Stayed up to watch the Lake House with Sandra Bullock and Keanu Reeves last night and consequently went to bed in a (pink) fog of romance. Quite apart from his sheer physical beauty there is something lovable about Keanu that defies any criticism of his acting abilities. He's constantly slated for being 'wooden' but actually in the Lake House he looks rather relaxed. I always think he's only 'wooden' in the way that big, beautiful sportsmen have that strangely massive quality - he was once an ice hockey goalie and it shows.
This week I discovered that Andrew Collins, the Radio Times film critic - somewhat unexpectedly - shares my views . He's written a piece about 'why it's impossible not to like Keanu Reeves' which you can read here.
From the 'excellent' Bill and Ted onwards, through brilliant successes (Speed, Point Break) and the occasional dubious undertaking (the last Matrix film, what the hell was all that about?) I've followed Keanu's career and have to admit that from time to time he has provided me with inspiration for a character. Many writers do sometimes use actors as sources of inspiration. Occasionally it's as though they've envisaged a whole film, cast and all. The Bridges of Madison County is a good example - who can read that and not see it as a film with Clint Eastwood in the part?
It can help to have pictures to pin up around the desk, help to watch an actor working and to imagine them as your characters - even if you don't actually describe those characters in too much detail because you're leaving room for your reader's imagination.
I've found myself doing it in The Physic Garden with - oddly enough - one main character, but not the others. The 'I' of the story is an old man reflecting on events of his youth, and I found myself from time to time 'seeing' him as a particular Scottish actor. I doubt very much if anyone reading it could guess who, because the character doesn't really describe himself and the actor in question is just that - an actor rather than a 'star' who is different in every single role. All the same, it helped me to envisage this particular actor creating the part. But then I've spent a lot of my working life watching the miraculous way in which good actors can gradually bring characters to life.
The other main characters in the novel were wholly invented. Or were they? Don't we always take bits of this or that person, this or that event and weave them into something new? Which I suppose is what the actors themselves do. What a fascinating business this is!