F&LILV Question #12: Ed Wood vs. Raoul Duke

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DeppInTheHeartOfTexas
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F&LILV Question #12: Ed Wood vs. Raoul Duke

Unread postby DeppInTheHeartOfTexas » Sat Sep 17, 2005 9:53 am

When Johnny played Ed Wood he had very little actual footage of the real Ed Wood to draw from when creating the character. When he played Raoul Duke he says in his own words he became like a “sponge”. From the 1998 Rolling Stone interview (Tidbit #29):

“Slowly, Depp would find himself becoming more like Thompson. "Kind of a sponge," Depp says, "which is a horrible way to approach a human being." ("He's not like a Method actor," says Gilliam, approvingly. "Osmosis is what he uses.").”

Which do you think would be the more difficult way to approach developing and playing a character? Too much information or very little information?

Some background info: As defined by The Actors Studio a method actor:
"a central tenet of the Stanislavski Method: actors were not to emote in the traditional manner of stage conventions, but to speak and gesture in a manner one would use in private life."


For more info on method acting and the Stanislavski Method

http://www.moderntimes.com/palace/method.htm
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Unread postby es » Sat Sep 17, 2005 12:01 pm

mm,I would say too little info gives you more freedom,you take basic ingridients (or take the ingridience that are availeble)and then give it your own twist.

with playing hunter I think its harder because you are dealing with a man who is very close to you and also very close watching the process,think it made both a bit creepy feeling.

but,with both too much and too little info he created great caracters.
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Unread postby luvdepp » Sat Sep 17, 2005 12:02 pm

I think it would have to depend on a lot on the actor and the roles involved. In Johnny's case, he is so incredible at morphing into a character that he can probably develop the character in his mind and imagination and just go from there...the genius of Capt. Jack for example. By playing a real person though, I think it would be harder to actually have a lot of knowledge to go on. You have to then actually try and imitate and reproduce that person's mannerisms and speech patterns. I think he did a wonderful job with Hunter's persona, but I think it was probably a much harder job than trying to create himself as Ed Wood, where he had a bit of something to work with, but he could take the character and pretty much build him as he saw him.
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Unread postby Theresa » Sat Sep 17, 2005 6:00 pm

I think it would be much more difficult to have too much information. The actor would always feel that he had come up short and was missing elements of the character, and if the character he was portraying was still alive, it would seem that it would be a very intimidating feeling, knowing the “original” was watching the “copy”.

Too little information means the actor has to create the character out of his own imagination, and with some actors that might be a problem.

Of course, Johnny has the talent and innate ability to take too much or too little information and use it to create unique and unforgettable roles.

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Unread postby Liz » Sat Sep 17, 2005 6:05 pm

I agree witih Luvdepp and es in that having little information would give the actor more freedom and possibly make it an easier undertaking--unless you are not a creative person, like in my case. I'm a copycat. I need to have a model or an inspiration. And I thrive at being a sponge. I think for Johnny, though, it's a toss up. He's good at both. I think it would depend on the mood he was in and whether he wanted a challenge or not.
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Unread postby dharma_bum » Sat Sep 17, 2005 7:22 pm

I wonder if it makes any difference? From what I read about Johnny, he feels a tremendous obligation to get it right and honor that character whether he is real and living, historical or fictional. A fictional or historical character may be a blank page, but every writer knows that a blank page is the toughest one of all to fill.

I’ve always been fascinated by the complex and intensely creative process JD has developed to build a backstory for a character that doesn’t have one: the reading and research, the “ingredients” and the immersion.

This CATCF quote about Wonka really resonated for me: “He assumes a character so he can speak in front of people. Behind that mask, that face, is a guy that is pure… and afraid, and afraid of being afraid and afraid of people seeing he’s afraid. There are these various layers to the guy that 90% of the audience won’t see. But I know they’re there.”

I think it’s all hard work, undoubtedly more than any of us knows. Although my guess is that the time spent with Hunter and his eventual praise of the JD’s work will remain a greater gift than any of the future Oscars that will someday grace his mantle.
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Unread postby Liz » Sat Sep 17, 2005 8:01 pm

dharma_bum wrote: I wonder if it makes any difference? From what I read about Johnny, he feels a tremendous obligation to get it right and honor that character whether he is real and living, historical or fictional. A fictional or historical character may be a blank page, but every writer knows that a blank page is the toughest one of all to fill.

I’ve always been fascinated by the complex and intensely creative process JD has developed to build a backstory for a character that doesn’t have one: the reading and research, the “ingredients” and the immersion.

This CATCF quote about Wonka really resonated for me: “He assumes a character so he can speak in front of people. Behind that mask, that face, is a guy that is pure… and afraid, and afraid of being afraid and afraid of people seeing he’s afraid. There are these various layers to the guy that 90% of the audience won’t see. But I know they’re there.”

I think it’s all hard work, undoubtedly more than any of us knows. Although my guess is that the time spent with Hunter and his eventual praise of the JD’s work will remain a greater gift than any of the future Oscars that will someday grace his mantle.


