Ol' Blues Eyes is Back!

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Or is he?  Patience! We'll get to this.

There are occasions when movie casting just doesn't make sense.  Some examples:

1. Tom Cruise in The Firm.  Maybe if you hadn't read the book, this role for Mr. Cruise would be okay.  But I did read the book, and I liked the centraltom_cruise character, Mitch McDeere very much.  Instead, I got a movie star going through the motions.

2. Not to pick on him again (well, maybe...), but Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible.  This was a fine ensemble TV show.  Whose bright idea was it to kill the team and make it a star vehicle for the relatively dwarfish Tom Cruise as the lead spy?  (Answer: producers who wanted to cash in).  Sorry, but if you want him to strike a pose, I guess he's fine.  Stick with Risky Business, please...Memoirs_of_an_invisible_man

3. A more obscure poor casting decision might be Chevy Chase in  Memoirs of an Invisible Man, who purchased the movie rights for himself.  This was a fairly entertaining and imaginative book that deserved better than Chevy's ho-hum klutzy lampoon.  Check out the book - great after first 100 pages.

4. Another fine examplerobin-hood-costner_l would be Kevin Costner in Robin Hood.  Say, which accent would you prefer, English or American non-descript?  Answer: Both, but try as best you're able not to use them both in the same scene.  It's not that Errol Flynn looked great in the costume either... but Costner is no Errol Flynn.

billandted

5. Keanu Reeves (otherwise known as "the luckiest actor, ever") in anything other than Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure.  Well, okay. There were few enough lines for him to deliver in Matrix that it worked out well enough.

Others? Let's see.  Take your pick of Michael Keaton, Val Kilmer, or George Clooney as Batman - regrettable all.  Alec Baldwin as Jack Ryan in The Hunt for Red October...not bad, just not right.  And I already mentioned Ben Affleck in the woeful Daredevil recently.

Most of these are clearly connected to studio/producer motivations - the cha-ching that comes with star power.  I don't argue against that; I'm sure it's a motivation that works far more often than it doesn't.  An example might be the relatively untested Julia Roberts as Erin Brockovich.

The point is that an actor needs to match the role artistically, in appearance, and in voice to best define a character.  Failure to meet these criteria can ruin a movie, regardless of plot, dialogue, editing, effects, etc.

Now, back to Ol' Blue Eyes.  He's back.  Last year, he had his own post office stamp.  This past month, a live CD from the Meadowlands was released (regrettably from his more elderly years).  And next comes a movie about this celebrity who dominated American culture for decades.

If you have to ask who this is, I'll throw in yet another gratuitous picture.

Frank_Sinatra_2

You can't quite make out the blue eyes... but they're there.  This is one Francis Albert Sinatra, who lived from 1915-1998, and sang more than a few memorable songs.  He even acted in more than a few films and won an Academy Award.

If one were to make a film of his life, where do you go to find an actor to play him who many regard as the finest singer of the 20th century?  Someone who on one hand emotes love, the essence of cool, or despondency as easily as another changes clothes, but also whose Italian-American upbringing and desires ultimately beget an often ugly demand for total loyalty and respect? 

I don't know the answer to that question or even have a suggestion.  Any actor playing a famous person has a tough task, because they're reinterpreting an original.  But it's been done, and often quite well, such as with Jim Morrison, Loretta Lynn, Ritchie Valens, Buddy Holly, Johnny and June Cash, and Ray Charles.  Each case included an actor who looked the part, played the part capably, and who had at least a passable if not respectable singing voice.  Tough criteria.

But Sinatra? Well here's an idea.  Instead of finding someone who can act like, might look like, and sound somewhat like "The Chairman," why not just go the easier path and take someone who can act and sing and has proven they can handle the pressure of expectations?  After all, isn't someone who can win an Academy Award playing Ray Charles worthy of Sinatra?

jamie foxx ray charles 

Reportedly, Jamie Foxx is the leading candidate to play Frank Sinatra in an upcoming film directed by Martin Scorsese.  I applaud the progress African Americans have made in the United States.  But this isn't a racial issue, while at the same time it can't help but be an issue of black and white.  I have no doubt Foxx could act the role well, but it just wouldn't be right. 

To overstate the case, imagine Sean Connery, another Sean-Connery Oscar-winning actor, playing Martin Luther King. It wouldn't be a denial of a Scot's rights to play an American icon, it just wouldn't be appropriate, and, more importantly, it wouldn't be good art. I would welcome a Sinatra movie, but I hope "Ol' Blue Eyes" isn't lost in translation.

2 comments :

  1. To some degree, this is quite reminiscent of the Wild, Wild West remake with Will Smith. There is no doubting Mr. Smith’s abilities. But there are two things that are wrong with this.

    James West was white and the Federal government, despite the ending of the civil war, was not in the habit of hiring African Americans for any government positions during that time period. The second is that Robert Conrad’s limited abilities made him the Jim West we all enjoyed (if you watched the show). Will Smith couldn’t pull it off.

    I went on to watch and enjoy other Will Smith movies (MIB, MIBII, Independence Day, etc.). I never was able to watch the entire WWW remake and most likely never will. You just don’t mess with the original.

    Keep ol’ Blue Eyes’ memories proper!

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  2. I actually have a suggestion of someone who might be able to pull it off. Kevin Spacey. Yes, really. He did a very good job as Bobby Darin in Beyond the Sea. He even did his own singing in the movie. I don't know if you have seen the movie, but it was quite good.

    Bobby Darin was a slight man, similar in stature to Frank Sinatra and they both sang in a similar style. If Kevin Spacey was able to pull off Darin, I don't think it is out of the realm of possibility that he could do a credible job to Sinatra. An way, just my suggestion.

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