Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Tales of Hoffman, and DeNiro

I watched Letterman the other night because Robert DeNiro and Dustin Hoffman were coming on.  I subject myself to these ego baths now and again, and I don't really know why.

The two beloved actors were promoting their new movie, "Little Fockers," which is the 27th time that some studio has watered down, reheated, and re-served this same pot of soup.  But here's the key: if you watch late night talk shows, you know they are a natural place for actors to show up, talk about their new movie, tell a self-deprecating story or two, show a clip from the flick, and move along.

DeNiro and Hoffman are not familiar with the word "self-deprecating," nor could they bring themselves to ask the audience to put down some money and go to see their movie.  To do so would sink them into the morass of commerce, and it's clear that they think of themselves as artists, above the common rabble of box-office concerns.

As I sat and watched these titanic thespians behave on Letterman's couch like a couple of ninth-graders in the principal's office for throwing spitballs in class, I thought of these tips for any other actor who might find him-or-herself in the awful position of actually having to beat the drum for the latest turgid semi-comedy that they are starring in for the purpose of earning a few quick million bucks:
  • When you are introduced to wild and unbridled applause, just shamble onto the set as if looking for sox at Sears, acknowledge your cheering fans with a barely-perceptible nod of your noble chin, and slump into the sofa, as bored as you can be.
  • While seated, stare at either the ceiling (Hoffman) or 180° away (DeNiro) from the host who is speaking to you so reverently.  For a few minutes, I thought old Dustin was having a physiological problem that caused his chin to be perpendicular to his chest.
  • Continue slumping, and feign being mute (DeNiro) so that Hoffman can claim to be your "whisperer" as you sit, gazing into the middle distance.
  • Do not wear a tie.  Do that new thing where you wear a suit and have your neck wide open, Goober-style.
  • When the host mentions the movie in any context, stare stone-facedly as if he had mentioned Brazilian copper exports or something similarly unremarkable.
  • Refer to movies as "films" and to being an actor as "your craft" or "work."  
  • If you deign to speak at all, do so in monosyllabic answers, nuanced grunts, or meaningless giggles.
  • Above all, make it very very plain that you regard appearing on television as a fate worse than death. Act as if you were Julia Child caught scarfing a Big Mac, or Stephen Hawking reading a Hardy Boys thriller.
  • When the host attempts to introduce the clip from the movie you are there to promote, claim to know nothing about the clip, what scene it shows, or even why anyone should watch it.
  • Mention one of your old movies, and then when the crowd cheers for it, glare at them and say, "I wasn't BEGGING!"  (Hoffman)
  • Act like you are doing an impersonation of Robert DeNiro or Dustin Hoffman.
Now this is an actor!
 I thought of all these things while wondering why these two self-important bozos have cupboards full of Oscar® awards, and Ed O'Neill has none. But I hope Dave will have him on soon.

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