A trail-blazing acting teacher who took Hollywood by storm
In Christopher Monger's
celebrity-packed tribute to acting coach Roy London, the stars -- far from
providing mere laudatory window-dressing for the lesser-known London -- serve
as living testaments to his unorthodox methodology. London, whose approach
encouraged actors to be themselves to the max, reaps surprising posthumous
rewards as unlikely disciples such as Geena Davis, Julie Brown, Brad Pitt, Drew
Carey and Sharon Stone speak of their thespian guru with enormous affection and
rare candor. Snappy, highly entertaining pic should wow on cable and home-vid.
Monger gets London's
backstory out of the way with consummate brevity: math genius on the cover of
Life magazine at age 5, charismatic Broadway actor at age 20, performed
playwright only shortly thereafter, then on to L.A. and a misguided attempt to
go straight, only to finally joyously embrace self-acceptance, discover his
vocation and die of AIDS at age 50.
An occasional photo of
pixyish young London in an Open Theater production, a TV clip of his
"House Calls" turn as a garrulous cabby, and short chats with
life-partner Tim Healey and playwright Lanford Wilson cursorily testify to the
brilliance of London's early career. But, by and large, it is the trail-blazing
acting teacher who took Hollywood by storm that pic celebrates.
London's belief that the
actor, instead of raiding the past for appropriate emotions, should creatively
use whatever he is feeling in the present is a tack that seems novel. Thus
Patricia Arquette in "True Romance," unable say she finds killing
people romantic, incorporates her disbelief by subtly reinterpreting the line
as a lie prompted by fear.
awkwardness during a strip scene vanishes when she imagines her rowdy audience
as a bunch of terminally ill men. And Geena Davis converts her liking for Susan
Sarandon into a discovery that Thelma was experiencing intimacy for the first
time as she joyously plunged into the Grand Canyon.
But the point is perhaps
made best by London himself in rare TV interview excerpts in which he analyzes
a clip from "Niagara" where Marilyn Monroe's plaintive uncertainty
about her acting colors her request for help from a train ticket seller.
Apposite film clips add
greatly to testimonials from luminaries of the large and small screen, making
theoretical points suddenly resonate as unknown underpinnings of familiar
tropes. Gary Shandling touts the input London had on Shandling's HBO hit
"The Larry Sanders Show," and an extended excerpt from a
London-directed episode begins to make the program's whole post-modern shtick
seem positively London-inspired.
Pic's most amazing
segment, however, belongs to Sharon Stone. With unbelievable honesty and
self-deprecating humor, she recounts how she cast herself as the star of Roy
London's death. Transported by the idea of being the one he chose to die in
front of, she admits to being depressed at the discovery that he wasn't dead
yet. In contrast, Lois Chiles relates an eerily mystical version of the
maestro's demise, complete with psychic nurses and shared visions of the
Tech credits are slick.
Pic maintains high energy throughout.