There are actors who do the glitzy well. You see them in a movie, admire their looks but throughout the movie you are aware that the character on screen is an ‘actor’. Then there are performers who make those illusions seem so life-like, you start identifying the actor with the character as if its a real person.
This month, my celeb in focus and Friday’s therapy for the soul is Benicio Del Toro. Honestly, I must admit that I wasn’t a movie buff until only a little while ago, when I re-discovered my creativity, so to speak. My impatience with movies and the fact that the story usually -ends, had turned me into a life-long TV addict but lately, I have discovered the power of cinema. Movies are starting to greatly influence my poetry/story writing. The larger than life illusions, characters that portray shades from black to white, high strung drama, emotional intensification and ability to fit an entire story in a couple hundred minutes, proves to be great fodder for the creative side of my brain. Amongst all the movies I have enjoyed over the past few months, Johnny Depp and Benicio Del Toro’s performances seem to have hit my soul.
Johnny’s quirky characters are ever so exciting but since this post is about the dark horse or rather del Toro (of the bull!), I am going to talk about the recent intensification of my soul, experienced through watching his performances. The first time I watched Snatch, I knew Franky Four Fingers would become my favorite character along with Brad Pitt’s Mickey O’Neil. Somewhere down the line I ended up watching Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, as documented previously in one of Friday Soul Therapies. Dr. Gonzo is disgustingly lovable, I especially love the scene where he brings a young Christina Ricci (Lucy) to the hotel room. But, I still wasn’t completely in awe of Benicio’s acting until I watched Che (Part 1 & 2). That was probably the moment when my brain went “This man is ridiculously versatile”. I have been on a Benicio marathon ever since. With each movie I watch, my admiration only grows. He literally looks like a different person in each movie. There is something organic, almost a rawness to each character he portrays and although he is very un-grand in the mainstream sense, he makes up for the lack of that glamour through his grand acting skills. There is a combination of laid-back charm and dark magnetism that seems to fascinate me but over-all, I am truly inspired by his dedication to the art and passion to stay unique.
Benicio is a method actor who brings his own improvisations to the scene. Apparently, he comes up with some pretty crazy ideas as reported by this Esquire article. There is a lovely story on there about why he chose to have a t-shirt printed for “Things We Lost In The Fire” and basically managed to sneak it in many scenes. Its there in the background, somewhere and at one point you see him jogging in it. I’m not sure how many people would get it, but for him that t-shirt was important because he had actually become Jerry.
LA Times has an interesting write up providing more insights into the uniqueness Benicio brought to Jerry’s character. Who knew that the most touching scene in the movie was actually conceived in his head and not on the script!
In his interview on ‘Inside Actors Studio‘, while explaining why Fred Fenster from Usual Suspects mumbles the way he does and has trimmed eyebrows, he talks about the character’s supposed background. Apparently, he imagined Fred growing up in a Latin neighborhood with a Chinese mother. I think he’s a hilarious genius if he came up with that creation.
The brilliantly written Esquire article also mentions the amount of time Benicio spent simply researching the Che project- a total of 2 years! Another year of production/promotion and he agreed that producing Che- “It’s been like carrying a big heavy piano up the Empire State Building“.
Here are some lovely inspirational quotes I found over on Beniciodeltoro.net
“Che [Guevara] symbolizes not selling out, staying true to what you believe in.”
“I’m not saying I’m a writer, but I’ve been in movies for a long time, and I think I could write a script for a movie. Writing and directing. I’d like to tell a story from the way I look at life because sometimes I think, well, I just saw that, and I see somebody else seeing it, so I think there are people out there who can see the same colors as I see. I’d like to tell a story that way.”
“I still have that. Faith and hope, still burning. Not faith in God; faith in something. Something bigger than you and me. It could be humanity. Or the universe. It’s not personal.”
“I think any character who goes against the grain is interesting. Maybe it’s a romantic idea that I have about people standing up for what they believe in and ignoring the odds and not following… but I like people when they make choices for themselves. I like people who take chances.”
“If they have expectations for me to behave some way, or dress some way, or look some way, you know, I couldn’t give a damn about that.”
“If a story has a journey, usually there’s going to be conflict inside the character. If the story is gonna have conflict, the characters are gonna have conflict. I like stories with conflict.”
His new movie Savages is pretty awesome if you manage to crop him out from a rather cringeworthy performance and narration by Blake Lively in the background. The psycho character Lado played by Benicio, deserves to be hated but I just couldn’t! There is a dark twisted humor in his gestures and sick actions. Considering no character in that movie is worth any sympathy, if I had to side with any villain, it would probably be Lado the psycho rapist who blows marijuana smoke in Lively’s face!
Despite the fact that he generally plays characters that get spit on by female co-stars (The Way of the Gun, Fear & Loathing, Savages), he manages to make the troubled/trouble-maker guy look ridiculously interesting in those shades of gray. That to me is a genius!
Here is a mesmerizing version of Shake-Rattle and Roll from the 21 grams soundtrack, where he speaks the lyrics. I love it!
He’ll flip ya!
Where iz ze stone?