Saturday, March 5, 2011

Working hard or hardly working

While watching the film MARATHON MAN (1976), you can't help but think about the convergence of old school vs. new school (Laurence Olivier / Dustin Hoffman) acting styles. Olivier, who was 69 when MARATHON MAN was released, was into the latter phase of his career (although he continued to act for another 13 years until 1989, when he passed at age 82 - so "winding down" wasn't exactly in his vernacular) and Hoffman, who was 30 years Olivier's junior during the making of the film, was deeply in his stride.

I don't know this but you get the feeling Olivier barely tolerated Hoffman and vice versa. Hoffman's adoption of Lee Strasberg's "method" of acting was rumored to be a point of contention for Olivier, who was classically trained, honed on Shakespeare, and insisted that acting was pure technique.

John Schlesinger, who directed Hoffman in MARATHON MAN and MIDNIGHT COWBOY, seemed to lay the groundwork for the actor's emerging style based on Strasberg's theories of acting. Hoffman didn't shy away from exploring the dark psychological depths of COWBOY's Ratso Rizzo - an experience that certainly helped to sharpen his method.

Regarding Olivier, I always found him stuffy, staid and I may take heat for uttering such blasphemy. However, his work in the 1970s was interesting as he tended toward psychologically damaged - if not perverse - old men as found in MARATHON MAN, THE BOYS FROM BRAZIL and others. Playing these roles based, of course, on technique rather than a sort of total psychological immersion.

But then again, what's the difference as long as the acting gets done?

Anyway, the above photo of Hoffman and Olivier says it all. There's just no denying the connection between the two. Taken during the MARATHON MAN shoot (I found the pic via

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