O, wicked success! O, foul stench of prosperity!

British actress Lindsay Duncan was recently on a press junket promoting her new movie Le Week-End. In a fluff piece printed in New York Times, she dropped this bomb:

“I would rather give up acting than become world famous.”

Not this again. This sort of thing really rubs me raw. Sit back from your monitor or you’ll get scorched.

The acting community has no greater friend than me. I see +/- 45 plays a year. It’s my thing. I enjoy the theater. But, oh, Mother of God, I wish actors would either check themselves when being interviewed or keep their mouths shut all together. When they prattle on about how “dangerous” their work is or refer to their characters as if they were actual people, I want to rip my hair out. And I especially can’t stand it when entertainers turn their success into a crippling burden.

While promoting box office bomb The Young Victoria, dim bulb Emily Blunt went on one of those “I am a serious artist” rambles you occasionally hear from actors for whom success came too soon and too easily. Can you imagine laying out millions of dollars to produce The Young Victoria,sending your lead actress out to promote the film (first class accommodations) and read that she said this in an interview:

“It’s just never been important to me to make a big splash and I don’t care for it.”

I’d kill her. I’d want my movie to make a big splash. Production budget on The Young Victoria: $35 million. Worldwide gross: $27 million. Well done, Emily. You’re an idiot.

Singer/mope-meister Nora Jones (each album repackages the same boring songs) said this of the meteoric success of her first album:

“On the first record I was everywhere, and it was, like, the worst time in my life.”

Nora, you are, like, an idiot. That album generated an audience that most singers don’t dare dream of, not to mention financial independence for life. Way to turn it into a negative.

While out promoting box office bomb Scott Pilgrim vs The World, actor/human insect Michael Cera (each performance is the same boring character) said:

“I don’t really want to be famous, and I’m kind of scared that might be happening.”

Then DON’T BE AN ACTOR. Looks like you got your wish. Where’ve you been? Production budget: $60 million. Worldwide gross: $47 million. Nice work, stupid.

I’m reading The Richard Burton Diaries. A fantastic book. In August of 1969, at the pinnacle of his career, when he was in great demand and had the power to pick and choose whatever and whomever he wanted to work with, had both critical and popular respect and more money than he ever imagined, he wrote:

“I loath loath loath acting. In studios. In England. I shudder at the thought of going to work with the same horror as a bank-clerk must loathe that stinking tube-journey every morning and the rush-hour madness at night. I loath it, hate it, despise, despise, for Christ’s sake, it.”

Take it from me, Dick, what you were doing was NOTHING AT ALL like the grind of a daily commute. Hilarious that you would think it would be.

Stand aside and watch these nitwits get schooled. While on a press junket for Inglourious Basterds, Brad Pitt said:

“It’s so tough being an actor. Sometimes they bring you coffee and sometimes it’s cold. And sometimes you don’t have a chair to sit on.”

Production budget: $70 million. Worldwide gross: $321 million. That’s how it’s done.

Finally, these words from British renaissance man and genius director Sam Mendes. Rule #25 of his 25 Rules for Directors:

25. Never, ever, ever forget how lucky you are to do something that you love.


I’m full of spit and vinegar so I’ll rerun this gem from last year.

I was taking pics of our neighbor’s photogenic white cat, Smudge, when, for NO REASON WHATSOEVER, their other cat, Skippy, walked into the frame and BIT HER IN THE EYE! It was an hilarious unprovoked attack. I couldn’t stop laughing. Cats are the best.


82 thoughts on “O, wicked success! O, foul stench of prosperity!

  1. It would be nicer if they were all more like Chris Cooper. The guy shows up, turns in a fantastic, award worthy performance (almost) every time, and then we don’t hear from him again.
    Until the next time he does it.

    Loved the non-sequiter segue to the cat pic. So does Smudge wear an eyepatch and meow like a pirate now.

      • It is almost physically painful to watch De Niro interview. He is so clearly uncomfortable with his fame. But I’ve never heard him badmouth his good fortune. Jake LaMotta don’t bitch.

      • There’s a line given to Ray Liotta’s Shoeless Joe Jackson in Field of Dreams, talking about his love of baseball, “Hell, I’d have played for free”.

        You don’t hear many actors say that. Some musicians, but rarely actors.

      • There was a time when I was in the Coast Guard and I was on search and rescue missions and I would think to myself that I’d have done it for free. Everything I’ve done since then requires payment.

      • I was a young innocent when I was in the Coast Guard. Now I know better. You can actually DIE on a search and rescue mission. You couldn’t pay me ENOUGH to do it now.

