When and if aliens finally make themselves known to the people of our planet, they will make the assumption that we are ruled by film actors. Can we blame them? If they peruse our periodicals and check out the things we actually do with the Internet, it would be the only logical conclusion. Aliens are pretty logical. The way that we value the opinions of film actors affects everything from commerce to politics.
When an actor reaches a certain level of celebrity, they are able to dictate the market…to a degree.
Most of us have seen a movie simply because a particular actor had a role in it. The movies produced by actors who have reached this level of notoriety often involve a departure from the genre that made them famous. These projects are often produced or directed by the actor. My favorite example of this concept is the 1996 Al Pacino film Looking for Richard.
Though he began his career on the stage, Al Pacino made his name playing gangsters and cops in some of the most popular films in those genre. After a run of successes leading to the mid 90s, Pacino decided to pay tribute to his first love. He made a documentary about the work of William Shakespeare and its relevance in the modern world. Pacino produced and directed this pet project over the course of four years. Working around his shooting schedule for larger projects (evident because of hair and facial hair changes), Pacino and his famous friends set out to produce scenes from Richard III on a grand scale, shooting crucial scenes on location in The Cloisters and the church of St. John The Divine with actors like Alec Baldwin and Kevin Spacey working for scale ($40 per day).
Early in production, Pacino had a revelation: Filming a straight version of the play would never top the 1955 Sir Laurence Olivier version. Rather than shut the film down, Pacino went to the streets. Interviewing average people about their thoughts on Shakespeare, Pacino inter-spliced these with scenes from the play.
What makes this movie fun to watch is the lack of indulgence that usually accompanies a project like this. The conversations that erupt during read-throughs, the comparison of British-born actors verses American-born ones in explaining their ability to perform the Bard.
Once shooting had wrapped, 80 hours worth of film was whittled down to the 112-minute release.
The film was destined to lose money, and without volunteer cast and crew, it never would have been completed. The passion for Shakespeare that each of the actors displays goes a long way in showing why his work is still so prominent today. A list of movies that borrowed from or modernized a Shakespeare plot would far exceed the space allotted.
So if aliens come looking for understanding about the human race, I hope the look past our current obsession with celebrity. I hope they somehow stumble onto the works of William Shakespeare, or failing that, Al Pacino’s film would also suffice.