Idol Chatter

Time Magazine’s current issue focuses on the many actors who are moving somewhat out of (typical) character to play villains this summer, and reflects on some of the more memorable villains of all time.

James Franco will probably be the most-seen villain of the summer, playing Harry Osborn in “Spider-Man 3.” Timothy Olyphant is the bad guy in “Life Free or Die Hard.” Michelle Pfeiffer plays villains in both “Hairspray” and “Stardust.” Mostly good-guy actor Kevin Costner plays sort of a bad guy in “Mr. Brooks,” and another good guy, Chow Yun-Fat, takes the evil turn in “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End.”

I think many of us have a hard time seeing typical good guys in evil roles, unless they’re really, really good at it. Jack Nicholson has pulled it off legendarily well in “The Shining,” and “Batman,” among others. Anthony Hopkins was an all-time great in “Silence of the Lambs.” But most actors and actresses can’t pull it off. I’m not sure Robert Redford ever did. Bruce Willis tried (“The Jackal”) and audiences didn’t flock to it. Harrison Ford hasn’t pulled it off either, nor has Will Smith.

Even though the battle between good and evil is one of the oldest themes in the world, something within us finds comfort and normality in knowing who’s who. Jesus=Good. Same for Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, Jimmy Stewart, and Luke Skywalker. Satan=Bad. Same also goes for the dark side, the wicked witch and any opponent of James Bond. Regardless of our religion or spiritual journey, most of us were able to relate to Disney movies, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones because of the clarity of the who the good guys and bad guys were.

I can’t think of Sean Connery, Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton or Pierce Brosnan playing a bad guy in a big movie. It messes with our clarity, and only the finest of actors at the top of their craft could pull it off.

I think Chow Yun-Fat will pull it off fine because it’s sort of a comedic role. I think Costner’s show will fail. I think Michelle Pfeiffer will go one-for-two. And in most cases I don’t think they’ll fail because they’ll do a bad job. It’s just a hard job–because as the audience, we don’t want the role confusion. We just want the villian to serve our need and be a conduit through which our hero’s true colors can shine.

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