What do you think about over-acting?

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What do you think about over-acting?

Post by Willy »

Some time ago I visited a forum on a different website. They asked the readers to find acting scènes in which famous actors did some over-acting. Rod Steiger, Al Pacino, Laurence Olivier ... are some of them.

I always enjoy "Mr Bean". He has a funny face and he does over-acting all the time. I also enjoyed "On the Buses", "Coronation Street", "Mrs Bouquet". Good examples of over-acting and British humour. Some roles require over-exaggerated character acting, particularly in comedy films.
It's a pity that on the Continent people don't laugh anymore. I can't give you the title of one pleasant continental film or soap that was made in the last decade. Where are the days of Bourvil, Fernandel, Louis de Funès. I agree ... Their films are old-fashioned now, but humour in films has completely disappeared. Immorality/Sex is the fashion now. That's sad, isn't it?

Last year I made a film starring two English actors. In my opinion they were brilliant. From the beginning onwards I could feel they are used to act in theatres. That's why they tend to over-act for my film. On a stage an actor gets an immediate response. She or she says something funny and the audience laughs. That gives a fantastic feeling. Acting for a film is different. Ken Wilson has written an interesting article about it in one of our previous issues of Film and Video Magazine. When directing I had to make a choice : Over-acting from the beginning till the end or refraining the actors from time to time. I took the first option and I am very happy with it. The actors felt relaxed.

Some weeks ago I asked a Belgian lady what whe thought about my English film. "I didn't like the over-acting and humour in it", she said. "That's why I would give it a low score." I was not shocked. Everybody has his own character, his own temperament, his own vision and feelings.
Willy Van der Linden
Mike Shaw

Re: What do you think about over-acting?

Post by Mike Shaw »

Yes - over acting is definitely a symptom of those used to working on the stage. I think acting for the silver screen is probably harder - yet in theory should be easier because all (all?) actors have to do is be natural rather than try to 'make or emphasise' a point with gestures and expressions over and above the dialogue. Someone once told me I'd be better off choosing non-actors than amateur actors who tread the boards, for those movie roles. Professionals know - should know - the difference between acting on stage and acting in front of a camera. As you say Willy, many TV comedy shows rely on exaggerated expressions (Surprise surprise! and Shock Horror!) to emphasise the humour perhaps. And for the most part, I think it works. There's also the point, I think, that comedy shows tend to be over-written at the outset, in order to set up the gag lines and situations.

For a serious piece of work though, over-acting can be a bit detrimental I think, pricking the illusion of reality. Very difficult to achieve 'straight' performances though - and as you have pointed out, even well established pro actors can be seen over-acting in movies, especially the 'older' movies - which were probably treated as 'recorded stage performances'.

Fernandel ... there's a name from the past! Thanks for bringing back happy memories of his wonderfully funny films ... which also did a power of good for my 'French'. All totally forgotten now of course! Ah well. C'est la vie!
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Re: What do you think about over-acting?

Post by Pqtrick »

An interesting point, Willy makes. Overacting? Many critics point the finger straight away once it is apparent that we, 'non-professional film makers' meaning 'amateur' have no alternative other than to use amateur theatre actors. This is basically that we have no means or contacts to recruit any others.

That is to say, if you are not funded or have resources to get those 'resting' (out of work) by paying 'lo' or 'no' fees or even run to paying travelling expense. But then you may need a dramatic director, and a costumes mistress, and a make up person. On location you'll need more than behind a tree 'convenience' in remote places, a chuck wagon and a caravan for resting and changing.

T'is better to stick perhaps to stick with those you know from Am-drams sometimes, knowing that they are more likely to rough it and put up with the absence of life’s little comforts.

Film making is supposed to be fun, the best bit of the pudding is the making. Stick to your good old Am-Drams Willy, they do it for the love of it, and probably better at it that your critics. Pq.
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Re: What do you think about over-acting?


At the end of the day it's do what it takes to make the film happen. Up here our am-drams are more dram-queens, little starlits that want for their very own spot of light centre stage AND DAMBNATION TO ANYONE WHO ENTERS THEIR SPOT! So needless to say, I leave them to their fantasy that Rhett Buttler would have said, "Frankly my dear, I don't give a damb!"

In casting even in amateur films, it is possible to get good acting, a lot of it is the skill of a director, not in directing the film but in working with people and being able to spot the characteristics and abilities within the prospective cast. You could say you get what you pay for and if it comes free then that's still more expensive than a lady of the night so the results should be just as good.

Overacting can only ever be bad when it's clear the actor (in brackets) is working very hard for an award (they are never going to get) but at the other end of the cinemascope (see what I did there?) classic Dickensian charactors require over acting because they are such extra-ordinary people. The great fantasy tales such as Peter Pan and Alice In Wonderland all command over acting. Silent movie acting also demands an ability to overact yet come across convincingly.

Brian Blessed has made a career out it, you can't not love Brian when he bursts into his scene and you know straight away, "Hey, that's Brian Blessed!"

There's really only one bad thing about over acting... Jeromy Irons!
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