Greg Kinnear: The Power of a Script

There are some actors I seek out. There are actors that serve as the only reason I watch a film. There are some actors who are so consistent that, regardless of how good or bad their last performance was, I will continue to seek them out.

Greg Kinnear is not one of those actors.

Don’t get me wrong. Back in the early days of “Talk Soup,” I considered Kinnear to be daily viewing. Not only that, I enjoyed his performance in “As Good As It Gets” and Auto Focus.

Last night was movie night on Mt. Otis. After a frustrating hour in the neighborhood movie rental store, I emerged with a movie I knew was good and a movie I hoped would at least keep me entertained.

I had not heard one person say a bad word about “Little Miss Sunshine.” In fact, on a recent long flight, I had trouble sleeping. The movie was playing and people were laughing so hard, it cut through my fatigue. Last night, the wife and I nearly woke up the kid. It had been a long time since I’d seen a movie that could make everyone from my parents to my hipster friends laugh until it hurt. And I thought Kinnear put on a great performance. Sure, the rest of the cast overshadowed him at times, but, hey, that cast could overshadow a lot of good actors.

Because the wife and I weren’t tired yet, we popped in the second movie. Don’t ask me why I rented “The Matador.” Maybe it’s because I know my wife thinks, “Pierce Brosnan gets sexier the older he gets.” Or maybe it’s because I like movies with hit men in them. Or maybe it’s because I have a habit of renting two movies with the same actor. Regardless, “The Matador” made its way to our DVD player and we watched it from beginning to end. Therein I found myself wondering if I was watching the same Kinnear I’d just seen in “Little Miss Sunshine.”

With not a lot of time or desire to make a real argument here, I couldn’t help thinking that whoever made the “The Matador” really wanted William H. Macy for Kinnear’s role, but couldn’t get him. Instead, he got Kinnear and said, “Okay, for this scene, I really want you to act like William H. Macy. Think you can pull that off?”

I know precious little about the movie-making world. What I do know comes from friends who are either actors or in the business of making or reviewing films. I do none of that. I am a consumer and nothing more. That said, I think there are probably smart people out there who would entertain the idea that the script for “The Matador” needed some serious doctoring. Either that, or it was over-doctored. All I know is that after watching Kinnear do a fantastic job in “Little Miss Sunshine,” it was rather disappointing to see him in “The Matador.”

It makes me wonder how much power writers and directors have over actors. Actors gotta eat, so they take jobs when they need them. I guess actors like Kinnear aren’t really in a position to turn down as many scripts as some other high-dollar talent. What’s pretty amazing to me, as a lowly consumer, is how much power a script can have over my perception of an actor. If I knew nothing of Kinnear or had not ready any reviews on Little Miss Sunshine, I might have accidentally watched “The Matador” first and then looked at “Little Miss Sunshine” and thought, “Well, that can’t be very good.”

Of course, one reason I will never work in the review industry is I have a hard time offering criticism for artists of any kind (that and the fact that I have never written anything resembling a review in my life that was anywhere near good writing). In reviewing Kinnear’s bio, I just learned that he graduated with a degree in Broadcast Journalism and then went on to be a Hollywood star.

Now I have to back off any criticism of the dude. Why? Well, I think anyone who majors in broadcast journalism and ends up making something of himself deserves some respect.

I, as you know, am still working toward that goal.


Brad Willis

Brad Willis is a writer based in Greenville, South Carolina. Willis spent a decade as an award-winning broadcast journalist. He has worked as a freelance writer, columnist, and professional blogger since 2005. He has also served as a commentator and guest on a wide variety of television, radio, and internet shows.

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1 Response

  1. Michael Caine is the king of this. As he said when asked about some of the many terrible movies he has made: “You get paid the same for a bad film as you do for a good one.”

    And on a similar note: “First of all, I choose the great roles, and if none of these come, I choose the mediocre ones, and if they don’t come, I choose the ones that pay the rent.”

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