Oliver Davis with five actors in desperate need of a career reboot…
Reboots and remakes, they’re all the rage. Universal Studios recently announced that they’ll be concentrating on franchises going forward; more Bournes, which recently got ‘rebooted’ (Bourne Again, anyone?); at least another Ted; and a barrel-load of animation films.
Superhero films are particularly susceptible. Perhaps it’s because of the comic book tradition from which they come, where different writers imbue into the page their own reading of the character. And because they make loads of money.
But what about actors? Ones in the game long enough have played so many different roles, a reboot wouldn’t really matter. Those have to disappear from the mainstream for a while, to turn up wildly reinvented in a Quentin Tarantino film. Others just need to switch up their typecasting.
Matthew McConaughey is the most recent. After a string of romantic comedies, whose posters always had him casually leaning on a co-star, Matthew is going through a career McConaissance. The Lincoln Lawyer, Magic Mike and the brilliantly dark Killer Joe – he’s no longer just the butt of a Family Guy joke.
|He went from this…|
Here are five actors crying out for their own McConaissance…
5. Keith Chegwin: Kitchen Sink Drama
Yes – Keith Chegwin. Former children’s show presenter, infamous host of Naked Jungle and botherer of people’s door knockers for many a breakfast television programme.
The thing is, most people don’t know about Chegwin’s acting background. One of his first roles was in the Roman Polanski film The Tragedy of Macbeth (albeit a small part), and he racked up television drama appearances in BBC’s Plays of the Day throughout the 70s. He then went on to host the children’s show Swap Shop, and become a national treasure. Then a bit of an alcoholic. Then a joke.
But then he appeared on Ricky Gervais’ Extras as an anti-Semitic, homophobic version of himself…
It’s a comedic scene that borders on malice. Chegwin’s delivery is so slow, so unforced, that the humour becomes threat. There’s a tinge of hate in his eye, all the more prominent because we’re used to it being full of manic glee.
Last year he appeared in a little film called Kill Keith. It was a ghastly movie – terribly plotted, overridden with low-grade special effects and jokes that weren’t funny – but Chegwin lifted any scene in which he acted. Again, he played himself, but this time as a psychotic murderer, Gervais’ interpretation followed through to the extreme. He’s brooding, intense, and has the eyes of a killer. If given the chance, he could rival Stephen Graham at his most schizophrenic.
Jimmy McGovern, write this man a kitchen sink drama now.
4. Paul Dano: Action Movie Sidekick
You don’t see Dano in many films, because he chooses his projects carefully. Mostly that works, as in Little Miss Sunshine and There Will Be Blood (both in which he’s tremendous). Sometimes it means he disappears inside his own arsehole (the excruciatingly self-obsessed For Ellen). All different films, but they share a quite hefty, serious tone. He needs to have some fun.
|Vote Dano for 2013!|
In the 90s, Gary Oldman had a wonderful approach to movie-making. He wanted to direct his debut (and still only) feature, Nil By Mouth. But he couldn’t get the money. That’s why he took the big bad villain role in Luc Besson’s The Fifth Element. It’s a solid mantra – one for cash, one for flash.
Dano needs to take note, and start picking up some sidekick roles in action films. Although he did star in Cowboys and Aliens and Knight and Day, nobody watched them.
He has a fantastic voice which always seems on the verge of cracking – perfect to express comedy panic. He’s a lanky guy, making Bruce Willis appear bigger alongside him. And boy can he whine. If only there was a new Die Hard movie in the works…
3. Hugh Grant: Heel
‘Heel’ is a wrestling term meaning ‘bad guy’. Ric Flair, Iron Sheik, Roddy Piper back in the day, they were all heels. They do dastardly things like low blows or using brass knuckles when the referee has his back turned. If you watch a 30s gangster film or early 40s noir, chances are you’ll hear someone get called a ‘heel’. Hopefully, when Hugh Grant stops fighting Rupert Murdoch and starts acting again, people will one day bring the term back.
|Well, I, err…um, you know…oopsy daisy?|
Turning heel after being a face (good guy) for most of your career can be a potentially lucrative move. Hulk Hogan’s the most famous example of this. People were sick of his schtick, so he freshened up. He became ‘Hollywood’ Hulk Hogan in WCW and aligned himself with the heel faction NWO. It helped that wrestling company beat the then WWF’s ratings, and prolonged Hogan’s in-ring career by a decade. In fact, he’s somehow still on television now.
