1. George Clooney
When I first read about this little endeavor George Clooney was the first name that came to mind. It seems like an obvious choice, mostly because he’s a talented, charismatic actor; however, perhaps it seemed so right because I can easily imagine Clooney doing a project like this in real life—getting together with like-minded artists, forming a group, and cranking out some movies.
I’ve always enjoyed Clooney’s work. He’s failed to fully deliver a few times and he’s failed to really wow me a few others, but he’s always watchable, always an engaging screen presence. He’s certainly a good actor and he’s got lots of talent, but what really makes him a "movie star" is his attitude, his charm; he looks like he’s having fun up there on the screen, and that spirit is infectious, amongst cast and audience—that’s what drew me to him as a solid first round pick, especially for a project like this.
Of the five films we’re hypothetically producing Clooney’s at least dabbled in all of the genres, but even if he hadn’t I wouldn’t worry; after all, he’s always seemed willing to step out of his comfort zones and stretch himself as an artist. He’s also a versatile performer, delivering solid work in either lead or support roles. Like a good quarterback he does what’s best for his team.
There are many fine actors out there, men and women who you could easily assemble a group around, but because of his well-rounded talents, his Golden-Age-movie-star quality, and his professionalism, I wanted George Clooney to be the first actor on board with The Goat Singers.2. Gillian Anderson
So I’m sitting there staring at a list of names. Actors. All of whom are responsible for work I love and admire, and any of whom would make fantastic additions to my little reparatory company. I’m looking at Oscar winners, Oscar nominees, established, Hollywood-approved leading talent, and yet my eye keeps coming back to one name. The clock in the corner of my screen reads 5:13, and I’ve got two minutes to make up my mind. I almost push the button on one, change my mind in favor of another, slam backspace and key in yet another, but still I keep staring at that one name—something about it just feels right. 5:15. I go with my gut, clear the line, type in a new name, hit submit, and draft the second actor into my company: Gillian Anderson.
Though it wasn't intentional, I don’t think it’s a coincidence that both of my choices so far have come from the trenches of episodic television. True, Anderson cut her teeth on the stage, but she made her name week-to-week on the TV. There’s something about the nature of television work that I feel makes actors well-suited to this sort of project. In a television series you do have certain continuity, but each week still brings a new set of challenges—new writers, new directors, new stories—and any actor that can tough that out is certainly capable of dealing with the rigors of a reparatory film company.
Plus, Gillian Anderson is no slouch when it comes to her acting. I happen to think she’s an immensely talented actor who’s rarely been given a chance to stretch her muscles, so to speak. She did great work every week as Dana Scully, but I think in a lot of ways she was restricted by having to play the skeptical straight woman to David Duchovny’s “Spooky Mulder.” She brought one of Edith Wharton’s great characters memorably to life, turned in an award-winning performance as Dickens’ Lady Dedlock, and did fine supporting work in The Last King of Scotland
, yet she still flies under the Hollywood radar (maybe by choice and maybe not). I also think she’s damn funny. Her roles rarely give her the chance for comedy (A Cock and Bull Story was a tease) but I’ve seen interviews that hint at a great comedic spirit.
I didn’t draft Clooney in the first round for his star wattage; I picked him because I see something in his work and personality that lends itself to this sort of project, and I see the same something in Gillian Anderson. She’s talented, she’s funny, she works well with others, she can point a flashlight with the best of ‘em, and I think she’s got the experience and the ability to handle whatever gets thrown her way.
Plus I’ve totally had a crush on her, like, forever.3. Simon Pegg
Simon Pegg was always on my list, but when I drafted him in the third round I thought maybe I was stretching. I figured he wouldn’t last until my pick at the bottom of round four, but I wasn’t sure it was worth sacrificing other, potentially stronger picks in favor of him. Fortunately, my stupidity faded and I realized how lucky I was to be able to add him to my group.
Simon Pegg is funny, and for a lot of actors that’s both a blessing and a curse. Once you make people laugh it seems you have a difficult time convincing them you can do anything else. But why anyone would doubt Pegg’s abilities as an actor is a mystery to me. Sure, he's funny, but there's a well-developed emotional center to each of his characters that elevates his performances above
the level of "just comedy." His characters are real, and that's why they're memorable; that they make us laugh is secondary.
One day, more people will realize how talented Mr. Pegg is; in the meantime, I’m happy to draft him in any round. I can't imagine any challenges that this project would present for him. All of his work has revealed, at its center, an intelligent and thoughtful actor. Hot Fuzz
showed us that he can hold his own in an action film, he proved capable enough when shit got real in Shaun
of the Dead
, and his work in Spaced
is brilliant and nuanced. He works well with a wide range of other actors, he’s got a great presence, and he’s perfect for my company. Cheers, Mr. Pegg; welcome aboard.4. Michelle Williams
While many of her peers concerned themselves with becoming stars, Michelle Williams was busy becoming an actor. I’ll be honest; she wasn’t on my radar for a long time. I never watched Dawson’s Creek
, but I have it on good authority (women) that she was pretty good, and a lot of the films on her resume are completely unfamiliar to me. However, what I have seen I’ve really liked, and I think she’s a talent that’s only just beginning to gear up—unlike a lot of young actors, her best work is clearly ahead of her.
2005’s Brokeback Mountain
was a breakout performance for her—with good reason, it’s heartbreaking and beautiful work—but it was her performance that year in The Baxter
that really made me pay attention. If you haven’t seen it you owe it to yourself to check it out (I did on the advice of this site); it’s a wonderful, charming, and funny movie, and watching Williams bring her character fully to life is one of the highlights.
So what does Michelle Williams add to the mix? Probably anything that’s needed. She’s a valuable part of any ensemble, a proven talent in supporting roles with the skills to easily handle a lead; she’s shown herself capable of covering huge tracts of emotional territory, always making interesting choices in her performance; and I think she’s a smart actor with a long and prestigious career ahead of her.5. Albert Finney
Albert Finney has done it all. He’s a bona fide acting powerhouse, a survivor from a different era (were they alive I’d draft Oliver Reed and Richard Harris, too, and let them run wild). A product of the British stage, Finney became the face of a new English cinema in the 1960s with films like Tom Jones
and Saturday Night and Sunday Morning
, and he hasn’t exactly coasted since then. Finney has continued to deliver exceptional performances throughout his career, popping up in a few unexpected places along the way. He’s played Hamlet, he’s played Daddy Warbucks, he was Agatha Christie’s first choice for Inspector Poirot, as was he the first choice for Lawrence of Arabia; he brought sad tragic bastard Geoffrey Firmin to life in Under the Volcano
, he shot shit up in Miller’s Crossing
, he was in fucking Wolfen
, and he loved up Audrey Hepburn. Albert Finney is the real deal.