Variety’s Actors on Actors video series takes The Hollywood Reporter’s roundtable concept into an experimental forum in which two actors, one-on-one, query each other. We’ve rounded up the best of the best, and some of the worst, below.
“Selma”‘s smooth and polite pro David Oyelowo comes out way ahead of his younger Brit countryman, “Unbroken” star Jack O’Connell, who has not yet learned the art of presenting himself in a self-promotional way.
The most successful pairing by far is whip-smart Michael Keaton vs. Reese Witherspoon—both are consummate, authentic entertainers who keep things fun while pushing their own agendas and each other. Jennifer Aniston and Emily Blunt also make a good match for being charming, funny and real, with a relaxed rapport that doesn’t feel like checking off boxes. Similarly, serious craftswomen Tilda Swinton and Hilary Swank know how to play this game and while Swinton tends to bogart the conversation, she comes off humble as always.
Feminine Keira Knightley politely defers to and interviews Ethan Hawke, who was happy to run with the ball.
And similarly, while fellow Europeans Marion Cotillard and Timothy Spall get into a sophisticated discussion of the nuts and bolts of acting, she asks him more questions while he does more talking.
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Disastrously, American rookie Jenny Slate and uncomfortable Brit pro Felicity Jones are like oil and water. Though appealing on their own, Oscar Isaac and Gugu Mbatha-Raw strain to keep the ball rolling—both are young and new at this, but they did recently share a kiss for The New York Times. And you’d think Benedict Cumberbatch and Edward Norton would spark—it sounds good in print, but no.
The Variety interviews don’t work overall because most actors are narcissists who don’t know how to interview fellow actors the way a journalist would. Unless you’ve got the smartest, most entertaining ones who can make anything work and play off each other, it’s a waste. You’re not going to learn much. Nor does it work when the team from one movie gets together (see The Hollywood Reporter’s “Interstellar” roundtable) because you learn nothing, and they just suck up to their director (and this particular director could stand a little less adulation).
It works best when THR gathers a bunch of different people from different films, which is really hard to wrangle as it is because you have to get all the publicists and studios to cooperate in their own self interest.
Check out highlights from the Variety series, below: