Wednesday, August 19, 2009

1966 - A Man for All Seasons

Last night, I had a meeting with an actor's agent here in New York. It went well. I performed a monologue. We had a nice chat. And then it was over...

I know I shouldn't expect anything to happen immediately. Perhaps I'm just too impatient. But in my head are visions of agents falling to their knees, waving contracts and begging me to sign with them on the spot. Surely, that's not an impossible scenario ... Okay, shutup.

In any case, I was on the subway back home, in the midst of my failing attempt to ignore the grubby 11-year-old girl who seemed to be under the mistaken impression she was auditioning for a pole dancing club, when I began to fill my mind with great scenes from great movies. And I realised the other reason for beginning this project - I want to be in a great scene from a great movie. Not that this project will somehow lead me to that goal. I guess I just expect that there will be lots of great scenes for me to watch in the coming months.

And I wasn't wrong. Today, I sat down to watch the very first film of the project, which was...

A Man for All Seasons
Fred Zinneman
Robert Bolt
(adapted from his stage play)
Paul Schofield, Wendy Hiller, Leo McKern, Robert Shaw, Orson Welles, Susannah York, John Hurt
Academy Awards:
8 nominations
6 wins, including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Actor

Part period piece, part legal drama, A Man for All Seasons is like the lovechild of Merchant-Ivory and David E. Kelley. It tells the story of Sir Thomas More, a 16th-century goody-two-shoes who resigns the post of Lord Chancellor of England rather than accept King Henry VIII's self-appointed title of Supreme Head of the Church of England. Poor old Thomas is then persecuted like crazy, but being a wily lawyer himself, he's always got a clever answer for every charge they throw at him.

Tommy sticks by his morals, choosing to believe that nobody can usurp the Pope's authority. Besides, he knows that Henry's new church was borne of lust, rather than religion. If Catherine of Aragon was half as sexy as Anne Boleyn, none of this would have happened. In fact, if Catherine had given birth to a boy that survived, that would have been enough. But, no, Henry wanted a divorce and he wasn't going to let a trivial thing like religion get in his way. And Tommy just didn't agree with that. He didn't disagree, mind you. Because that would have been treason. He just didn't take the Oath. Clever man, see.

I found this film genuinely gripping, particularly the final courtroom scene. Great start to my project. Paul Schofield is superb as Thomas More. So subtle. So exciting to watch. A fat, slovenly Orson Welles appears as a fat, slovenly Cardinal Wolsey, looking like an over-ripe tomato in his red robes. John Hurt's hair and moustache seemed a little out of place, though. (That's him holding the goblet.) I didn't think there were any hippies in the 16th century. But with a character called Richard Rich, what can you expect? And what a delight for 70s British sitcom fans to see Yootha Joyce (best known as Mildred Roper) pop up in a couple of scenes. I kept waiting for her to scream, "George!"

Such a witty script by Robert Bolt, too. In one sentence, he can express moral fortitude and insult the entire nation of Wales, without batting an eyelid. And then he can make you feel the desparation in lines like "I wish rainwater was beer." However, there is still the unfortunate misinterpretation that inevitably rears its ugly head whenever older movies make use of words that have redefined themselves over the years. Thomas exclaims to his daughter, "You're very pensive," to which she replies, "You're very gay." We all know what she means, but amusing, nonetheless... in a completely puerile way.

So, the first film is out of the way, and I must say, I'm beginning to really get excited about this project. A Man for All Seasons was just the kind of inspiration I was referring to in my previous post. A well-made, exquisitely acted, gripping film. Makes me love movies even more. Stay tuned...


  1. Loving this idea, Matt. Well done.

    Not loving A Man For All Seasons, though. It hurt me to watch :P

    Good luck on your quest. It's enviable!

  2. How much time do you, in fact, have on your hands at the moment!!??