). I know actors act, but two days later I’m still squinting trying to imagine Garfield playing either of these roles. The thing, the entire revival seems strangely unconscious about age - Hoffman is playing Willie Loman. Willie's supposed to be 60, and Hoffman is in his mid forties. I’m not anywhere near New York, so the chances of me seeing them are slim, but the idea still irks me. Especially since Miller is my favourite contemporary playwright behind Tennessee Williams and Edward Albee. But, as good as Garfield is – this just seems like the beginning of the oversaturation point. No actor can do everything.
Am I being theatrical in my hullabaloo? Is Garfield the next actor who can “do anything”?


DEZMOND said...

I must admit I generally don't see Garfield's appeal. He seems wrong in all possible roles, because he just doesn't have the looks (And I don't mean being handsome) nor charisma of a lead actor.

Paolo said...

PSH playing Loman was a bigger controversy in my Twitter friend/circle of friends.

And this might seem cruel, but Garfield was only good in Parnassus and just rode along with his good looks in his bigger roles.

TomS said...

Garfield showed some real acting chops in "Never Let Me Go". He's not yet overstayed his welcome, and he handled his role in "Social Network" with maturity...So yes, I think he could manage a part in Salesman....I'm having a hard time buying him as "Spiderman"...