Wow! Very well put, Dharma. And I agree with every single word. And so true about Hunter. What a gift (as JD would put it) to be able to have the opportunity to spend that quality time with Hunter--a treasured experience that he will always have, to be sure.
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Unread postby DeppInTheHeartOfTexas » Sat Sep 17, 2005 10:46 pm

dharma_bum wrote: I wonder if it makes any difference? From what I read about Johnny, he feels a tremendous obligation to get it right and honor that character whether he is real and living, historical or fictional. A fictional or historical character may be a blank page, but every writer knows that a blank page is the toughest one of all to fill.


And I really had not thought about James Barrie when I wrote this question but he had the same challenge with that part. Your part about layers is well taken as well. I think that must be something he creates to make the character three dimensional and to give him (the character) motivation for what he does, at least from an actor's point of view. Did that make sense??? :eyebrow:
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Unread postby Still-Rather-Timid » Sat Sep 17, 2005 11:16 pm

I'm veering slightly off the actual question, but it occurred to me that in light of the issue that we sometimes raise here concerning how much Raoul Duke is Hunter Thompson and how much he is a fictionalized version of Hunter, Johnny's strategy of studying Hunter so intensely to play the role may have resulted in Johnny's Raoul being more Hunter than Raoul in the book.

I'm not even sure I know what my awfully long sentence means now!

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Unread postby Liz » Sun Sep 18, 2005 2:04 am

Still-Rather-Timid wrote:I'm veering slightly off the actual question, but it occurred to me that in light of the issue that we sometimes raise here concerning how much Raoul Duke is Hunter Thompson and how much he is a fictionalized version of Hunter, Johnny's strategy of studying Hunter so intensely to play the role may have resulted in Johnny's Raoul being more Hunter than Raoul in the book.

I'm not even sure I know what my awfully long sentence means now!


Practicing your stream of consciousness writing, are we, SRT? I think I know what your sentence means--that maybe Hunter had not meant that Raoul be so much like himself even though Johnny portrayed him as such.
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Unread postby gilly » Sun Sep 18, 2005 6:57 am

Benicio had some good comments to make about this..whether it was better to be able to create a character or try to honour the real person by becoming that person and then worrying about being judged..As he said,there are points on each side
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Unread postby suec » Sun Sep 18, 2005 9:57 am

I think that Johnny stays true to his understanding of the character he is playing, whether the character is fictional or real, and he uses whatever information or inspiration he can find. He is an excellent mimic, and we know how he uses that to help him be in role. So if he has a lot of information about the person then he uses it. If he doesn't, then he gathers it from elsewhere and draws on himself a little more, maybe. But the bottom line is how he sees that person. I'm thinking here of the correspondence between him and Hunter, where Johnny makes it clear that he is standing up to Hunter and sticking to what he sees as the truth about him, whether Hunter likes it or not. I guess I am agreeing with SRT and Liz here.
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Unread postby DeppLovesBananahs » Sun Sep 18, 2005 12:53 pm

I think too much information can be hurtful to an actor because you might come across as imitation. However I think when it comes to JD he definitely uses enough to his advantage. He takes hold of the person and approaches them not as though he's doing a "bio pic" but as a human being. And I think that comes across in his movies that aren't based on someone's life as well. He always approaches the project with ease, it seems and does the best possible job he can at protraying the character. He definitely emerses himself in the person and at the same time he knows what his limits are. He knows that if he does this, or that, it wouldn't come out right. It has been said before by Gore Verbiniski about Pirates, that JD has really good instincts. And that is more than true, in other movies as well as POTC. Its hard for me really to place each character, Ed Wood and Raoul Duke, because both are my favorite. I think he used just enough ingredients to embody each perfectly. So too much or too little? I would go for too little, because you could know so much about someone, but still not "get" them. So, to me, knowing just enough, or too little, would be a better route. :cool:

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Unread postby ThirdArm » Sun Sep 18, 2005 2:47 pm

That's a good question. I think too much information would be harmful; an actor would possibly feel constrained by it, having to conform to it rather than developing the character as s/he saw fit.

Reading about the method acting, I disagree with the idea of 'reacting' to the part. Tom Cruise 'reacts' and all you ever see up there is Tom responding to the situation as himself. Johnny seems to osmotically 'become' the character and deal with the scene as that character, not his own self.
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Unread postby JD101 » Tue Sep 27, 2005 6:51 pm

Still-Rather-Timid wrote:Johnny's strategy of studying Hunter so intensely to play the role may have resulted in Johnny's Raoul being more Hunter than Raoul in the book.


Whoa! I had never thought of this! You have a very good point.

Reading the book before seeing the movie, I had no idea what Raoul (or Hunter, for that matter) really looked like other than a strange bald man on the back of a book jacket. I didn't know what he sounded like or what his mannerisms were. Now when I re-read the book I picture Johnny and Johnny is imitating Hunter. Are Hunter and Raoul that similar? I know RD had been described as a thinly veiled version of the author himself. I wonder how much of Johnny's portrayal is Raoul and how much is Hunter?

What was the question?
Oh, too little or too much information...
I think for Johnny, both are good. Too little info gives him the freedom to draw from his own personal sources and create something altogether new. That's gotta be fun!

Although it's probably more nerve wracking creating a character from the traits of a real live person, there must also be great satisfaction in creating a character close enough to the original that the original recognizes himself and admires and acknowledges the actor's work. Johnny got that with both HST and George Jung.
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