Every year, The New York Times Magazine publishes an Oscars issue. This year, the publishers wanted to do something a little different.
Kathy Ryan (the magazine’s photo editor) hired Solve Sundsbo (renowned Norwegian fashion photographer) to shoot 14 Hollywood actors who “defined cinema in 2010.” And Sundsbo shot them with a video camera.
Ryan told the New York Times’ Lens blog she knew from the beginning she didn’t want the talent to simply sit for still images.”Celebrity portraiture,” Ryan said, “demands reinvention.”
The actors in the series include Javier Bardem, James Franco, Natalie Portman, Jesse Eisenberg, Chloe Moretz, Matt Damon, Michael Douglas, Jennifer Lawrence, Noomi Repace, Vincent Cassel, Anthony Mackie, Robert Duvall, Lesley Manville and Tilda Swinton. After Sundsbo captured their likenesses in still images, he captured them on video. Each actor was given 60 seconds to create a narrative, to “create something like a poem that can lead your imagination.”
The result is a compilation called 14 Actors Acting, which looks and feels like an avante garde screen test of the French New Wave. It’s an expertly shot, black and white “video gallery of classic screen types.” There’s no dialogue. The only sound is provided by the instruments of the Czech Symphony Strings playing music by “composer to the indie stars,” Owen Pallett.
My favorite is Michael Douglas. It’s the actor’s first appearance on camera since (hopefully) ending his throat cancer treatment in October. In it, he sits in a leather bound chair in a powerful, contemplative kind of Vito Corleone repose before slowly turning his attention towards the camera.