Recently I asked KC Star film critic Bob Butler who should win the Best Actor Oscar and he said either Mickey Rourke or Sean Penn deserved it, but he’d prefer Penn because it was more of a stretch for him to play a gay activist than for Rourke to play a washed-up wrestler.
And that got me thinking. Should “the stretch” factor into the Oscar decision? I’m not so sure. A great performance should be judged on its own merits. Think Paul Newman in “The Color of Money.” However, Robert Downey, Jr. got nominated in “Tropic Thunder” precisely because he stretched to play a black man.
I could argue either side.
Maybe the reason newcomers win Oscars (Mira Sorvino, etc) is because we don’t know if it’s a stretch at the time (Mighty Aphrodite). And later we see the actor in other movies like “Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion” and realize that’s pretty much just how Mira Sorvino talks.
Maybe the reason actors often win for playing serial killers and idiot savants (Charlize Theron and Dustin Hoffman) is the “stretch” factor. I don’t feel like Gene Hackman or Robert Duvall step outside their persona too often, but I put them up there right at the top as two of the most natural actors around.
Stretch or no stretch? I ask you.