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Old 10-24-2018, 04:10 PM   #1
goldmund
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Default Pleasing the Lead

It's a hectic time in production of a movie I'm writing for. The star has finally read the script (or, maybe just a part of it? nobody knows) and said his character does nothing worthwhile and is just sitting on his ass while others have all the great scenes. That is untrue, but I have to admit the protagonist is a bit inactive in the first half, as he is, well, imprisoned. Then he breaks free and does all the cool and heroic and memorable stuff. We don't have much room for new scenes (maybe one more location and absolutely no action or VFX) because the budget is locked and the director is very happy with the script. I was wondering, do you have any tips for making a role more attractive to an actor? He does have a solid (and, IMO, moving) character arc, and pretty much leads the show in the second half. Maybe I should try and take away lines from other people and give them to him? Give him a monologue? I have 6 days
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Old 10-24-2018, 04:36 PM   #2
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Default Re: Pleasing the Lead

It's kind of impossible for me to give much advice without reading the actual script. But I do think you should examine Terminator 2 for inspiration.

There's all sorts of action and excitement in the first half, but Sarah Connor is stuck in a mental institution for all of it.

And yet, Linda Hamilton is given so much material to work with. She's doing pull-ups in her room. She pretends to be "cured" so that she can be moved to a low-security facility. She flips out and attacks the orderlies. She pretends to be practically comatose. And, ultimately, instead of waiting to be rescued, she conducts her own escape. It's a very active character.

But the key is that all those actions are wrapped around her need to protect her child. This, in turn, feeds into her arc as she learns that simply protecting her child physically is not the same as loving her child or being a mother to her child.

So those are some things to consider.
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Old 10-25-2018, 09:43 AM   #3
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Default Re: Pleasing the Lead

I'm just watching that. Exactly what I needed. It made me realize he's far too calm and comfortable in his imprisonment. Sarah's scenes are exploding with energy. And as you said -- her stakes are sky-high over there!

Bunker -- thank you very, very much!! That's some pure gold
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Old 10-25-2018, 10:29 AM   #4
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Default Re: Pleasing the Lead

Does the star protagonist orchestrate their own escape from prison?

How about giving the star protagonist some prison-set extreme suffering, self-sacrifice, ingenuity, determination, or patience - like in 'The Man in the Iron Mask' or 'The Shawshank Redemption'.

Maybe have a dark 'save the cat' scene in which the star protagonist stops a cell mate or wimp or new guy from being beaten up or killed or raped.
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Old 10-25-2018, 10:35 AM   #5
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Default Re: Pleasing the Lead

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Originally Posted by Crayon View Post
How about giving the star protagonist some prison-set extreme suffering, self-sacrifice, ingenuity, determination, or patience - like in 'The Man in the Iron Mask' or 'The Shawshank Redemption'.
Thank you, Crayon, that's exactly what I'm going to try, following the Sarah Connor bit. Her scenes are so emotional and our guy is maybe too stoical. He's imprisoned alone in his castle, just with his manservant, and does indeed work on an escape plan, but now I think he has it too good in there, with only his sense of freedom and dignity at risk.... too little stakes!

I was thinking, though, that maybe some of you are actors or have experience writing for actors and you know what it takes for them to like a role. If the guy isn't on board we don't have a movie.
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Old 10-25-2018, 11:04 AM   #6
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Default Re: Pleasing the Lead

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Originally Posted by goldmund View Post
I was thinking, though, that maybe some of you are actors or have experience writing for actors and you know what it takes for them to like a role. If the guy isn't on board we don't have a movie.
I guess that actors want the chance to act both the subtle and the extreme.

Here's a super-exteme idea: the star protagonist breaks one of his ribs, and cuts himself open just enough to remove that rib, and then he painstakingly whittles that rib into a lock pick or a key. What a guy! (But for that to work you'd probably have to get rid of his manservant.)

And maybe the star protagonist's beloved lover/wife/daughter/dog has been stolen by his jailor, and so the star protagonist is in a subtle state of perptual suffering.
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Last edited by Crayon : 10-25-2018 at 11:38 AM.
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Old 10-25-2018, 12:19 PM   #7
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Default Re: Pleasing the Lead

If the manservant is staying, could he actually be working or getting paid off by the antagonist -- the lead only thinks he's his friend, but he's actually poisoning him slowly or something.

The audience knows its happening, but the lead doesn't. Then the lead finds out, then has to do away with the manservant first, then escape?

Thinking he's a friend, realizing he's being poisoned, the stress of figuring out how to do away with the guy while not eating anything he gives him, then the escape?
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Old 10-26-2018, 04:51 AM   #8
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Default Re: Pleasing the Lead

Haha, thanks! Those go too far in changing the story, but I didn't give you the story, so...

I get what emotions you're hinting at, though. Perpetual suffering and danger. That's what missing in his imprisonment for sure. Thank you again.
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Old 10-30-2018, 11:08 AM   #9
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Default Re: Pleasing the Lead

Perhaps the imprisoned protagonist could suffer with syphilis, and so any one of his extremities may drop off at any moment. Syphilis used to be all the rage among the fashionable castle-owning class. But seriously, some chronic/acute illness, or a serious wound, or starvation, could heighten his jeopardy.

I doubt that my amateur suggestions are of use to you. Such a specific professional screenwriting problem as yours is very interesting. It would be good if you could come back and tell us how you solve it.
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Old 10-31-2018, 08:43 PM   #10
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Default Re: Pleasing the Lead

Yeah, most of all it is stressful and frustrating, because we have like 10 words from the lead, repeated to me and the producer by the director who was the only person who talked to him about the script. The director says he doesn't think the actor even read it whole. Maybe it was the actor's agent who gave that note, and the actor just repeated it, hell knows. He's busy like that.

Anyhow, what I'm trying to do is give him most of the funny/catchy lines from other characters, and infuse his scenes with more emotion. That's he's not just uncomfortable and sad, he's TORMENTED AND FULL OF RAGE. Hope that works.
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