not to put too fine a point on it, but i think ned beatty rather succinctly sums up the state of broadway shows and the hollywood/fame star power deemed necessary to run them effectively in this new york times article.
now that puffy has had his moment in a raisin in the sun on broadway (his first play and consequently, his broadway debut -- but of course you already guessed that, if you didn't know) and on television and india. arie is slated to appear this summer in for colored girls, who's the next star to grace the broadway stage to hone those acting chops and "stretch out in another direction"? 50 cent?
it's more than a notion that there's a movie star-studded all black revival of cat on a hot tin roof that's up and running right now with terrence howard making his broadway debut as brick, the male lead. the reviews have been interesting, to say the least.
hm...he did make several movies recently...
Movie Stars Onstage: Big Daddy Speaks Out
They say you need sexy young movie stars to sell Broadway shows these days, particularly when it comes to long, literate plays like Tennessee Williams's ''Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.'' The current revival of ''Cat'' meets this requirement with Jason Patric, in silk pajamas that reveal his hairy chest, and Ashley Judd in a form-fitting slip.
But it is a slightly rotund, largely nondescript, highly experienced 66-year-old actor who critics say makes this ''Cat'' worth seeing. Ned Beatty is a movie star himself, though not the big box-office kind. And he says Broadway has come to rely too heavily on celebrities, thrusting them into challenging roles they do not have the acting chops to handle.
Tucking into a plate of shrimp scampi after a recent matinee -- hold the angel-hair pasta, per the Atkins diet, please -- Mr. Beatty engaged in a candid assessment of his co-stars. He said he very much liked his glamorous colleagues personally: Mr. Patric, best known for the film ''After Dark, My Sweet,'' and Ms. Judd, who starred in ''Ruby in Paradise.'' He simply thinks, he said, that they are ill equipped for their parts: Brick, a brooding, boozing former athlete mourning his friend's death, and Maggie, his long-suffering wife who craves his attention.
Mr. Beatty said of Ms. Judd: ''She is a sweetie, and yet she doesn't have a whole lot of tools. But she works very hard.''
And of Mr. Patric: ''He's gotten better all the time, but his is a different journey.''
Mr. Beatty had no similar criticisms for Margo Martindale, a veteran stage actress who was also praised by critics in her role as Big Mama. When asked whether she agreed with Mr. Beatty's perspective on their co-stars, Ms. Martindale said, ''These are lovely people, and I don't share his view.''
Ms. Judd and Mr. Patric did not return calls seeking comment. Mr. Beatty says Broadway is wasting the talent of better-trained anonymous actors all over the country. ''It's interesting to have people from film and television who can bring people into theater,'' he said. ''But the reality is, we have a lot of actors out there doing theater.
''In theater you want to go from here to there, you want it to be about something,'' he continued. ''Stage actors learn how to do that. Film actors often don't even think about it. They do what the director wants them to do, and they never inform their performance with -- call it what you wish -- through-line, objective.
''I think we've got those actors out there, and I think Broadway could be richer if it exploited that.''
Mr. Beatty seemed nostalgic for the cast of the revival's original London production. He was nominated for an Oliver Award there for his performance as Big Daddy, the bullying yet tender Southern plantation owner. ''I lucked out because I drew Brendan Fraser the first time,'' he said, speaking of the actor who played Brick. (Frances O'Connor played Maggie.) ''He's great at stagecraft, knows how to go from the beginning to the middle to the end.''
''I must tell you, that can be lacking in what we're doing.''
At the same time, Mr. Beatty said, his two young colleagues were giving him as good as they had. ''Nobody goes out onstage in front of people and does anything but their very best,'' he said. ''You just use it. That's what's there.''
Critics have hailed Mr. Beatty's performance as a high-water mark. ''What Mr. Beatty does better than any other Big Daddy I've seen is to convey without caricature the monstrous, exhilarated egotism of a man who believes he has outrun death,'' Ben Brantley said in his review in The New York Times.