  2. I’m with Mr. Mendes, and I’m with Mr. Pitt. Yeah, it’s tough being paid to do something you genuinely love, a job that some/most can only dream of. I think you showed remarkable restraint in your assessment of these fame-turds, Mark. By the way, Scott Pilgrim rules!

    I’m totally ignoring the cat bits. My parents always said: make sure, son, that you avoid the cat bits.

    • You should pop over and read those rules for Directors. They could apply to anyone in the arts. Even writers.

      I never saw the Scott Pilgrim movie because I heard they wrecked it but the book–she’s okay. Are you referring to the movie? Was it okay?

      • I never read the graphic novel, but I loved the movie. It’s cooky, hilarious, violent, great music, and really good acting – for Mr. Cera, it’s the type of movie he really should be in. And there ain’t many of those. I highly recommend it.

        I’ll check out those rules for Directors. You know for the longest time, I thought Mendes was American… I don’t know why, but I did.

      • Maybe I need to visit the movie. I always thought that guy was a one-dimensional actor so it had a strike against it from the start. Then I read that profile of him and it was chocked-full of dumb statements like that one.

        I made the same mistake! I though he was American as well! I’m about to see his Broadway production of Cabaret with the wonderful, hatchet-faced Alan Cumming. I’m not a fan of musicals at all but in this case I’m willing to make and exception.

      • Did I ever mention that I hate you for being in NYC? I’m sure I’ve alluded to it… please please let me know what you think of Cabaret.

        Cera’s good in that movie. He plays it straight. I kind of like the kid, as I’m a huge Arrested Development fan. Massive bias.

      • Yes, I believe you expressed your hatred for my good fortune in the past. At least I don’t COMPLAIN about the bad parts.

        Too much, anyway.

        Maybe that’s my problem. I’ve never seen Arrested Development. Don’t know how I missed it, really.

      • Are you shitting me.

        Go on Netflix and watch it all. Or go buy the DVD’s. Just get it. Watch it. Absorb. Memorize. Utilize the lines in everyday conversation. Feel your life changing. Bubble with humour and sheer joy.

        And if you do watch it… you owe me, Mark. You owe me a few drinks in NYC.

      • LOVED Scott Pilgrim vs the World. I was almost going to quit you again over this…but then I realized, you’ve never seen it!

        Michael Cera is really good in this. And my kid likes this movie, so it’s a win-win. It’s a little inappropriate for him, but he didn’t understand the inappropriate stuff, so it’s okay.

      • This post turned into a mandate on Michael Cera’s work. I meant to expose his confused, befuddled ingratitude for his good fortune but it turns out I might be missing out on some worthwhile work. Back to the drawing board, I guess. Schooled again!

      • Love that man… funniest movie I ever saw him in, though, was The Kingdom. Which was not a funny movie, but the part he played was awesome. Will check out the trailer for Bad Words… wait, just watched it… I’m there. Didn’t pass eighth grade… I never thought of exploiting spelling bee loopholes before.

  3. “Then DON’T BE AN ACTOR”—-Ha, yes! Problem easily solved. That’s like me saying, “I want to publish a book, but I don’t want it to be read.”

    Love the cat pic. Either you caught it at the perfect time, or that cat took a bite and didn’t want to let go, giving you ample time to take the pic.

  4. I love the fame, it’s the crap money wot pisses me off! And yes, I am one of those people who get to make a (meagre) living doing something that keeps me sane. I love it. 😉

    • You are very lucky, my friend. You have been for all the years I’ve know you. Many are called but few are chosen. It’d be nice if the chosen ones who make a fortune refrain from bitching about any aspect of it in public. I’m sure it’s not perfect but I don’t want to hear it.

  5. I was too shy to stick with the game.I liked the acting, but not the baggage that came with it.So that makes me one of your pet hates! Ouch! (I’m talking stage, not film. Hard work, lots of laughs, bugger all money, fleeting friendships.)

    • The kind of success these people enjoy is so rare and so hard to obtain that once they have it in their grasp, they look bloody foolish complaining about any of it. A classic case of ‘be careful what you wish for,’ methinks.

  6. Poor Smudge! Owwie.

    It’s really freaking annoying when people bitch about a job that anyone would give their eyeteeth for.
    Hahahahaha- I didn’t even realize when I wrote eye-teeth that it actually is relevant to the cat picture!

    Didn’t Alan Cumming already do Cabaret? Like, 20 years ago??? I think I saw him ages ago. Same actor and director, 2 decades later?

    • Eye/teeth. Ha. I saw what you did there. Clever girl.

      Alan Cumming did, indeed, do Cabaret back in 1998 with Natasha Richardson as Sally Bowles and Sam Mendes directing. Well done, you! I saw it as well and think it was one of the greatest pieces of theater I’ve ever witnessed. Top five easy. Such a dark, badass production with the ripped and torn costumes. This is a revival of that production. This time around, Sally Bowles is played by Michele Williams. It’s the one show I’m looking forward to more than any other this season.

