I went to the movies the last two weekends and both movies had piano scenes in them where the audience was being asked to believe that the characters were playing the piano. As a musician, actor and someone who has taught actors how to play the piano for specific onscreen roles, I began to reflect on why it’s so important that it BE believable.
When we go to see our favorite bands play we never doubt that they are musicians and therefore we, the audience are free to be completely caught up in the magic of their art. However when we go to a movie… even though we know they are acting, we want to believe that it’s real. Any time spent wondering if the actor is actually playing the instrument, or really dancing etc, is time that the audience is left drifting out of the emotions of the story.
While I was watching the piano scenes these last two weekends I could immediately tell the difference between the actors who had studied piano and those who hadn’t.
In 2005, the New York Times wrote a hilariously titled article called “The 60-Day Course in Perfect Fake Piano Playing” where I was interviewed. The author, Meline Toumani said, “Like gaining 80 pounds for a role, feigning piano virtuosity is one of those transformations that consistently wins Oscars.” She continued, “The pianist role, when skillfully executed, leaves audiences mesmerized.”
As artists the commitment we make to our art is for life and our skills cannot actually be taught overnight. This makes for a monumental challenge to an actor portraying a character that is an artist. It was an incredible experience to be the guide and leader to Holly Hunter, Sandra Bullock, Tom Cruise and many other great actors as we took on the challenge together to make their performances authentic on film. Actors are some of my favorite students because they don’t want to “fake” it. They are committed to being the Real Deal.
The next three posts in this series are going to be focusing on what it was like working with some of my fabulous actor students.... and I do mean Fabulous!!!
Until then, do you have a favorite performance where an actor or actress truly became- or at least seemed to be the Real Deal? Leave me a comment here!
Stay tuned... xoxo...