I once heard someone say that acting and writing were not so different. Both involve imagining a character (or many) and working out through your own personal experiences how to portray this person. Both require a lot of discipline – time wise, friend wise, patience wise… However, as a skill set, writing and acting have nothing in common. Most writers work in a vacuum, a time and place devoid of feedback, praise or criticism, or they did until more recently. See: Twitter, Goodreads and multiple blogs.
Because there’s no way around it, the internet has made writing more of a performance art. Writers are expected to produce much more material and quicker and that means, feedback is instant and acted upon.
So maybe, it’s not surprising that a lot more actors are now branching off into writing. And guess what, some of their stuff doesn’t suck! So who’s at it? Let’s see.
The comedian best known for his hangdog lovability and general goofiness is also a pretty damn prolific writer. And you know what? He writes his own stuff. I mean, he writes it, with his own fingers. He doesn’t dictate some ideas into a microphone and then send it off to the Ghost. While he has written some less lengthy pieces like essay collections, plays and children’s books, and less fictional pieces like his 2007 memoir, Steve is also cranking out the real deal. An Object of Beauty was his 2007 book about a business woman in the NY art world and was well received in the ‘middle list’ area. Yeah, so Steve isn’t going to win any big prizes, (but are any of us?) but he is a real writer and not just writing exposes on Hollywood either. Well done that man! I salute you.
He writes??? Okay, breathe, breathe. I’m a married woman. I’m a married woman. The Dane best known outside his homeland as Aragorn is otherwise simply an all-round amazing artistic actor. And (I’m fantasizing here, let’s just go with it), when he’s not curled up in front of a roaring log fire in a hand knitted jumper, drinking a glass of Gløgg, Mortensen is a world traveller, prolific poet and photographer. That last bit is real. Works such as The Horse is Good and Linger showcase his photos alongside poetic interpretations. And before we jump at the conclusion that he gets published because he’s famous, we need to step back. The boy sticks to indy publishers. Oh yeah!
Now this one, I read his book and then I Googled him, and then I found out he was an actor. Palo Alto is a proper gritty and insightful collection of short stories in the same vein as Slaves of New York. You can’t really read them individually, there are episodes and each contributes to the mood of the next. The actor slash model slash director majored in English and creative writing at UCLA and he can write damn well too. I love this angle, it’s like, yeah, I’m just doing this heartthrob thing until I can pay my bills from writing. Kudos.
Hugh Laurie AND Stephen Fry
Honestly, these two deserve their own post each but they have so much in common I need to squish them together. And why not, these two are really, really good squished together. A Bit of Fry and Laurie, Jeeves and Wooster, Blackadder… They were both actors at Footlights together, both suffered from clinical depression in different forms and both have produced seriously good novels. In The Gun Sellers, Laurie does an excellent spy novel spoof and in Revenge, Fry takes on a slow burn tale of a boy kidnapped because he leads a charmed and beautiful life and how he makes his way back to kill off the people who made it happen. Okay – yes, it’s Monte Cristo, but it’s a really good, dark, modern version of the classic and you can imagine Fry in the main role.
And then there’s the other actor slash writers… you know the ones. They get offered the contract and then they write the book. I’m not saying that equals bad, but it more often than not means the ghostwriter was signed up and holding the outline before they even got on the call. So, there are a lot of them and I’m not going there. But just like with ‘real’ writers, there are actor slash writers who might kind of suck too.
Do you know who Chad Michael Murray is? One Hill Tree Lane? I don’t. It was after my time, but apparently he played a character who liked writing and now he is writing, but by all accounts, he’s writing exactly what he wants to write (can’t knock that) and what he wants to write is travel log/ Army/ romance stuff. American Drifter is about an American soldier backpacking through Rio de Janerio, seeing cool stuff, questioning life and falling in love. Hey, it could be good. We won’t know unless we read it, right! But I probably won’t as he has gone on record saying it is based on a dream he once had and as we all know, the person who finds our dreams the most intriguing is ourselves.
So yes, just as you suspected – writing – everyone is at it so don’t go feeling all special about yourself. But seriously, no. Everyone is not at it and what these amazingly talented actor types show us is that even if you’re a Hollywood star, there can still be something missing in your life that only writing can fill.
So, Write On Brothers and Sisters!
Oh and here’s one more Viggo, just because.