Mr. Brantley also said: ''From the moment Mr. Beatty first shows up in the play's second act, he brings with him the invigorating breeze of passionate, scrupulously detailed acting.''
By contrast Mr. Brantley called Ms. Judd's performance that ''of a self-conscious pupil in an elocution class'' and said Mr. Patric ''appears to have spent many hours watching Marlon Brando and James Dean movies'' and ''takes Brick's self-anesthetized state to sometimes exasperating extremes.'' Similarly Entertainment Weekly called Ms. Judd's Maggie ''more of a fashion lynx than an alley feline'' and said Mr. Patric ''compacts Brick into cement.'' Even critics who liked their performances put Mr. Beatty's in a different category.
Anthony Page, who directed ''Cat'' in London and then New York, also suggested his own disappointment, saying that had he not had to leave for London to direct another play, he might have improved the performances of Ms. Judd and Mr. Patric. ''I think they're growing just by playing it,'' Mr. Page said. ''I wish I could have stayed in New York longer.
''I've been very happy with it certain nights,'' he added. ''It's not always completely consistent.''
Asked whether he agreed with critics who said that the production seemed lopsided because of Mr. Beatty's strong performance, Mr. Page said: ''It's been very helpful to have someone who's very much at home on the stage -- which Ned is -- to be in the center of the production.''
Mr. Beatty is, indeed, at home onstage. Although certainly best known for his career-defining performance in the 1972 film ''Deliverance,'' he spent much of his early professional life in regional theater, including eight years at the Arena Stage in Washington.
''I was probably averaging through a lot of my younger days 13 to 15 shows a year onstage,'' he said. ''And one time I figured out I was onstage more than 300 days most years.''
A poor student and weak athlete from Louisville, Ky., the young Mr. Beatty thought he was going to be a singer. But when he couldn't get cast in musicals, he started doing plays. ''I got lucky,'' he said. ''Theater was always lucky for me.''
He said he was never that picky about roles. ''Shoot, somebody offered me a job,'' Mr. Beatty said, ''I took it.''
Mr. Beatty made his Broadway debut in ''The Great White Hope'' with Jane Alexander and James Earl Jones, which originated at Arena Stage and moved to New York in 1968. Mr. Beatty rejoined the cast a few months into the run. He had not been back to Broadway until now, and said he was not particularly excited about it.
''I've done better theater other places,'' he said.
Mr. Beatty isn't crazy about New York. ''New York is what it is, a haven for millions of people,'' he said. ''My game plan for the rest of my life is not to live my life with that many people.''
He's been busy in his career making more than 100 movies, among them ''Network,'' for which he received an Oscar nomination; ''Nashville''; the first two ''Superman'' movies; ''All the President's Men''; and many for television. He also spent three seasons on the series ''Homicide,'' had a recurring role on ''Roseanne'' and has starred in various television specials.
It is Mr. Beatty's natural quality that made Mr. Page decide to cast him as Big Daddy.
''Not being highly educated or bred, Big Daddy came to the plantation in the Depression with no money or background,'' Mr. Page said. ''Ned himself has this terrific instinctive wisdom that makes him salt of the earth.''
Squinting through thick glasses to read his menu, Mr. Beatty did seem as human as the other imperfect souls twirling pasta in his midst, a regular guy with thinning hair who regrets his third divorce though he is happy in his fourth marriage; who says he does not see his eight children enough; who hasn't quite managed, despite the best of intentions, to stop working.
The role scuttled his plans for retirement, to spend more time cooking in front of ''Emeril Live'' on the Food Network in the new house he designed himself in the Sierra Nevada in California. Mr. Beatty had played Big Daddy in a summer stock production when he was 21. He liked the idea of going back at it.
Now, Mr. Beatty said, he plans to revive those retirement plans. For an actor who has done everything from Shakespeare to ''Showboat,'' enough is enough.''Anthony keeps asking me about doing 'Lear,' '' he said. ''But I've done it. I've played The Fool.''