We love the idea that actors take themselves too seriously. We tut at the latest tantrum and smirk at the latest folly, but inside us is a warm fuzzy glow, safe in the knowledge that out there, somewhere, is a mythic land of heroes, hookers and hedonism called Hollywood where egos clash like titans, studios go to war and normal people exist only in storybooks.
The one sure way, however, for a star to bridge this collectively fantasized gap between myth and reality – to connect with ‘their’ people – is to parody themselves. It baffles me, in fact, that this isn’t traditionally written into agents’ contracts or enforced by studios. Just one turn in an entire career as a mockery of one’s self can solidify any audience arguments over an actor’s talent because, of course, an actor can be self indulgent to the Nth degree as long as we know that they know that they’re just an actor.
There is one thing we love a little more, therefore, than an actor who takes themselves too seriously, and that’s one that doesn’t. With Hollywood as our appropriate backdrop, here are five parodies that would set five actors free…
5. The Governor Dir. Mark L. Lester
With Arnie in the lead and the director of legendary good/bad film Commando at the helm, this extortionately high budget, yet joyfully CGI-free bullet orgy sees the inexplicable return of one of action’s greatest and most unintentionally homo-erotic working partnerships.
The film begins with Arnie denying, once and for all, any chance of a return to acting in an interview with a popular film magazine. As he leaves the interview to attend to his many responsibilities as California State Governor, a series of terroristy events unfold across midtown L.A. One thing leads to another and, for whatever reason (they never matter), Arnie has to take up arms for real in order to single-handedly save Hollywood.
Well, not quite single-handedly; Sonny Landham (Billy from Predator), Austin O’Brian (the kid from The Last Action Hero, now grown-up) and, of course, Danny DeVito and his wife, the bar-lady from Cheers, join up with Arnie from the lots of their respective straight-to-video films (apart from DeVito, who’s actually still quite famous) to form a crack team of washed-up and retired actors as they battle their way through the terrorized studio lots of Hollywood using the mock experience of their careers to real violent effect. So, The Three Amigos meets Pineapple Express, really.
In the end, many faceless foreigners die and our guys win and accept roles in major motion pictures for their troubles.
Of course, in terms of paradoxical Arnie concept, this is really just a remake of The Last Action Hero. In fact, Arnie could easily claim to be the most self-aware star of our time, with other bold steps such as True Lies, Twins and the insane Junior paralleling his bloodier work. But this is still the most obvious parody the world would like to see, because we love you, Arny, and we want you back; and Billy too.
4. Cruise Control Dir. Steven Soderbergh
The Oscar and Cannes winning director of Che delivers this slick, accurate and uncompromising adaptation of Cruise’s globe enthralling 2009 autobiographical expose of a certain celebrity cult and his manipulated rise through its Hollywood ranks*, with Cruise playing the ‘Michael Corroleone meets Frank T. J. Mackey (his excruciatingly close-to-the-bone character in Magnolia) meets Eyes Wide Shut-Bill Harford’ version of himself.
This is something we’d want to see, partly because it would be creepy and exciting, like an feature length episode of The Twilight Zone directed by one of Hollywood’s best, but mainly to amaze ourselves at Cruise’s sane admission. Judging by the response to his self-mocking turn in Tropic Thunder, this would encapsulate a world accustomed to sneering at Cruise’s beliefs and denying his talents. Because it’s too easy to criticise the man at the top but, whether you like his films or not, he carries them well, and if you clear your mind of that infamous recruitment video footage for one moment and remember his turns in The Color Of Money, the aforementioned Magnolia or the Oscar winning Rain Man, then you’ll know that the strength and enjoyment of a parody (true story) such as this, whilst expected to be in the debunking of a popularly belittled religion, would actually be in the revelatory performance of Hollywood’s biggest stars.
*This book obviously doesn’t exist, or you would have read it.
3. We’re Done Dir. Robert B. Weide
Extras meets For Your Consideration as we follow Christian Bale as Christian Bale’s ego on his Larry David-esque journey of inescapable self-destruction through Hollywood.
All I could picture whilst listening to Bale’s now household rant was a scene not out of place in the Weide directed Curb Your Enthusiasm. I imagined a world where Bale is actually a very rational and charming man but where the public pitfalls of Hollywood politics and media over-eagerness to cry ‘Diva!’ constantly entrap him in unfair situations where his inability to turn the other cheek to the idiocy around him results in constant excruciating grave-digging, his public image always left smeared yet his relationship with the sympathetic audience always left intact. Hard to believe, but would work wonders if he could pull it off.
Catch phrase: ‘We’re done, professionally’; the joke being that, in the end, he’s the only ‘professional’ left.
4. Vlad Smidtt Dir. David Lynch
Life Of Brian meets Mulholland Drive as Brad Pitt’s Vlad Smidtt, gets mired at every rung of the ladder by his audition competition, Brad Pitt.
Set over a fractured version of the last twenty years, Vlad Smidtt’s Lynchian descent into the Hollywood nightmare mirrors what we know to have been the messianic, media saturated ascent of Pitt. This is actually a concept jokingly pitched by Brad Pitt himself in an interview with Jonathan Ross, but it really is a great idea. Yes, Brad Pitt is rather cool and likable and doesn’t really need saving, but the acclaimed The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button may signify a steady rise in the pomposity-reading of his career, making the once joke concept a potentially viable route back down to earth.
Or perhaps ‘back down to earth’ isn’t the right phrase, considering my touch of giving it the Lynch treatment, but who else would you want fucking up your Hollywood fantasy? Possibly the Coen brothers…
1. Where’s Joaquin Phoenix?Dir. Casey Affleck
At number one, Joaquin Phoenix as Joaquin Phoenix, the disillusioned subject of this fantastically committed mockumentary by Casey Affleck, depicting one star’s doomed and hilarious struggle to cross genres and prove that he’s just a man who wants to be a hip-hop MC, like everybody else.
This is actually happening, as you may well know, or at least I hope it is. What’s certain is that the recently hairy, shaded and reclusive Phoenix has claimed an early retirement from acting in order to pursue a hip-hop career, a statement publicly upheld by his agent and a bizarreness cemented by his particularly absent appearance on The Letterman Show earlier last month. And his friend and brother-in-law, Casey Affleck, has started filming a documentary about Phoenix’s trials, beginning with his already much mocked debut performance in a small nightclub in Las Vegas.
But this is too good to be wasted on ‘real life’, surely? My hope is that, with footage of the Letterman exposure and the subsequent Oscar Night piss-take by Ben Stiller, this could turn out to be one of the most audacious and provocative parodies of Hollywood stardom we’ve ever seen, with the Borat style version of Phoenix using the humour of his self and situation to entrap, subvert and expose Hollywood and the media’s intolerance of difference. That’s the hope, anyway; perhaps he’s just gone mental.