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Commerce vs. Conscience

By Scott Smith in Arts & Entertainment on Mar 28, 2005 3:42PM

Ben Affleck: You gotta do the safe picture. Then you can do the art picture. But then sometimes you gotta do the payback picture because your friend says you owe him. And sometimes, you have to go back to the well.
Matt Damon: And sometimes, you do Reindeer Games.
--From the movie Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back

2005_03_28_money.jpgIt comes out of the mouths of slightly fictionalized versions of themselves, but this spot-on quote illustrates many an actor’s attempts to balance their artistic desires with their monetary needs. Michael Wilmington uses Daniel Day-Lewis’s career (and latest film The Ballad of Jack and Rose) to flesh out this dichotomy in an article from yesterday’s Tribune.

Chicagoist loves a good think piece from Wilmington but this one reminds us of the 14 year-old girl who gets all uptight because her favorite punk band starts taking the occasional meeting with Glen Ballard or Bob Clearmountain. Wilmington believes this latest work from Day-Lewis is a misstep in an otherwise spotless career though he acknowledges it’s “a movie intended well and executed bravely.” And with DDL’s wife directing, it is a bit of a “payback” picture, isn’t it? Better this than “Meet The Fockers” (hell, we’d take DeNiro in another American Express commercial again before that. At least he was still working with Scorsese).

But since there are fewer pictures being made now than back in the heyday of artists like Olivier, Gielgud, and Hepburn (all artists that Wilmington uses as a comparison for DDL’s gift), you have to take your breaks where you get them to see your favorites on-screen. Day-Lewis took five years off after The Boxer to work as a cobbler in Florence before being lured back to play Bill The Butcher in Gangs of New York. If he wants to make the occasional picture for his wife then that's cool with us.

While DDL’s path was a choice, other artists aren’t so lucky. Thomas Haden Church found that acting roles weren’t his to pick and choose until his Oscar nomination for Sideways. If you’re Church then you want to make sure that doesn’t happen again so if it's offered, you go for the role that makes you bankable too: the villain role in the next Spider-Man movie.

As much as the audience feels like they have a personal stake (or voice) in an artist’s career, it’s ultimately his or hers to guide. Still, we hope we don’t ever see Terence Stamp in a movie with Ashton Kutcher and Tara Reid ever again.