I think it’s become apparent to anyone who has been reading this blog (or my Twitter) that I have a little crush on Jamie Dornan. and yet I have a whole other blog that’s dedicated to Richard Armitage. A recent response I gave to a reader’s comment, joking that I seem to be susceptible to these “captivations”, got me to thinking about how true that actually is.
From Luke to Leo
I have been captivated by fictional characters, and the actors who portray them, for as long as I can remember. when I was very young it was limited to the characters themselves. Luke Skywalker (Star Wars) was the first ‘film’ crush that I can remember having. I thought Leia was crazy for picking that show-off Han, over Luke! Luke held my attention for a little while but soon I moved on to that free spirit in the fast car, Bo Duke (The Dukes of Hazard).
when I was 10 years old, my choice was straight-laced Alex P. Keaton (Family Ties). I liked that he was well-mannered and smart, while still having the playfulness that I generally liked about boys. When I saw Marty McFly (Back to the Future) portrayed by the same actor, it grabbed my attention. I knew the characters from movies and tv shows weren’t real, that it was someone’s job to pretend to be them, but I had never given that concept much thought before. Michael J. Fox had portrayed two completely different characters, and I liked them both. so when I saw a book at my school’s bookfair about the actor, I decided to buy it and see who the real person, behind the characters, was.
It was during the latter half of my gradeschool years (5th,6th,7th grades) that I fell head first into my love for movies. I had always enjoyed television, everything from comedy to sci-fi to westerns to cartoons and game shows; we were very much a television watching family. we didn’t have access to a lot of movies though, only going to the cinema maybe once a year and never watching videos at home because we didn’t have a video player. then my parents purchased a satellite dish and my world expanded by leaps and bounds! I went from 5 television channels, maybe 6 depending on antenna reception, to so many I couldn’t even wrap my head around. children’s stations, music stations, educational stations, movie stations; I was in heaven.
soon this mass exposure to movies mingled with my discovery of teen magazines and their removable pin-up posters. I went a little boy crazy but I wasn’t aware of why I liked pinning up all of those pictures or why I found myself choosing certain actors over others. I thought they were cute and I liked the characters they played but it didn’t go beyond that. I started to read up on them after awhile and soon the idea that they were real people, not their characters, became concrete. River Phoenix’s siblings had the weirdest names (that they picked themselves!) and the Estevez/Sheen boys were Spanish? they didn’t look Spanish… As real boys and my confusion concerning them moved to the forefront, the pretend ones played a smaller role in my life. I still crushed on the odd boy band member and daydreamed about fictional characters I saw on screen but I didn’t focus too heavily on them or delve into their real life personas too deeply.
Fast forward to adulthood when I married at 21 years of age and spent 2 years traveling around the country, living in various states and cities. I had lived in the same house my whole life, so to say I was homesick and feeling rudderless was an understatement! I kept in contact with family and friends through writing letters but I was so far away from them, both literally and figuratively. so I fell back on my love of books, television, and movies; ‘friends’ that would always stay with me. it was during this time that the movie Titanic became popular and many of my peers were crushing on Leonardo Dicaprio. The story itself captivated me and Leo’s boyish looks drew me in. I sought out his other movies, cut out random pictures of him from magazines and newspapers (I couldn’t plaster him on my bedroom wall anymore though, because I was married now and “grown-up”) and even bought a biography one day while out shopping. okay, what the hell was I doing? he wasn’t Jack (Titanic), he wasn’t Gilbert (What’s Eating Gilbert Grape?) or Romeo (Romeo & Juliet), he was a real person. but it wasn’t the real person that intrigued me. somewhere along the way I had started having dreams about him. they weren’t particularly feel good dreams, he always ended up rejecting me in some way, but the companionship that “Dream Leo” showed me was something that I craved. the obsessive quality of what I was doing felt odd and I didn’t understand it. adults didn’t act this way, did they? (lies society tells you) I should note that while I was friendless due to my current lack of roots, I was enjoying life with my husband and the companionship that he provided during non-working hours. when he went off to work everyday though, I was confined to a small apartment in a strange city, too anxiety ridden to go out and explore by myself.
From Ewan to Christian
When two years were up and we finally settled in a place longer than 6 months, the Star Wars prequels were the talk of the movie world. I had given up my fascination with Leo and had been spending my allotment of daydream hours on fictional Jamie Fraser instead. Then I read a short snippet of an article about the actor who would be playing a younger version of the character Obi-Wan; Ewan McGregor. he had a weird name that I didn’t know how to pronounce and his cockiness made me want to slap him for some reason! but then I saw him with his wife, protectively towering over her like a bearded Jamie Fraser, and he looked happy. I didn’t want to slap him anymore. I ran across one of his older movies one day (A Life Less Ordinary) and decided to rent it. I fell for the character instantly, he was so clueless and sweet! then I rented another movie of his (Velvet Goldmine) but it just made me want to slap him all over again! what was going on with me? alright, there was no hope for it: I had to see who this guy really was. thus began what I consider my first ‘acting’ crush.
I wanted to keep whatever this was on the down low until I figured it out, so I secretly checked out Ewan’s older movies from the library. talk about broadening my horizons! the sensually erotic film The Pillow Book, gritty Trainspotting, scary Nightwatch, tear inducing Brassed Off; the variety of films and genres had my head spinning.
I had always enjoyed the art of storytelling, falling into a different reality as someone else through books and movies and even music, appealed to me greatly. not being an overly social child, daydreaming and pretending became hobbies that I excelled at. something surprising that I discovered during my teenage years, was that I am actually a decent public speaker. it terrified me beforehand but once I was up there in front of everyone, I not only did the job well but I infused my speeches with personal qualities that listeners could relate to. my literature teacher suspected I would be good at acting, especially given my love of storytelling, but sadly our school didn’t have a drama department at that time.
