The great Bard William Shakespeare once wrote “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players. They have their exits and their entrances, and one man in his time plays many parts, his acts being seven ages.” It comes from As You Like It, spoken by the melancholy Jaques in Act II Scene VII and compares the world to a stage and life to a play, and describes the seven stages of a man’s life, which is often the route many actors today take when it comes their careers if they are lucky: infant, schoolboy, lover, soldier, justice, pantaloon and old age, facing imminent death.
The definition of an actor is a person whose given profession is portraying a character in a dramatic or comic production. An actor has a variety of stages that she or he perform in; Today’s mediums include film, television, theatre, or radio. The word actor literally means “one who interprets” therefore those who consider themselves as one are meant to interpret a dramatic character.
It is necessary to bring up those two points with this writing as it appears that many have lost sight of what it means to be an actor and what exactly their job involves. In today’s society, it has become the norm to quickly and harshly judge casting roles as soon as they are announced, causing audiences to not wait to reserve judgement and to become prejudice against a film before it has even come out. It is perfectly acceptable to wonder why such choices in casting are made; what is not acceptable, though, is to mount a huge backlash against an actor because of a so-called controversial casting choice.
Last week, it was reported Tom Hiddleston is set to play legendary Country Singer Hank Williams as his next project following High-rise. I Saw The Light, to be helmed by Marc Abraham, will tell this story of Williams rise to fame in the Country Music world, and the toll that very fame took on his personal life. The announcement of this particular project for Hiddleston marks a change in pace as far as roles for the actor are concerned, as the classically trained thespian will be coming off just wrapping the thriller High-rise when production on the biopic starts in Louisiana in October, and he also just recently wrapped the gothic thriller Crimson Peak, helmed by Guillermo Del Toro.
This will be the first time on the big screen for the actor to take on a biopic, which can be a game-changer for him as an actor, a fact that Hiddleston is very well aware of as he has recently spoke out about his controversial casting following the announcement causing quite the stir. Hiddleston recently spoke to Britain’s Daily Mail newspaper saying that, “The film is about the man behind the myth, the power of his music, the sheer voltage of his talent and charisma, and his formidable demons… Hank’s life has a tragic arc, but in simple truth, he was a genius: a star that burned twice as bright and lived half as long. It’s a huge role for me and a huge responsibility. I’m going to give it everything I’ve got.”
The actor also went into details on how he is prepping for the role that could make or break his career. Hiddleston stated that he has been practicing with Grammy Award-winning country star Rodney Crowell. “I’ve already started singing and playing every day… He (Crowell) came down to visit me over the Easter weekend in Toronto where I was filming… and we jammed for a day or so. It was so exciting… It was spine-tingling just to spend a day playing some of Hank’s greatest hits… with such a gifted musician. He’s already expanded my vocal range and given me a few pointers about adapting my own tone to sound like Hank. Rodney has furnished me with his beautiful J45 Gibson (guitar) to practise with. And he’ll be on hand throughout the shoot.” Sounds like someone who knows that the audience will be paying close attention to his every move in the film.
The casting of the classically trained British thespian in the role has sparked debate among fans, and even drew criticism from a member of the Williams’ family. The late country singer’s grandson, Hank Williams III, spoke out against the casting almost immediately after the announcement and insisted an American actor should have been picked to take on the iconic role.
Here’s the thing: Hiddleston is not the first nor will he be the last Brit to take on iconic American roles. Case in point, to note, recently knighted, Sir Daniel Day-Lewis most recently played arguably an American icon, President Abraham Lincoln, a role that won him his third Academy award to date. Day-Lewis was universally lauded with praise with very little outcry from fans.
What makes Day-Lewis’ turn as Lincoln that much different from Hiddleston’s upcoming role? Could it be that Day-Lewis is deemed a more serious actor than Hiddleston or the differences of what the roles demand are too grand? Day-Lewis is a method actor who gets into each role he takes on; Hiddleston, although not method, also takes his time in prepping role and whose dedication shines through as well.
Whatever the reason for the backlash, the fact that the actor has had to defend his casting is something audiences, fans, and critics should take notice and take to heart. Actors rarely jump into roles without much debate and consideration, and given that Hiddleston himself months ago had started prepping for the role before the announcement, the backlash and critical talk is quite astounding. Roles like these call for an actor to step their game up, which given Hiddleston’s repertoire, should not pose much of a problem for the actor given that he is constantly adding layers to each and every performance he has given the world thus far.
Tom Hiddleston is an actor, a person whose given profession is portraying a character in a dramatic or comic production, which is exactly what he going to do in I Saw The Light, and the world should give the thespian a chance to show what he can do, and wait to reserve judgement until the production is released. After all, “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players” so let’s the players do what they do best and bring roles to life.
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