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Live Like You’re Already Dead

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The latest reality show. From this week’s Entertainment Weekly:

The show, ‘Live Like You’re Dying will feature a person who has been given a terminal diagnosis with a finite amount of time to live and take them on the last adventure of their life. That adventure will include reunions, a legacy moment that will ensure their name carries on forever and the chance to live out a personal dream.’

“It could be playing guitar with Eric Clapton or jumping out of a plane into a volcano,” explains host Jeff Probst.

It seems to me that the latter option would pretty much guarantee your death, unless there’s some softy version of jumping out of a plane into a volcano that only results in mild charring. Either way I’d prefer it to strumming with Eric Clapton who seemed to be a lot more interesting when he was still drinking, doing drugs and had a son. Still the threat of death by molten lava might be enough to deter any wannabe terminals who fancied going on a few jollies at CBS’s expense, thus cheating viewers of those precious dying moments where the camera lingers on a last smile and a few violins start up and they tell themselves they watched something really important. So much better than the thing on midgets getting married.

I think the whole concept for this show is vile. For a start, why waste this kind of opportunity on the dying. What about the family and friends that have probably nursed them for years through their illness and made all kinds of sacrifices. What do they get after their beloved has popped their clogs? And I particularly despise the idea of a ‘legacy moment’. You can’t manufacture a legacy, you either leave one or you don’t. If you spent your life as a chartered accountant for a double glazing firm before being diagnosed with terminal boredom you shouldn’t expect a blue plaque on the house you lived in your whole life. If you created nothing, you leave with nothing. 

Anyway it all just sounds horribly maudlin and not far removed from a British TV show where Noel Edmonds dished out Christmas presents to needy kids on Christmas day. Except these kids weren’t about to die and therefore had some time to enjoy and make the most of their gifts. And even if they were going to die, no-one mentioned it to the kids and no-one forced them to sign their name on a piece of artwork they didn’t create so that in the future someone could look at it and say, ‘wow, look at that, a nine year old dead kid painted that.’

But I’ll probably watch the show, because I need things that will manipulate me into crying and thus bring me great success in my quest to become a brilliant actor. Because crying is the secret to acting. It’s the secret to acting awards, to standing ovations and to being the acting teacher’s favourite student.

It doesn’t even have to be in something sad, it’s all about emotion and intensity. If you can cry while you’re laughing and still say your lines then that’s brilliant. I can, but only after sex, which is hard to replicate in an audition situation, plus my lines are always a bit repetitive. And if you can cry in your acting class, you’ll probably be hailed a genius. One acting teacher’s mantra is that ‘before you can move the audience, you have to move yourself’. You could work your ass off in class, trying to learn your craft, only to have someone come in who had a shit day, was able to get some of it out in class and was then heralded for being so ’emotionally available’. Which is just the wankiest term. 

I’ve learned that in the absence of a full breakdown, teary eyes are a second best even if you only got them because you’d poked your eyeball before the scene. Actually poking doesn’t work because the eye reflex closes the eyelid. Better to run a finger over the eyeball as this induces a lot of blinking which leads to wateriness. Of course you don’t want actual tears running down your face because it leaves streaks in your pancake make-up and you get the snotty nose build-up, which if you don’t have a tissue, means you have to sniff it all back up the nostril in a distracting fashion. 

I hate watching stage actors pretend to cry, you can always see that they’ve studied it in the mirror. They blink a few times, then the eyes close tight shut and they bring their hands up to their face and there’s a sniff and the bottom lip moves around a bit and then, just as the tears should be flowing, they turn away from the audience. When they turn back, I scan the eyes for moistness, for that shine and when it’s not there, I hate them for faking so poorly. Get some pepper spray next time. The only time I’ve fake cried is for an audition with the director Terrence Malik. He wanted some crying sound effects for a recent movie and I was sent straight into the sound booth to cry. And I did. I wailed for a good 5 minutes, complete with authentic sob sounds and gulps and pauses and sniffs. Eventually, Malik opened the sound booth door and offered me a tissue but I was totally dry-eyed and I think he was disappointed.

Apparently there’s a lot of distance between me and my emotions, or so my last acting teacher told me. It’s bollocks and when I find/write the role that calls for me to be tough, angry, uncaring, uncompromising, cold-hearted, aggressive and demanding, I’ll prove it.