Hugh Grant had such a run of successful films as a face that people can’t think of him as anything but the bumbling, yet charming, English gent. Notting Hill, Four Weddings and a Funeral – you’ve got to turn heel in a big way to escape those.
He tried with the Bridget Jones films, and did his best Simon Cowell impersonation on American Dreamz, but they were released too far apart, and nowhere near wicked enough to dislodge his chap image.
His role in Cloud Atlas is promising, but it also looks drenched in schmaltz. He needs a run of films where he plays unambiguous heels.
Or he could shave his head and stroke a cat in Bond 24.
2. Alfonso Ribeiro: Serious Actor
Who? you may ask.
Carlton from The Fresh Prince of Bel Air.
Ribeiro hasn’t done much since those glory days. His co-star, Will Smith, managed to find a bit of success afterwards. Uncle Phil is prolific in video game and animation voice-over work. Carlton, though…he’s settled into celebrity reality TV and game shows. He could be so much more.
Many seem to forget how damn good Fresh Prince was at actual drama. Most memorably, there was an episode where Will’s absent father returned. Will bought him a present, a minimalist sculpture of a parent holding a child, but just as he was about to reveal the gift, his father made an excuse to go again, leaving Uncle Phil holding him just as the figures in the statue. Emotional stuff.
But Will did alright out of Fresh Prince, so don’t shed too many tears.
Ribeiro had his fair share of drama, too. He once took speed by mistake. He fell short of attending his dream college. He was ridden with guilt when Will took a bullet for him.
But he was also the funniest thing about the show. His dances, his bemused expression, his squealing, excited scream – he was a clown you cared about. Transitioning from too-cool-for-school wisecracking Will to emotional wreck is hard. Going from stupid idiot Carlton to poignant character development is harder.
Ribeiro needs a role where he can display both talents, like a dark comedy or television drama. He couldn’t carry a show by himself, but he could be a solid supporting player.
1. Zac Efron: Psycho Killer
|The piercing stare of a teen heartthrob…or a sociopath?|
In interviews, Efron sometimes comes across embarrassed by his High School Musical beginnings, and has ever since seemed to be distancing himself from the franchise. But he made a mistake. Rather than opting for heavier roles, he’s simply gone for the same. Only older.
The Lucky One, New Year’s Eve and The Life and Death of Charlie St. Cloud are the lightest, most inoffensive of romantic films, designed to be consumed as mindlessly as ice-cream. And Efron plods away in them. Lightly. Inoffensively. It’s enough to make you lose hope. And almost enough to make you forget he made Me and Orson Welles. Almost.
Me and Orson Welles still smacks of lightness, but there were real acting chops in there. Christian McKay played a commanding Orson, and Claire Danes an effective point in the love triangle. But most revolutionary was Efron as the titular ‘Me’, a young kid who Welles casts as the lead in his new play.
What made his performance most impressive was that he didn’t even fulfill his potential. It was as though Efron never came out of second gear, that an undiscovered screen presence lay hidden behind his eyes. His blue, warm eyes.
Or are they?
Zac Efron looks like a personification of Hollywood, much in the same way Tom Cruise did when he was younger. His bone structure is flawless, his hair thick and full, his smile gleaming with pearly whites. But in all that perfection lies a falseness. He’s a child star, groomed by the system. He isn’t a normal person. He’s too pretty to be.
The more you stare at Efron, then more he recalls Christian Bale in American Psycho. Nobody will ever believe him as a ‘regular Joe’ in a film, so why bother?
Cast him as a deranged, pretty boy killer, have him hack up some prostitutes and – hey presto – you’ve an actor rebooted in the most dramatic of ways.