Creative Control

Miscellaneous Mental Musings of an Emerging Artist

Why does Anthony Hopkins keep going back to Hannibal Lecter?

And he does, you know. Not only did he do the Ridley Scott sequel, he’s probably going to play the same role in “Red Dragon,” which is, depending on your viewpoint, either an adaptation of the original Thomas Harris novel or a remake of the Michael Mann film “Manhunter” (the original adaptation of “Red Dragon”). Poor Brian Cox; he got to be Lecter first, but his work is about to not only be outshined by Hopkins’ portrayal, but replaced entirely. [1]

So why does Sir Anthony keep going back to Hannibal Lecter, even to playing him in what is essentially the character before Clarice Starling gave his life a profound meaning? Because villains are just more fun to play, that’s why.

Yesterday I received a reply email from Ms. Suzie Blair, nee Southard, nee Landrum, the only one of my elementary school teachers I currently have contact with, and who will likely be the only one of my elementary school teachers I will ever again have contact with. Ms. Blair taught the program for Gifted Children [2] at Henry Puffer Middle School, nee Puffer Elementary School/Agnes Hefty Jr. High, and is one of the chief architects of everything I am as a person today. She exposed me to other cultures, schools of thought, and both the creative writing and drama things that I liked so much, I got a degree in one and an insane passion for the other. My first one-act play was dedicated to her. She’s a truly special person, very smart, funny, spirited and adventurous, sort of a Dorothy Parker type combined with a little Amelia Earhart, sort of like the Rose Dawson (nee Dewitt Bukater) character from “Titanic”. She’s an excellent person. I’m glad we’re in contact.

In any case, Ms. Blair had replied to one of the many sensor-sweep emails–as I refer to them–that I have been sending out in the wake of the attacks exactly two weeks ago, making sure that everybody I’ve ever known is all right (and now I’ve just remembered a few people who I’ve neglected to talk to). She did not, fortunately, lose anybody on the 11th to the attacks [3], but she unfortunately lost a friend of hers to cancer seven hours previous. Her friend, Ruth Lauer, was another of my elementary school teachers, the woman in charge of the supplemental Reading program for interested or accelerated students. Ms. Lauer, who I had not seen since I moved away from District 69 [4], is another one of the architects from my formative years, having helped instill in me a greater drive to read even more than I was already. She was also–and it seems odd that I would have forgotten this–the first person to cast me in a staged play, and thereby my first director. While she did not teach me anything about acting fundamentals or scene work, or how to be In the Moment, I’m viewing this with some retrospective significance.

The first part I ever had, then, was as the Troll in a first-grade production of “The Three Billy Goats Gruff.” This can best be described as a work of Readers’ Theatre, although it had an element of the guerrilla and of the Greek theater about it…which is only a thing I’m saying to make it sound like something more than bad first-grade theatre. Having Ms. Lauer read the narration doesn’t make it readers’ theatre, wearing the clothes we came to school in doesn’t make it guerrilla theatre, and the fact that we wore masks doesn’t make it Greek. Although they were pretty good masks.

In any case, even at that young age, I understood what Sir Anthony Hopkins knows. Villains are much more interesting to play. (More revisionist self-delusion, that.) Why would one want to be nothing more than one in a series of increasingly larger goats, when one could be an archetypal monster, a genuine character? I still remember some of my lines. “Who is that trip-trap-trapping on my bridge?” I imagine that Ms. Lauer would get a kick out of the fact that I remember that.

But Ruth Lauer is gone. Ms. Blair, who was a lifelong friend of hers, informed me that she had become a minister later in life, and that she’d always been a very good meeter and greeter. She and Ms. Lauer’s loved ones theorized that Ruth was taken from them in the wee hours of the 11th because she would be required to help with all the new arrivees that day. For as sad as that is, I’m deeply moved by the idea.

Rest in peace, Ms. Lauer.

[1] I may have just figured out what I intend to write about for my Neo-Futurist audition piece.

[2] I’m still not comfortable with the word “Gifted,” although nowadays it makes me wish I’d been more like Charles Xavier’s gifted students. Y’know.

[3] Now that I think of it, I was in Ms. Blair’s classroom (she was Mrs. Marc Southard at the time) when the Challenger blew up. About a month ago, and on various other occasions, I’ve talked about how the Challenger explosion was the defining tragedy of many of our lives, the Kennedy assassination for Generation X–“where were you when the Challenger blew up?” And then the 11th happens.

[4] District 69 (and I can’t believe I never heard any jokes about that while I was there) was and still is, I think, the only one-school district in the Downers Grove area and possibly in all of the southwestern Chicago suburbs. I recently checked the school’s website and discovered that a few of my old friends’ mothers are now teachers in the school, and that one or two of the ones I had, nearly twenty years back, are still there.

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This entry was posted on September 25, 2001 by in Eulogy, Movies, Theatre.
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