Self-Image is Important, But Get Away From The Mirror Sometimes

If a person’s self-image is far apart from how the world sees him, the whole situation turns into a tragic comedy. I had a chance to witness that in *cough* BBC online news. The article Why are British actors playing Americans? says British actors are flourishing in the U.S. mainstream media because they are seen as a cost-effective yet talented alternative to the U.S. actors.

British producer Andrea Calderwood, who worked on Generation Kill for HBO, agrees that cost is an issue.

"American producers are going for the best talent. Obviously there is an element of cost involved.

"Once you become an established actor in the US, you can command huge prices – so people are looking for fresh talent that doesn't cost that much."

Strangely, she and the news touch only half of the “cost” issues. The other and arguably the bigger half, tax sheltering, is left out. Wikipedia explains the British tax shelter scheme as follows:

The same copyright can be sold again to a British company and a further $10 million could be raised, but UK law insists that part of the film is shot in Britain and that the production employs a fair proportion of British actors and crew. This explains why many American films like to shoot at Britain's major film studios like Pinewood and Shepperton and why a film such as Basic Instinct 2 relocated its action from New York to London.

The action film Wanted showcased that trend well. It was directed by a Kazakhstani-Russian (Timur Bekmambetov), shot in Hungary (Budapest), and starred a British (James McAvoy) and a German (Thomas Kretschmann). The only visible “American” elements were Angelina Jolie and Morgan Freeman in supporting roles.

Well, nobody wants to admit that they had an advantage from the beginning, but omitting what everybody knows only highlights the missing parts. And it’s not just the producers who seem to be missing the big picture:

"More value-for-money, that's really what it is. If they wanted someone experienced and I was American, they'd pay a lot of money – and I'd be better known, I suppose. We're cheaper."

English actor James Purefoy, who played Mark Antony in Rome, believes the network of British actors is perceived by American colleagues as cheap labour.

"We are often referred to in Los Angeles as white Mexicans," he told an audience of British hopefuls at a seminar on how to make it in America.

Considering the fact that James Purefoy is still alive, I bet he never said the above comment to a real Mexican trying to break into Hollywood. When did British/Irish actors become underdogs? They have always been the most privileged among the non-American acting peers. They are the only “minorities” whose cultural inheritance works for them, not against. Even the same article admits this point.

Moreover, anything with a sword-and-sandals theme offers employment opportunities to British thespians. It has often been suggested that American audiences expect their Romans to speak like the English. So the HBO/BBC mini-series Rome was peopled by British and Irish stars.

Those are not the only juicy parts. The same article quoted Helen Mirren as complaining that Brits always play the villain.

Speaking at an event in Los Angeles to celebrate British success in Hollywood, she said: ''I think it's rather unfortunate that the villain in every movie is always British, we're such an easy target that they can comfortably make the Brits the villains.

''It's just nice to say we're not snooty, stuck up, malevolent, malignant creatures as we're so often portrayed. We're actually kind of cool and hip!''

I seriously wanted to be a reporter for a moment. Here are the *some of the* questions I wanted to ask her.

  • Have you shared your opinions with French or Russian actors?
  • In which part of the world does the James Bond series make the most money?
  • Batman is directed by a Brit and played by a Welshman. Is he a British character too?
  • Name one major British film that has a non-British/Irish hero/heroine.

What I get from the all above unintentionally funny quotes are ignorance, arrogance, and snobbery. I now admire BBC News, James Purefoy, and Helen Mirren because of their splendid act: revealing their naked selves wearing a dress. Well, you might be “kind of” cool and hip, Dame. Everybody is entitled to her opinion.