Ever since seeing this bit in The Trip, (link below), I’ve become somewhat obsessed with spotting actors who do ‘a thing’. That is, a tic, an expression, a look, a trait, or a bit of business that he actor *always* does, whatever the part.
In The Trip they talk about Richard Gere’s habit of interrupting a line of dialogue with a stare off into the middle distance, and that’s a great spot. Off the top of my head there’s James Caan’s eyebrows in sad apology, Tom Cruise’s smile, Gene Hackman’s raspy, rat-a-tat conviction, the chewy thing De Niro does with his mouth, the fact that Peter Cushing is always doing something with his hands. I’m even tinkering with the idea that an actor *needs* ‘a thing’ in order to stand out; that without ‘a thing’ they can’t become a star, because it’s what implants them in the minds of agents, directors and the public. Having said that there are certain actors for whom I can’t identify ‘a thing’. Di Caprio, for instance, though maybe he does have one, and it’s just a bit more subliminal.
So over to you. I’d really like your thoughts on actors who do ‘a thing’ and what their ‘thing’ is. Maybe we could have an ongoing compendium of things?