Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The New Tough Guy

This is going to be a rare "actor" post.

By the time I moved to New Mexico, I had pretty much given up on doing much acting anymore. Got a kid and need to make money, after all; and besides, not a whole lot of interest. In L.A., I got as much work singing as acting -- which is a bit of a joke, since I'm really not a singer but spent so many years training as an actor. So I gave up, and tried to make my peace with it by teaching theatre classes and directing.

So now the phone starts ringing.

It started when I auditioned for a filmmaker in Las Cruces, who is making a horror feature out in the Bootheel this summer. He cast me in a small role as, essentially, the runt of a motorcycle gang: the skinny guy who drives the van and talks in a high voice. The kind of part I would be considered for in Hollywood.

After that, I got called to test for a short film by a graduate student at NMSU's film school. The film is a good theatrical piece: a drama with two guys at a diner. The character is sort of fun: a vaguely mystical hit man, a guy who likes to talk to his marks before he kills them. I'm not a bulky guy, but I played him very professional and contained, the sort of guy who might have a wife and child somewhere. Got the part, and we are set to shoot that one in Cruces next weekend.

This graduate student is working on the forementioned horror movie, and he suggested to the director that I read for a larger role: the head of the biker gang, written as a pretty standard bad-ass tank of a guy. The director was dubious (as I would be), but the graduate student showed him the audition tape of me being sort of cold and spooky, and director got intrigued.

So last night we found an empty room at the film school where I sat backwards on a chair (my motorcycle!) and read the scene. Mind you, my body is 5'11'' and 160 pounds; my voice is a high tenor. Without going into too much boring technical detail -- I made a choice, tried it out. Played him as super intelligent, possibly military trained, not bulky but speedy and crazy mean. The kinda guy who doesn't necessarily look like trouble, but will cut off your hand without thinking twice about it, before you know what's happening.

Director loved it. Found the character weird and scary in a way he hadn't had in mind when he wrote it. Now I'm playing the head of the biker gang. Going to spend the summer with a shaved head -- nice to have an excuse. "Sorry, honey, it's for the part!"

Same night, I auditioned for another independent film, a science-fiction thriller to film in El Paso this summer. Another guy with a gun!

So what's up with this? I move to New Mexico and suddenly I'm playing tough guy roles? Now that's funny. As an actor, our roles change as we age. I'm not the 20-year old kid falling down the stairs anymore. I'm 40 and a bit more beat up. Pretty soon I'll be too old to play Hamlet. Moving into Macbeth territory.

None of this is earning much money, by the way, but that's all right. Acting is fun.


Kelly said...

Congratulations, Algernon!

I can picture exactly the type of guy you're referring to as the head of the motorcycle gang. Much scarier in many ways than the typical bulky tough guy.

Kyle said...

Congrats dude! Seems like you need to sharpen up on your hand cutting off skills. :-P

Hal Johnson said...

Yep, you move to New Mexico, and the acting offers come rolling in. As my friend Debby might say, "Life's funny like that."

quid said...

I love the thought of you as the head of a biker gang. Remember, it is the followers and the acolytes that are beefy and physically intimidating. The leaders get that lean mean from their high wire brains. I see you perfectly for this.

Sigh. But, a shaved head. It didn't hurt Kirstie Alley. But I'm not sure you want to be compared to her!


Lance said...

NM is working hard to bring more and more and more film and TV there. My friend Beth (she co-owns the space our radio plays were done at!) has made a third or so of her income from doing television and film in Santa Fe and Albuquerque. "Breaking Bad," "In Plain Sight," "Crash," "Terminator: Salvation," "Thor," everything by Robert Rodriguez; all shoot in NM. I suspect that with a little perseverance you will wind up doing more and more and more acting!

Anonymous said...

Work is good. But how does putting more images of/energy into violence jive with zen?