      • What an interesting character the MC is – the fact that it can be played by Alan Cumming then, and now, shows you the malleable nature of theater. But then again, it’s all about the director’s vision, right?

        If I recall correctly, Cumming played that part 16 years ago with a WHOLE lot of raunch. I wonder if he can pull that off now?

        Have fun, you! I’m always impressed by your commitment to see theater regularly. I was like that when I lived in NY, and waiting on the half price ticket line was not an inconvenience.

      • Cumming is PERFECT for the MC role. He’s got the right amount of dark and sinister. Much more threatening than the harlequin that Joel Grey played in the film. This production IS pretty raunchy. There’s a great song called Two Ladies. It’s about a ménage à trois, typically sung by the MC and two women. In Mende’s version, it’s Cumming, a female dancer and a male dancer dressed as a woman. Fantastic.

  7. I can tell you from the bottom of my (solid stone and withered with 16 years of cynical observation) heart, that even though I thoroughly enjoy my job, I wouldn’t put a foot onto my workplace (we laughingly call it Stalg Luft IV) if I didn’t get paid.

    I agree with you on the increasingly fatuous statements being put out by “entertainers”

    Like that dickhead Kanye East … more dangerous that Afghanistan Yeah right.

    It’s almost as dangerous as listening to what he calls “his music”

    • Sadly, we all do it for the paycheck. In Springsteen’s I Ain’t Got You, he sings that he’s “Paid a kings ransom for doing what comes naturally.” Isn’t that the very definition of bliss? These fools who are handed the keys to the kingdom and then complain about certain aspects of it should all try a heaping helping of obscurity and money woes on for size. That’d teach ’em.

  8. Yes, cats are the best.
    My friend, Amy is an actress. It’s so tough for her to get a constant stream work (and constant flow of cash). For her it ain’t easy. She loves what she does, but she also has to make constant sacrifices. There are things that need fixing and she just doesn’t have the cash to fix it. She’s at the point where she’s not entirely sure she should continue pursuing this career. So these whiny assholes …

    • Acting is such a tough, tough gig. The success rate is very low. I used to date actresses and my heart broke for them all the time. They’d audition, fail, audition, fail, audition, fail. It ground a lot of them down. The ones who make it big and then complain about it all deserve a good, swift boot in the ass.

    • I’m not sure it’s an exclusive part of the British culture. There are plenty of U.S. home grown whiners. I think it’s more a part of the human condition in general. People need to be more careful of what they wish for. Truman Capote famously said that there are more tears shed over answered prayers than unanswered prayers.

  9. Brad Pitt makes some good choices when it comes to movies and he’s talented. Yeah, woe is me, oh poor actor. Give me a break. Anyone who is actually acting for a living is incredibly lucky. Poor kitty! I love watching my cats whack each other. I have three of them. Nice to see you. I don’t know where I’ve been.

    • Hi! I remember you. Is that your new blog address? It’s good to clean house every once in a while. It’s cathartic.

      There are plenty of actors/writers/musicians etc. who appreciate their incredible good fortune, but those guys don’t make for amusing blog posts. It’s best that I focus on the broken ingrates. Maybe they’ll stumble across this post and check themselves next time.

      • Hey, Mark! Yay, we found each other again. Sorry, everything truly feels haphazard lately. Please don’t take it personally. I’m barely holding up! Yes, that’s my new address.

      • Oh, bother. You can’t take things like this personally. Can you imagine! You’d walk around in a deep funk all day and wouldn’t sleep at night. No worries. No pressure. Hang in there.

  10. I know! I know and particularly in an industry where SO many more people make it than don’t, and people try desperately for years to break into it, it’s just disrespectful to them to complain about it – if you hate it then step down, there’s plenty more waiting to fill your shoes! I had a lot of respect for Julia Roberts a few years back when I saw her being interviewed, and she was actually talking about this very thing and how grateful she is for her career, and she said it makes her laugh when for instance she turns up at some glitzy event in a chauffeur driven limo, wearing a fabulous dress, hair and make up done perfectly, steps out on to the red carpet with everyone cheering, and some interviewer will say to her “So, Julia, what’s the downside of being famous?” she was like “Erm, no, it’s all pretty good!”

    • I was deathly afraid of offending you. I know you take your acting seriously and I say some rather unflattering things about the profession. I hope you know this was done in the right spirit. It sounds like you do. I’ve had a few girlfriends who were actresses and I absolutely adore them. I’ve got good wishes for anyone who enters the industry but, as you know, it’s a tough, tough slog. The competition is fierce.

