28/02/2013

On Les Misérables and Old Dreams





I watched this breathtaking Oscar winner a month ago and must say that now I am quite outraged it didn't win Best Film. I haven't seen Argo yet but I have no doubt that this musical is the best movie of 2012.


First of all, there's the stellar cast. Hugh Jackman (who should have won an Oscar as well), Russell Crowe, Amanda Seyfried, Helena Bonham Carter, Sacha Baron Cohen - what more can one want? Even Eddie Redmayne (yes, the Burberry model) gave a stellar performance. But Anne Hathaway really blew me away. Never has an Academy Award been so well-deserved. 

Then there's the direction, the amazing photography, the beautiful editing...and don't get me started on the costumes and the music! The music. Oh, the music. But I'm not just here to ooh and aah: this film actually means something to my personal story.
This is a musical, which is part of why I love it so much. But at the same time, as much as I want to watch it over and over and over again, I find myself unsettled by it. This movie brings back memories I'd rather keep tucked away in a little box, only to be looked at on very special occasions - if even then.

 As you probably know (because I've mentioned it about two million times here), I used to be an actress in my teens and early twenties. It wasn't an easy road to take, I tell you. Especially not if you were a nerdy, Ugly Betty-esque teenager. Parents and teachers never tired of telling me that I would never make it - not because I wasn't good, but because virtually nobody ever made it and let's face it, I didn't exactly have the movie-star look as a kid. But I didn't let that scare me off and as usual when I set my mind to something, I slowly but surely made it work.

 I had small parts in even smaller short films, worked as an extra in TV shows, smiled my way through commercials and sang in musicals. At nineteen, I even moved to Los Angeles to be an actress.

 Then, at twenty-something, I decided to get help for my eating disorder and my acting dreams faded away. At the time, I felt that such an unsure career path, not to mention one in an industry so obsessed with appearance, was not the way I wanted my life to go.

So I gave it up. And I moved on. For a while, I flailed through life with no clear sense of direction. I went to Tuscany, learned Italian, drank Mojitos on the beach. Then I fell in love with fashion, started uni, fell out of love with fashion and finally became a vegan writer living in London.  And it was clear that destiny never intended for me to win an Oscar.

But there are still times, and watching Les Misérables was one of them, when I can't help but feel that sting of nostalgia, a bittersweet sadness and sometimes a split-second of horror-infused regret: did I give up my true passion and calling? Could I have been a great actress? Could this have been me?





Make no mistake about it: in no way, shape or form do I believe that I'm anywhere near as amazing as Anne or even the most insignificant extra in that magnificent masterpiece of a movie. At my very best, I wasn't good enough to lick their shoes...at their worst. I am very clear on the fact that the only thing Anne and I have in common is veganism.

But still. Sometimes I just miss it. I miss it so bad it hurts. Seeing this movie made me ache inside because I have sung these songs. I had learned them even though I have no natural talent for singing, so it was a hell of a task - they're no easy songs! I worked on it on the weekends, evenings and even early mornings before school. And I loved every second of it, because it always had some hidden, intricate meaning that I was certain that only I understood.

Take this song, for example:





I love this song! I remember learning to sing it when - get ready for a major cringe moment - I had an otherworldly crush on a guy in high school. He was dating the prettiest girl in the class and obviously had no idea who I even was. So I spent my evenings playing this song on my piano and pining away, as though this way, my undying love would somehow telepathically find its way to his ears and heart and he would finally scorn that blonde bimbo and be with me forever. But, as Eponine tragically learns in the movie, sometimes blonde bimbos win (sorry, SPOILER. But then I guess we all read the book in fifth grade...or am I wrong?). On the other hand, had my rival been Amanda Seyfried, I think I would have been grateful to be shot dead.

On leaving the movie theatre (and hearing my musical-hating fiancé rave about how much he loved it!) I felt the doubts creeping in again. Was all lost? Would I never, ever act again? What if this is why I've been feeling so lost? What if I'm meant to do something else entirely with my life, something I had a chance at and blew it ten years ago and am now doomed to spend the rest of my days desperately attempting to push a square peg into a round hole? I fell asleep unsettled and uneasy.

"So go take an acting class!" David said. "Get back into the game, at least as a hobby!" And, blinded dumb as I was by the wonderfulness of the movie, I actually set about looking for evening theatre classes. You'd expect lots of acting classes in London, but really, I was amazed at how many theatre schools we have. I got confused. Should I go to beginner's acting, as I haven't been on a stage or in front of a camera for a good seven years? Or intermediate? How about Stage Acting I? Stage Acting II? Or Improv-

Hold it.

There it was, my sworn enemy since my theatre days: improvisation. The loathed word glared back at me from the webpage, mocking me. I have hated improv passionately since my very first acting class at age eight. The whole reason that I wanted to learn to act was because I couldn't stand myself, so all I wanted was to flee into a character and become someone else. I believe this complete will to surrender myself was part of what made me a decent actress. I was a chameleon. As the years went by, I developed a love for reading scripts, learning lines, getting to know the character. But improv? There's no script. There's no story. My whole passion with acting was the story. And I hate the think on your feet part. I wanted to study the script, remember my lines, take time and immerse myself into the character. Not "pretend you're a hamster".

I closed down the website as quickly as I had opened it, my initial enthusiasm replaced by a slight sense of discomfort. "No", I told David. "I'm not ready."

Since that day, I've never thought of acting any more. I still listen to the songs and love them for what they are: reminders of my past. But in my present and future, there's something else that captures my passion: writing. Writing lets me explore human nature through interviewing interesting people, but I still get to put my voice into it. I get to talk to a very vast audience about love, fashion, veganism, career, dreams and other things I care about. And I have a blog that people sometimes read. Which is fantastic.

I don't know if I'll ever set foot on a stage again. Probably not. But I'd love to interview those that do, and those who do so bravely, intensely, passionately. Because they inspire me, even if I'm not one of them anymore.


2 comments:

  1. Per me l'equivalente del teatro è il diventare ricercatrice, strada che ho annusato un po' per poi finire a fare tutt'altro. A volte fa male pensare a quello che non ho fatto, però tutto sommato la mia vita ora mi piace per cui nè rimorsi nè rimpianti

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. L'importante é quello: non avere nè rimorsi nè rimpianti!

      Delete

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