Start with pronunciation: It’s chew-ih-tell edge-ee-oh-for. First name means “God brings” in Igbo, native tongue of the 30-year-old actor’s Nigerian parents. But quit calling him Chewy. The English press does, and he hates it: “I don’t identify with, what are they, Ewoks?” Wookiees, actually. “He’s a Wookiee! That’s right! My Star Wars knowledge is atrocious.” (x)
Buster Keaton is known for his stunt work and acrobatic athleticism as much as he is for his perpetual deadpan. Many comedians used their bodies in their craft but actors like Buster and Harold Lloyd took this physicality to another level, often risking (and sustaining) injury as a result. For the iconic scene in Steamboat Bill, Jr. where the facade of a house collapses around the film’s oblivious protagonist, many crewmembers had to look away or leave; the possibility that the star could be crushed if his position within the small window had been miscalculated by mere inches was very real.
Buster learned very early in life how potentially dangerous stunts could up the ante on a gag or be the basis for the gag itself, and he used this knowledge to great advantage throughout his independent film career. He was more than willing to go beyond run-of-the-mill pratfalls as long as he was sure that the audience would laugh.
“Say you have 1500 words in a scene the next day. So you take all of your dialogue and you write it out in a run-on sentence. You write it out illegibly, so you must kind of know it by the time you write it down or it’ll be pointless. And then when you arrive on set the next day, you write it down in acronym.” — Robert Downey Jr., on how he memorized his lines for A Scanner Darkly (2006)(x).
“Montgomery Clift had the most earnest of faces: big, pleading eyes, a set jaw, and a side part that reminds you of old pictures of your granddad. Onscreen and off, he was what the kids these days would call “an emo” and the least generous of your friends would call a “sad sack.” If he lived in the ‘90s, he would have been king of the heartfelt mixtape. Clift played the desperate, the drunken, and the deceived, and along with Brando and Dean, heralded a new direction in cinematic masculinity. But a car crash in the prime of his career left him in constant pain, and he drank himself to an early death. The trajectory of his life was a tragic as any of his films. But for 12 years, he set Hollywood aflame.”
You go into a supermarket and your face is on a cake and underpants. And all that’s very odd. It’s not what you imagine when you go to drama school, that you’ll be commemorated in plastic and icing, and cotton.