Tuesday, November 19, 2013
Howard Schatz: Master Of The Act
Howard Schatz’s new book of portraits is a thoughtful study of actors acting
|This Article Features Photo Zoom|
You're an icy interrogator," Howard Schatz explains, "telling a captive that in exactly 60 seconds, if you don't get the information you need, you're to start removing body parts, starting with his ears." With that, Schatz picks up his camera. He's seated at a small table, and the person across from him—mere inches away—is John Malkovich. The actor pauses for a moment, processes the suggestion, then begins. He's improvising a character in the blink of an eye, saying everything while saying nothing. He's performing for an audience of one, alone with Schatz and his camera. Soon enough, the photographer presents another prompt, and the actor dons a new mask.
"First of all," Schatz says, "they're able to do this because they train and learn to let go of being embarrassed. They don't mind being metaphorically naked in order to become a different human being. They also have a gift: Their emotions are right under the surface. That's what my interviews are all about. My interviews with these 85 actors answer that question: What is acting about? How do they do it? How do they create it? How do they become it?
"Number two," he continues, "I'm interested in the creative process, what we, as human beings, can do—what a sculptor can do with a hammer and a chisel and stone, what an actor can do with ink on paper, what a photographer can do with a camera. It interests me that we, as human beings, are able to conjure up worlds out of these materials. So when I did the interviews with these actors, I told them it wasn't about gossip; it was about work, about creativity, about developing human beings. They enjoyed talking about that."
"I told the women," Schatz says, "I prefer no makeup or hardly any makeup because I may ask you to play a three-year-old kid who's a brat. I may ask you to play a grandma, a seductress, a drunken homeless woman—all kinds of people. And makeup will detract from what you can do with that. To the men, I said just wash your face with soap and water twice to get the oils out.
"I remember Jane Krakowski," he says, "when I told her, 'You're a comedian bombing in front of an audience.' She left the studio and went to the bathroom to splash water on her face and came back. She was really sweating it out. A few actors messed their hair up to be whatever they were going to be. They know how to get into character."
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