Why is it so difficult for actors to play dead?

Discussion in 'After Hours Lounge (Off Topic)' started by Ronald Epstein, Jun 5, 2010.

  1. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Administrator
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    Been noticing something over the years.


    Eye movement.


    It's pretty difficult to depict someone as dead on

    a TV show or movie without some sort of eye movement.


    ...and it totally takes you out of the moment.


    First noticed it on one of my all-time favorite TV

    miniseries, Jesus of Nazareth. When they take

    Jesus off the cross and he is lying there as rain

    drops begin to fall on his face, you can see his

    eyes moving under his lids. Ruins the emotional

    impact of the scene.


    This month I began watching Battlestar Galactica.

    There are a couple dead scenes where the eyes

    of the actor can be seen moving under the lid, or

    the eyelashes move.


    So, I wondered just how difficult is it to play dead?

    I closed my eyes but could not keep them still.

    Just wondering if anyone has noticed the same

    thing I have watching various movies and TV shows.
     
  2. Henry Gale

    Henry Gale Producer

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  3. Will_B

    Will_B Producer

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    I think the problem is that eyes normally shake a bit from side to side. That's how to keep the pixels refreshed, so to speak. (In fact, if you stare at a spot on the wall without letting your eyes shake at all, your whole field of vision will turn grey as the brain ceases to get new impulses -- I used to be able to do this as a kid, but trying it just now, I cannot). So it takes a lot of effort to hold them in one fixed spot... especially when you can't see the spot!
     
  4. JonZ

    JonZ Lead Actor

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    For Deliverance, Bill McKinney said he had focused on one spot for that long scene in the film wheres hes dead and the camera stays right on him.


    Its still a long time not to blink or move.
     
  5. Malcolm R

    Malcolm R Executive Producer

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    I'm usually more distracted by the chest rising and falling.
     
  6. Cameron Yee

    Cameron Yee Executive Producer
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    I remember hearing on a commentary that they'll do a freeze frame if they can get away with it.
     
  7. Yee-Ming

    Yee-Ming Producer

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    I thought a freeze frame doesn't quite work either, because there's always some slight differential in either film grain, or in the way pixel sensors read the shot, even if absolutely nothing moves in the shot. Hence the mention in some technothriller (could have been a Clancy book) that in feeding a fake image to a security CCTV, they didn't feed a single image, but three frames on cycle, so there would be just that little bit of jitter.


    Anyway, the most remarkable 'play dead' I've seen is in I, Claudius, when Brian Blessed's Augustus dies while his wife is ranting about something. He expires mid-rant (she doesn't notice), while the camera stays on him the entire time, slowing moving in. The entire scene lasts several minutes, with no cuts or edits, and he's absolutely still, with eyes open the whole time.
     
  8. Scott McGillivray

    Scott McGillivray Supporting Actor

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    As an actor that has had to play dead, let me tell you, it is NOT easy. I was crucified in my scene (in a not-so-good movie called "Lost Angel") and had the fake blood just barely trickling down my face. THAT got pretty annoying! Especially since I could not move my arms and my face got itchy. At one point Alison Eastwood came over and graciously scratched my forehead for me...ah...that was sweet (she was in Playboy the month before...nice!) So, there I am strapped up on a makeshift cross, itchy, with dozens of cast and crew standing around, bright lights beaming on me and then "action"....dont move! Then do that 15 times. Overall, I thought I did a pretty good job, but when I saw the finished product, I caught myself moving ever so slightly. Sucks. Especially when the director had even mentioned on set how amazingly still I got. Editing has a lot to do with it as well. My scene has many takes (as most scenes do) so they certainly could have edited around the slight movement I had.
     
  9. Jeff Gatie

    Jeff Gatie Lead Actor

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    Alison Eastwood was in Playboy?!! Now this thread definitely needs pics!
     
  10. Joseph DeMartino

    Joseph DeMartino Lead Actor

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  11. Sam Posten

    Sam Posten Moderator
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    Ron, 4 words for ya dude:


    Willing

    Suspension

    Of

    Disbelief


    You needs it.

    http://www.motivatedphotos.com/?id=1725
     
  12. Stan

    Stan Producer
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    In a waiting room, wherever, I used to stare at the ceiling until my sight went black. Never knew what was happening until Will_B wrote his post, Sight wouldn't get completely black, but very very dark gray, then just the tiniest movement vision was back.


    I was pretty amazed by Hiro's time travels in Heroes, according to the commentary, no special effects, everyone just stood really still..


    Expanding your chest and holding your breath is something most people should be able to do for at least a minute or more. I would think eyes would be the worst problem. You have be pretty calm to completely relax your eyes
     
  13. Johnny Angell

    Johnny Angell Played With Dinosaurs Member

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    Yeah, I can usually spot the freeze frame too. It looks phony.

    I remember this and Blessed is very good in that scene (plus the series), very convincing.


    Another excellent death scene I remember was Marlon Brando in Mutiny on the Bounty. He's laying there dieing and one moment his eyes can see and the next they are glazed over and dead.


    How about Janet Leigh in Psycho? With the camera in a tight, tight closeup on her eye and it then pulls back. How did they do that, was that a freeze frame?
     

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