      I’d like to believe that most successful artists realize how incredibly fortunate they are. It takes talent and drive but you also need a heap of luck. But I don’t want to write about those guys. That’s a boring post. I’d rather complain about the malcontents.

      • I really don’t do very much acting, but I would love to do more. As much as do like my day job at the university, if money were no object I would really go for it with the acting, it’s just too hard to try and do it around a day job, with short notice auditions during the week etc. plus most of the auditions are in London, and a peak time return train ticket to London from where I am is nearly £70 (about $115) and it’s only a one hour train journey, how crazy is that? So it’s hardly practical to do that very often. I just try to keep my hand in doing an occasional thing here and there.

      • Doing an occasional thing here and there can be perfectly satisfying. Sure, it’d be nice to pay the rent by acting, but not being able to doesn’t suck all the joy out of the experience. There’s still the camaraderie. But if you ever really do make it, DON’T COMPLAIN about it. Promise?

  11. And now remove the ranty hat… 😉

    However I know what you mean – these people do a job they love. Just that alone should be enough to them to say “You know I’m so lucky” then they make more money sitting at home doing nothing as the royalties roll in in a few days than most others see in a life time… and it is so hard… yeah right…

    • I have to admit, it felt good to get it out of my system. And what better place to vent?! My Bride sure doesn’t want to hear about it!

      I’ve promised myself to be ever-mindful and grateful for the good things that surround me and not lose my perspective, as some of these dopes have done.

  12. You know what I like, Mark, when complete dipshit super stars like Stallone and Schwarzenegger and Co., who’s acting skills are questionable at best, can take the piss out of their own type-cast traps by writing, directing, producing and most other-ings movies like The Exendables. It’s the ultimate flip of the bird at a cynical, critical public to showcase your lack of real talent and yet take their money off them. I always thought Sophia Loren and the Hepburns were the quintessential actors actors.

    • What to you mean questionable! Let’t not forget…Stallone won an Oscar for Rocky. It beat…and I’m not kidding about this…All The President’s Men, Network and Taxi Driver. How do you like them apples? That’s got to count for something, doesn’t it?

      Initially, I misread “quintessential” as “questionable.” I thought you’d gone off the deep end.

      • Hahaa, that’s okay mate, I often confuse my questionability with my quintessentiality…could happen to anyone!

  13. The famous and ultra-rich sure live in a bubble. That being said, it probably does suck to be famous/ constantly on stage because you can’t live (the good parts of) a normal life. Princess Fergie said she couldn’t even fix herself a sandwich in the castle kitchen. I’d go nuts if I couldn’t run errands or feed myself without people harassing me.

    It hurts to look at that cat picture! If only some things could be unseen.

    • I don’t doubt that it’s not all fun and games. I’ve always said that I would gladly accept wealth into my life but have no desire for fame. Fame is fool’s gold. Some can handle it, others have a hard time. Look at poor Justin Bieber. He’s falling apart at the seams. But I just heard Jason Bateman interviewed on Howard Stern. That dude had wealth and fame at age 10 but it didn’t wreck him. He came out okay. I guess it depends who you surround yourself with. I’ll have no part of fame. It’s not for me. But if you enter the business and some of it sucks, you should probably keep it to yourself.

  14. Great post! I do marvel at actors who portray characters with passion, however, I really wonder why that makes them think their opinions on politics, society, whatever – are any more valuable than anyone else’s.

    Wicked cat pics!

    • If they’re such great actors, they should try acting happy during an interview. Put on a happy face for us poor commoners who were never chosen by fate. We’re trying to live vicariously through them and that’s not easy to do when they spew dissatisfaction with wealth and fame.

  15. Because all that money and fame is such an inconvenience. Puh-leez. I have always wanted to be an actor, and I’d give my left boob to 1. work in the industry AND 2. make money. Spoiled brats.

    • You wanna smack them, right? Can you imagine your dream comes true and you end up miserable? Look at poor Richard Burton! That guy had everything he ever dreamed of and more, and he wound up a sad drunk taking terrible film roles. There are just no guarantees, are there? Nevertheless, I’d sure like to taste what it’s like. I might bitch and moan to myself and the people around me, but I sure as hell would never go public with it.

      New avatar? Me likee.

  16. Pingback: Critics sharpen knives. Björk gets filleted. | Exile on Pain Street

  17. I clicked the link from your Bjork post, and I’m both glad and upset that I did. Great post, but now I want to punch all these idiots in the face. Michael Cera in particular. He’s AWFUL and I don’t understand how he’s found employment as an actor because he’s about as engaging as a wet paper bag. I’m surprised you left Megan Fox out, since she’s a world class whiner; although she’s probably too lowbrow to be on your radar.

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