I'm working with a terrific British actor in his early 40s who's stealing the show from his more famous co-stars. Nothing against our fine American thespians, but it seems like the Brits most always out-act the pants off the Yanks. Perhaps because of their extensive theater legacy, the English have great respect for the text, usually knowing it cold when they arrive on set. Most of the American stars I have worked with, alas, seem to struggle with their lines. Or revise them as they go along.
One such Very Big Star I worked with last year, for example, continually forgot his dialogue and was ribbed by his better-prepared UK counterpart.
"Better get some sleep tonight," he was teased. "You have three lines tomorrow."
The Brits are also generally more cooperative about publicity. They don't seem to be as easily distracted by behind-the-scenes cameramen, and are much more gracious in accommodating interview requests. I think their humility is partly due to the fact that film acting, at any level, is still viewed in England, as, well, a bit of lark (something to fall back on if you haven't any connections).
On set, however, English actors are treated like royalty, especially by Americans. Which is why the aforementioned stellar performer was concerned about the supercilious impression it would have on his visiting 10-year-old son.
"Do me a favor, could you please," "Nigel" inquired of yours truly. "When my son is around, treat me as rudely as your nature allows. I don't want him thinking actors are special. I'd really rather he do something else, anyway."
While I would have normally leapt for joy at the prospect of administering a wicked dressing down, being rude to the gentlemanly Nigel was unthinkable.
"Just pretend you're doing a scene," he encouraged. "I won't take any offense."
He brought his kid over, and introduced me as "the most important person on set, the genius who convinces people to pay good money to see people like me pretend to be someone else. Remarkable, really." He then skillfully solicited my abuse.
"Excuse me, but I believe that's quite likely my chair," Nigel started.
"Yes, and as you can clearly see, I'm sitting in it," I replied. "And I don't care to be further disturbed by your family field trip. You're an actor, aren't you? Go away and act or something."
I think even Nigel was surprised by my masterful performance. And his son was shocked, looking back at me with disdain and awe as he was led away by his humbled father.
Apparently, I was too good. Nigel told me the next day his son now wants to be a "publicist, so he can boss everyone around." So I've made a little arrangement with the assistant costume supervisor ...