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Movie Details

Title:   Special Thanks to Roy London
Director:   Christopher Monger
Year:   2005
Genre:   Documentary
Times Seen:   1
Last Seen:   10.24.05

Other Movies Seen By This Director (0)

Notes History
Date Viewed Venue Note
10.24.05Regal ArborThis Screening is part of event: Austin Film Festival 2005
The second show at the Arbor tonight was a documentary titled Special Thanks to Roy London: an acting coach who proved life-changing importance to the likes of Sharon Stone, Brad Pitt, Garry Shandling, Sherilyn Fenn, Jeff Goldblum, and many many others. There are only a few pictures of the man and just two interviews where he talks about acting, so the vast majority of this doc intercuts that footage with a host of actor interviews of those that worked with him, outlining his personal history, a little bit of his teachings, and ultimately his death at age 50.

Just as I am not a fan of plays turned into movies, I am a sucker for movie-related documentaries. I just eat them up. The complete movie fanboy in me breaks through whenever I see celebrities talking about other celebrities. Who's friends with who, how such and such came about, what's responsible for what... it all fascinates me to no end. So it's no big surprise that I found this documentary very interesting.

The movie starts with everyone trying to describe London's physical characteristics, sometimes agreeing but mostly directly contradicting one another. It seems no one saw Roy London quite the same way. We then see a picture of him, dispelling the myth that the film just built up, and we go on from there in typical documentary fashion. We start at the beginning of his career as a stage actor and sometime writer, then move on to him coming out to LA and starting teaching, then discussing what his lessons were and how he helped a whole wave of actresses break through in the early 90s, and ultimately end with his death. It's the type of movie that you will either be interested in or bored with right from the beginning, and your feelings probably won't change midway through.

There are some faults with the construction of the film though. A full third of the movie concentrated on London's death from AIDS, orchestrating this huge tear-fest specifically designed to make you cry. Personally, I'm more interested in the man's life than his death and felt this segment went on way too long. There are a few gems though, such as Sharon Stone describing a scene where she was holding London in his arms and he seemingly died, causing great joy in Stone because she had been the one he dies with, only to feel mixed frustration and joy when he wakes up with a huge gasp and one last epiphany on the craft: "It's all about love."

London condensed all scenes in every film down to being about love, power, death, or money... gradually dropping money then death as he went through life and finally power as he neared his own end. A lot of this stuff is very actor-y which I found fascinating because the actor's job is so odd. I can understand however that, put in the context of a greater worldview, such trivial things as an actor's motivation could be seen as minor and unimportant. The film makes no apologies for treating acting as one of the great arts though, so you either accept it and enjoy or deny it and leave.

All in all, it's a decent movie uncovering another layer in the gigantic onion that is the movie business. I also think this is the first film I’ve seen at AFF this year with no Q&A afterward. It felt really weird to not have a page of notes for this movie.
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