When it comes to dramatic acting, I seem to have one of those “pretty boy gonna die” faces. I say this with acceptance since I usually play the good natured guy who gets injured or killed. At a lanky six foot and 155 pounds, I’m not a buff action hero. I may be from the land of Rocky, but I’m more likely to be crushed by a rock, than valiantly run up a flight of stairs.
I think it’s the role of the male ingenue – to be a guileless guy that the audience can watch bad things happen to. The New York Times ran a story awhile back about Mike Doyle, an actor they interviewed who had died on screen more than seven times. His most violent death was on the show Oz, where he was gang raped by a group of Aryans in prison and was then killed on a barbed wire fence while attempting to escape. His practical tip on dying: “It is easier to die with your eyes open.”
I was reminded of this phenomenon after I read two scripts – one where my character would be tasered and beaten, and another where I would be stabbed to death. Who needs therapy about your fear of dying when you can reenact it multiple times on screen? My credits reflect the torture I’ve succumbed to: I was the bloody Captain in MacBeth, I got shot in the leg as Frankie in Sam Shepard’s A Lie of the Mind, and I wore tights, a powdered wig, and sported a bloody head wound as the Dead Colonial of Philadelphia. It’s all leading up to the ultimate dream death role: Jesus in Jesus Christ Superstar.
When dying on stage or screen here are some helpful tips (which may also be used for Halloween):
- Use Ben Nye dark blood. It’s water soluble and tastes like peppermint.
- Rouge or blush can be used on your face or neck to look like scratches or burns.
- Fall with your knees and guide your body down, don’t fall on your hands.
- Remember to take normal deep breaths – you’re dying, not out of breath, unless you’re being strangled.
- Stay in the moment! No one wakes up thinking today is the day they’re going to be killed.
It can’t be too long until a class pops up for those hapless, innocent types who want to learn how to die better. Maybe call it: “Dying for the Camera,” or “Death Becomes You.” Deaths define films, and whether micro, think of the henchmen being stylistically shot at James Franco’s Miami mansion in Spring Breakers, or macro, Slim Pickens straddling an A-Bomb to destroy the world in Dr. Strangelove, deaths provide closure to a story and to life. So here’s to dying better on screen – and reassuring your loved ones afterwards that you are still alive.