Saturday, 7 December 2013

Babe, District Attorney and Driving Miss Daisy

But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.

W.B. Yeats

Dreams, aspirations and hopes, as the tightly held secrets of our collective hearts are a precious and vulnerable weak point ; which for many people remains unspoken throughout the whole of our lives. 

This weak point as creativity, is distinct from it’s more outgoing and popular sister, ambition and much more fragile.

Whilst Ambition ploughs on regardless, fueled by supreme self-confidence and assuredness, happily stamping on anything that get’s between it and its goal, creativity sits cringing at home convinced of its utter uselessness and terrified of discovery for the most part.

The symbiosis, in effect, is that creativity envies ambition and ambition uses creativity.  The term show business was framed with ambition rather than creativity in mind as nothing speaks to ambition more than the generation of cash, but creativity is rewarded handsomely to a small minority of highly creative cash generators. More usually referred to as actors.


Creativity as expressed in the “yoof “obsessed culture of TV and film has taken a massive slap in the chops with some spectacularly good stuff. recently.

‘Last tango in Halifax’, ‘Philomena,’ ‘Saving Mr Banks’ and ‘Derek’ have at their core, cast lists drawn predominantly from the mature end of the creativity pool.

Proving that there really isn’t a use by date on talent, as long as what you’re wanting is,
1) Ability to convey emotion,
2) Good storytelling
3) Truth
 Rather than an ability to “give good nakedness.”

The idea that a random sequence of DNA and rapid cell renewal as a aspiration in depicting good story telling has always been a mystery to me but this is explained by the character of director Bo Hodges in the film “Sweet Liberty”:

“Well, this may sound silly to you, but kids go completely ape if you do three things in a picture: defy authority, destroy property, and take people's clothes off”

It’s not that I’m opposed to sex on screen it’s just that the perceived wisdom in the pornification of stories is that it doesn’t lend itself well to ageing. 

It’s not deemed to be an aspirational aesthetic, and that’s why the kit stays firmly on stars who shun the knife. It’s an odd CV requisite for women of 50 to look no more than 30 but as 45 year old Elise  explains to her plastic surgeon in "The First Wives Club", when he asks if she she wants to play her own age:

“My own age?" No no. You don't understand. There are only three ages for women in Hollywood; "Babe", "District Attorney", and "Driving Ms. Daisy." And right now, I want to be young. Science-fiction young”

Her demands to be uber plumped by her plastic surgeon is worryingly necessary for work.

As is the way of all things where Show business leads everything follows. Youth is all when it comes to starting any career really. Anything, which impedes progress, is “out” and harboring the creative hope into middle age or past raising children is bewildering to some.

When I was at drama school in the 1980’s I was told in no uncertain terms that I could either be “an actress or a mother. You can’t be both”

This was no less true two decades later, when I tried again a few years ago. A sweet but brutally honest agent said:

“Darling do you know how many graduating drama students are struggling to find work these days? At 40 I’d find something else to do if I were you”

Fortunately as women have taken greater control of their careers they no longer have to choose between children and creativity.  Their work life balance may not yet be as straightforward as their male counterparts but it is at least achievable.

For me it’s very pleasing to see the direction that commissioners are going in. Opening the gates for older performers with stories that are ultimately more rewarding, because of the lives lived and with appropriate faces, gives me hope that maybe this old bag might still be able to dream the impossible dream.

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