The faces that you see everyday. Some you know, many you don’t. Some happy, some sad, some striking, some that instantly disappear into the background. Every one unique, some disturbing, some really beautiful.
And some a total crackup. I’m thinking here of John Boehner, dubbed “Weeper of the House” by the New York Post, and as a kid, was in charge of the broom at his father’s bar back in Cincinnati. If you’re looking up the word “pouter” in the dictionary, you’ll see Boehner’s face along-side the definition. It was his dour expression that you saw on the face of the man sitting behind the president (the man with the protruding ears) during the State of the Union speech. We’re told the tan does not come out of a bottle.
His sidekick on the right side of the aisle, Mitch McConnell, also bears a visage that can induce a violent neck-snap. Whenever his face appears on the screen, the word “petulant” comes to mind.
There are so many, and again, each is a complete original. (When my older brother and I were growing up, friends constantly confused us, which was always a mystery as far as we were concerned. We didn’t see it at all, especially since we were two years apart.)
I don’t intend to make too much of this, other than to say that it’s been a life-long and active avocation of sorts, as well as a fascination. So when I bang out a screenplay (that I’m sure Hollywood is waiting for with salivating lips), the faces, of course, are what come to mind first, then what the character is all about, and I’m very sure the stories that hit the screen began at that point.
By reputation, the film business is all about finding faces that can capture an audience.
Jeff Bridges is one, or maybe more accurately, has become one. If you’ve seen the re-make of “True Grit,” then you know that the point is clear. It was essential to find the right face, especially since the original featured a bona fide icon in westerns. A face was needed that was approachable, accurate and believable as a tough, unprincipled lawman. Bridges was perfect, essential.
Another is the departed Karl Malden, who had a nose for the ages. Back in drama school (Right: You never knew.), one of the directors used to talk about the value for actors, particularly on the stage, to possess a large proboscis, and Malden, surely, did not get short-changed. Coming around a corner, he could enter a room before doing so. And to his credit he made the most of it by leaving it — the beak — alone. And with it, his face was unforgettable. And for me, rather likeable.
But the most marvelous face I’ve seen to date is that of Natalie Portman — and I’m not talking about her role in “Black Swan.” My thought here is of her ever so brief role in a film called “New York, I love you,” which, seemingly, nobody but Kris and I enjoyed. Portman plays a diamond broker who meets a buyer in his shop in Manhattan. As the conversation concludes, she tells the buyer that her head has been shaved in preparation for her marriage the next day, then slowly removes a wig to confirm it. The broker, very moved, walks toward her, looks at her positively gorgeous face, and puts his hands on the sides of her head and kisses her above her ear. He says, quietly, “While we wait for the Messiah, your eyes will suffice to give a tired man hope.”
Truly, a memorable face…and sentiment.