Monday, August 27, 2012

Roles for the Mature Male. Like me.

More than a month has passed since my last post. My apologies. Other projects, such as doing a couple of biographies, creating a 200-photo album (via MyPublisher), planning a trip to NYC, and watching my grass turn brown, have taken up much of my time. Plus evenings spent watching Season 4 of "Breaking Bad" with Mary Lee - it's addictive. Like meth. Or so I hear.

On to the subject at hand: Roles for Mature Actors. Such as Michael Caine, Debbie Reynolds, Peter O'Toole (although I hear he recently retired), Sean Connery, Donald Sutherland, Judi Dench. They keep working. 
Sure, there are many who have professionally disappeared, either victims of botched face-lifts or no longer interested in "cameos." But there are parts for actors once they pass the 70-year wrinkle in time.

Which is why I signed up with Talent-Plus about 5 years ago. Originally I anticipated some light-comedy parts in sales films or commercials. You know, the kind where an older guy with a sprightly step and a gleam in his eye delivers a meaningful glance or a well-timed retort. I'd be perfect for that. Turns out the only role I landed was in a low-budget movie about advertising. I played the part of an old Italian baker on The Hill who is approached by The Mob. Like somebody said, "There are no small parts; only small actors." (It was either Stanislavisky or Ginger Rogers. Maybe Mickey Rooney) My reviews were excellent. Three people who saw it said, "You weren't bad."

Why talk about this now? Because I got a phone call last week from Talent Plus. A client was going to shoot a commercial or instructional video and thought I'd be perfect. At last. Someone saw the potential in my style, my smile, my incredible timing with a punch line. "What's the part?" I asked, not really caring what it was, only a chance to work, to loosen up my chops, as somebody said. Maybe it was a musician. Still, relevant. "They like your chest," said the young woman on the phone. She continued. "They like you because you're old and thin." 

I'm not kidding about this. That's why they liked me. "Old" and "thin."
"What's this for?" I asked, though my hopes were fading like my hearing. "It's a robotic device that operates on the heart. A less invasive procedure that produces only a small scar. They thought, given your age and weight, you'd be perfect to put a scar on your chest and show how the machine works." 

Long pause, while I considered the "challenge." It was a non-speaking role. I imagined a scene where adoring relatives and friends would stand around my hospital bed, admiring my small scar with smiles and nods and even a comforting pat on my shoulder. "Way to go, champ." Stuff like that.

Fortunately, I was saved by the schedule. The video is to be shot the week I'm out of town. I told her I couldn't be there. "But they really like you," she said. I asked her, in a joking manner laced with a touch of bitterness, "Do you need a picture of my chest?" She laughed lightly, said no, but I repeated I would be out of town, "perhaps you can find someone else just as old and thin with minimal hair on his chest." She understood.

After I hung up, it hit me. I have reached the point in my on-camera career when I am "right" for such roles as a consumptive senior citizen, a terminally-ill patient, a subject for a medical procedure, or - logically - a cadaver. That doesn't really upset me. What bothers me is that there is not much room for a funny line or a wink or a double-take. Makes me wonder how Michael Caine would handle this situation. Of course, having a British accent has its advantages. 

I'm actually sorry I'm unavailable. I've got a great closing line for the video. A friend at bedside says to me, "That scar is so small, it's actually beautiful." And I say, after a short pause, "If you think THAT'S beautiful, you should see my prostate." Too bad we'll never know how funny that would have been.