Caught between reality and the persona

A couple of hours after this year’s Academy Awards Ceremony, which I generally enjoyed despite the fact that we had no surprises at all, I was talking with a friend -who also happens to be an actor- about the acceptance speeches of the winning performances. Regardless our opinion difference in the character of each speech -boring, interesting, inspiring, funny- he asked me to draw my attention in the originality of each speech, juxtaposing the ones that were obviously staged with those that were spontaneously prepared.

Or what he likes to call the difference between the personality of an actor and the persona of a performer! And he was absolutely right indeed.

Jared Leto, in the very first award of the ceremony, gives perhaps the most moving speech of the night, referring to his very hard childhood years, dedicating the oscar to his single mother for raising him and his brother by herself and sending out his compassion to Ukraine, Venezuela and all the HIV victims that have died over the years. However, despite the personal references in his speech, it is not hard to observe that Jared Leto lacks any sign of emotions during his about two and a half minutes stay on the stage of the Dolby Theatre. He simply delivers a speech to enhance the image of his public persona, and not his personality! On the other hand, about 90 minutes later, we have Lupita Nyong’o winning an oscar for best supporting actress. Overwhelmed and thrilled by the moment due to her youth, she speaks with a great passion about everything. She only says one word about Patsey, the real life character she portrays in the film 12 years a slave, but the colour of her voice and the depth of her emotions are enough to reveal her true personality! And if you are not yet convinced about it, watch the video above and compare the two speeches by yourself!

But my case does not rest on that one example! The leading roles winners, two actors with vast experience in films and exposure, offer a far better example for my argument. Cate Blanchett rightfully wins her second academy award for her performance in Blue Jasmine and gets on the stage to deliver the most boring speech of the night. Boring yet not staged! A few moments later, we have the other leading role award ending up in the hands of Matthew McConaughey, who gives one more excellent performance: every word that comes out of his mouth is cautiously chosen, rehearsed and staged as if he is playing a role and not accepting an award. And that is what he is really doing!

The Oscars history is full of similar examples that you can compare:

Helen Mirren’s persona vs Daniel Day Lewis’ class

Melissa Leo’s persona vs Jeff Bridges’ coolness

George Clooney’s persona vs Anna Paquin’s reaction

And be honest now, which speeches will you remember more? The prepped and staged or the spontaneous and original?

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