An In-Depth, Entertaining Series Following Nine Diverse Actors Looking To Storm Castle Hollywood
The hard-won tone of wry humour apparent in Richard E Grant's melodious voice is fitting for this thorough and entertaining series following the fortunes of nine diverse actors looking to storm Castle Hollywood, which lowers its drawbridge a few inches for pilot season every year. I saw 90 Days In Hollywood last year on UK satellite channel ftn, under the less prosaic title of Hollywood Dreamchasers.
It is interesting to see such a socially diverse body of actors and their individual experiences in breaking into the industry and find work, and the fact that the documentary follows them over five episodes, spanning three months, gives a breadth to this series. The series also, thankfully, foregoes the modish gimmick of having them all live together reality TV style, though they do all, far better in my opinion, meet at the beginning and end to ruminate over a meal (not an expensive looking one, after all they are a bunch of actors).
Most people know, or should know, that most actors have a hard ride full of knock-backs. It's a matter of cruel economics, with around two hundred thousand actors in LA, and fewer and fewer movies being made, and relatively limited TV production (compounded for newcomers by established movie stars, themselves forced out of a narrower film industry, muscling into the TV plain, thus further limiting TV acting opportunity).
If viewers didn't know that Actors mostly experience failure, then this series will illustrate this to them. For instance Csaba Lucas, a fledgling Hungarian action star in the Schwarzenegger mould, drives down to Hollywood from his adopted home in Canada for one audition, and then, maddeningly, almost immediately has to drive all the way back up to Canada for another. Royal Shakespearean Company alumnus Steven Elliot is nonchalant, but then he is an experienced thesp used to the business, and with a satisfactory career in Britain to fall back on. Fellow Brit Daz Crawford, from the opposite end of the spectrum, both artistically and socially, an orphan with no formal training, comes across as something of a chancer, learned from the school of hard knocks, a happy-go-lucky guy. But he is also vulnerable and exudes an unsentimental, hard-won pathos. Eliciting a similar pathos is Edwin Hodge, a young man from an underprivileged, black background, still a teenager (at the time this series was made). Acting is not only his one hope for betterment, but he is also his family's principal breadwinner. He is clearly a young man with a lot on his shoulders.
However, some don't seem willing to accept the odds as easily, and interestingly it is mostly apparent in the attitude of the females. With the exceptions of hardworking Hispanic, former New York stage actor Elisa Bocanegra, and the worldly Gail Greaves, who tends bar and gets eye candy roles in beach scenes, Rowena King, an experienced British TV actor, seems to rise (or rather lower) herself to the stereotype of bitchy, stuck-up, drama queen. Holiday Hopke, a singer-songwriter who treats acting like a side business, has a similar, though less desperate (and therefore even more unlikeable) arrogance that is just waiting to be kicked out of her as she is spat out of the industry. Perhaps it is because dreams of stardom, fashioned by the 'dream factory' of Hollywood, tend to be so much more emotive for females, conflated with the likelihood that they are used to getting their way in far smaller ponds?
The series well illustrates the craziness of the industry in Hollywood, and brings to mind William Goldman's famous line, 'In Hollywood, nobody knows anything'. Most professionals in the industry are not reliable and seem full of bull. Csaba Lucas, exhausted from his driving, auditions for a sub-sub-sub-Terminator role and can barely stop laughing at the crass, inane script he is offered. However, the two young 'talents' behind this 'independent' film clash on what it is about- one thinks it is a tribute to eighties action films. The other, far more intense, thinks it is an ineffable Magnus Opus about 'everything'. They both then go on, in kettle calling pot black fashion, to slaughter Csaba's acting ability, saying he is the one who needs to work on 'everything'. Likewise, Steven Elliot can barely keep away a grin (thank god the viewer doesn't have to) when a producer, who looks a little like a washed up porn actor, fatuously describes him as being the 'Olivier of now!'
Each of the actors has to put together a casting tape for Eddie Foy, who adds a participatory element, along with other expert talking heads, to the series. Foy is a very experienced casting director, but his predictions in such an odd business are necessarily speculative. He denounces Jade Carter with exceptional venom, saying that he is fooling himself in thinking he will make it in Hollywood, but Carter's star quickly rises and he has the best career to date out of the selected body of actors.
Over dinner at the end of the series, Carter tells them that he recently found a fan website devoted to him. There follows a loud communal exclamation of approval. Perhaps this shows the underlying dream of fame common to all those actors who pursue Hollywood careers, be they bona fide Shakesperean actors or hopeful, happy-go-lucky wannabe Schwarzeneggers. Maybe, after all, though 90 Days In Hollywood sounds better, perhaps the British title, Hollywood Dreamchasers, is more appropriate?
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