Four posts ago, while writing “What It Was Like Working On Phyllis”, I mentioned how actress Cloris Leachman was temperamental. Actually, closer scrutiny will reveal that the temperamental person in that post was yours truly. Cloris Leachman was just flaky. But “flaky” is a First Cousin to temperamental, and a lot of actors are both.
First of all, we should remember that people in all lines of work are temperamental. I imagine there are temperamental dentists. Though I wouldn’t like to go to one.
“You reject regular Home Care, and then you come to me with that mouth?!? I’m pulling all these teeth! And without anesthetic! See how you like that, ‘Mr. Too Busy to Floss.’”
There are temperamental stockbrokers:
“It goes up! It goes down! It goes up! It goes down! For one day, couldn’t the damn stock market just stay in one place!!!
There are even, I imagine, temperamental psychologists.
But it’s not as likely as with actors. The career of acting attracts temperamental people, partly because no other occupation would put up with them, and also because, in the roles they play, actors are often required to display colorful emotions. It’s the perfect job for them.
Acting is where the temperamental go to get paid.
But it is also the career choice itself that makes actors temperamental.
Actors deal with rejection on a hyper-regular basis. Sometimes, their temperamentalism is just payback.
“I remember when I was an ‘Extra’ and they wouldn’t let me go to the bathroom. I know you just said ‘Action!’, Mr. Director, but I am going to the bathroom right now!”
Everyone on the acting “Food Chain” is frustrated. “Bit” players want to be featured players, and featured players want to be stars. And stars want the best scripts, not the ones Sandy Bullock turned down. “Although, Dear God, if I could only get one of those…”
Temperamental people take their frustrations out on somebody else. Invariably somebody whose salary is a fraction of their own.
For the “Thank you, we’ll let you know” and they do and it’s “No” people, there’s the inevitable question of “Why them, and not me?” Though there is insecurity even for the accepted, as in “Why me, and not them?” or “Why wasn’t it me sooner?” or “How long will it stay me, and then stop being me and become them?”
A newer, younger, cheaper “them.”
You can see where that temperament could come from.
And then, there’s what’s involved in the process of acting, should you ever be lucky enough to acquire a job. Imagine the insecurity of being someone whose “face is out there” as employed actors who are about to complain are wont to remind the endangering ingrates, nestled safely behind the camera.
Actors in front of the camera have no control over what they look like, what they say or what they do. The script puts you in a wig and a pair of tights, and forces you to deliver overheated unspeakabilities like,
“You may chop off my head, but when I’m gone, thousands will arise to take my place. The Foot Soldiers of Justice will live on forever, marching to the fore wherever the Forces of Malevolence rear their duplicitous heads, subjugating the downtrodden and the defeated yearning to breathe the healing air of Liberty. The lights may be dimming, but some day, those lights will shine again, and the world will reawake, smiling and laughing. The birds will sing again, and the Bells of Freedom…”
Somebody! Get the axe!
Actors are frequently not only called upon to deliver such inanities, they have to “sell” it, and make it believable. Imagine if you opened your mouth and nonsense came out, and you had no control over it. Embarrassments are escaping from the lower part of your face, spewing foolishness the audience identifies with you. And there is nothing you can about it. It just keeps coming out.
And then, the final cut, and it is indeed the Final Cut, in the editing process, the director can manufacture a performance out of all the pieces of the various “Takes” they required you to do, making the finished product, not an organic performance but a compilation of snatches and moments cobbled together – not to your, oh no – but to somebody else’s predilection.
That would make you a little grumpy, don’t you think?
After all your efforts, after all you put up with, the years of struggle and subservience, watching inferiors raised up while you languished unappreciated in the shadows, after causing heartbreak for your family, and enduring ridicule from your peers where it took monumental courage to stand up and say, “Yes, I am an act-or”, you are forced to pull on some pantyhose and recite garbage?
No wonder actors are temperamental.
Yikes! I just made a persuasive case for terrible behavior.
As Fagin sang in Oliver,
“I think I better think it out again.”
In the meantime, a year’s sentence to Logic Prison, for “Egregious Misuse of The Argument Format.”
If logic can be used to excuse egregious behavior, reasonableness will lose the shimmering incandescence of its once respectable luster.
Man, that’s a mouthful.
But at least it’s my mouthful.