So I guess you could say it was Ewan who kickstarted my interest in the actual craft of acting. it was wrapped up in a tangled web that “crushed” on the actors I admired because I did grow to admire Ewan as a person, in both his professional and personal lives. he knew that he wanted to act like his uncle and he wasn’t afraid to pursue that dream, putting in the grunt work behind the scenes and on stage. as I started to read old interviews and articles about him I suspected that the cockiness was fueled by determination and tried to hide very normal insecurities. slowly my preference for Ewan became apparent to family and friends, Husband became a bit jealous at the thought. I tried to explain that it wasn’t a lust fueled thing, though I did find Ewan attractive. I didn’t want to hunt him down and runaway with him; I was happily married and I liked the fact that he was too. in some ways he was kind of a Peter Pan figment to me, never losing the playful-at-heart mentality that I was struggling with as a new “adult”.
I had dreams about Ewan as well, though he didn’t reject me like Leo did. my Ewan dreams had no rhyme or reason to them in regards to subject matter (the Leo dreams centered around my prior High School life) but they always made me feel good afterwards. sometimes there was a bit of puppy-dog romance playing throughout, hand holding and soft kisses, but mostly it went back to the companionship factor. I became quite fond of “Dream Ewan”. Soon the real Ewan’s life started to slow down, after his motorcycle adventure (Long Way Round), which I followed along with in real time and greatly enjoyed. he became more family focused, eventually adopting children to add to his biological family, which made me happy for him but kind of took him out of my fantasy realm. I was living that life already (I had two kids of my own by then), I wanted someone who could take me places I had never been. I acknowledged my love of the career and now I wanted to explore more of that. enter my ‘rediscovery’ of Christian Bale.
I had first discovered Christian Bale as the young lead in Stephen Spielberg’s Empire of the Sun. not exactly the kind of movie that my peers were watching at 12 and 13 years of age but I was captivated by it. the historic subject matter and the bond I had developed towards that character. the real life Christian didn’t interest me at that age, he looked too much like someone who could have gone to school with me. I saw him again a few years later in Swing Kids and became entranced all over again, particularly with the moral dilemma his character had to face. and the music. Swing Kids was responsible for the way I became fascinated with the music and culture of that time period. Christian suddenly appeared tall and lanky when he portrayed the classic character Laurie in Little Women. it was a welcome surprise, along with his floppy hair. I didn’t focus on the personal side of Christian Bale yet, just seeing him as someone who tended to pick the kind of characters I liked to see. it wasn’t until years later, when real life was begging that I find an escape of some sort, that I saw him as more than young Jim Graham (Empire of the Sun) who I had bonded with all those years ago.
The second installment of Christopher Nolan’s Batman series, The Dark Knight, was getting a lot of buzz because of Heath Ledger’s Joker portrayal. I was torn between seeing it or James McAvoy’s Wanted, at the cinema. I was all set to see Wanted but at the last minute, I changed my mind and went for The Dark Knight instead. I had enjoyed the first movie, Batman Begins (aside from annoying Rachel and scary as hell Scarecrow) so I expected to enjoy this one as well. I came home from that movie very satisfied not only for the movie itself, but for the embers it flamed in relation to Christian. I set out to view some of his other more recent movies that I had missed. I remembered him getting much acclaim for American Psycho and he also starred alongside Russell Crowe in 3:10 to Yuma; I had always liked westerns. I headed off to the movie store and rented Rescue Dawn…and the frenzy began. I was highly impressed with Christian’s performance in that movie and all subsequent movies of his that I viewed. how did he disappear from my radar for so many years?! this guy was super talented! I hunted down the old interviews and articles, like I did with Ewan previously, and what I found was that Jim Graham wasn’t the only one I felt a bond with: the way Christian approached things, mulled them over in his mind and even procrastinated about them, sounded a lot like me. as did his serious nature when it came to the characters he was portraying, the way he wasn’t just concerned with the story on the page but the one inside of the character as well– how he thought, how he talked, why he made the decisions that he did, etc. I wanted to find someone to further my love of acting, and I found that someone in Christian.
Being fairly new to the wonders of the internet, I didn’t know there were things such as fandoms and fan forums, let alone fan fiction and photo sharing sites. when I decided to join the fan forum that was associated with the fan site I was reading, I didn’t really know what to expect. it was exactly what I needed: a place to discuss the movies, the characters and the man himself, along with viewing pictures and playing silly games while having fun with others who shared this interest of mine. I had no clue what I was doing and felt very intimidated at first. one of my favorite parts of the fan forum experience became conversing with people from all over the world, different ages and different walks of life, and connecting with them. it was very gratifying and exciting. after awhile, an unspoken judgment by some members seemed to emerge hinting that we were spending too much time and energy in off-topic threads, going on about other actors and other interests. that was true to a certain extent. the Twilight books were popular and the first movie had just come out,
From Rob to Richard
I had been avoiding the Twilight madness for awhile, seeing it as another Harry Potter money making machine. I loved the Harry Potter movies, mind you, and I read all of the books but the controversy about Black Magic was annoying; I could only imagine what “vampire love” was going to stir up. I had always liked vampires, being an avid reader of the Anne Rice novels and the various vampire movies from the 1980s. my forum friends kept urging me to read the books, so I finally did. and then I proceeded to gobble up the remaining books faster than I’ve ever read anything before, rereading them again immediately afterwards. the movie was due to come out on dvd and I was curious to see it but apprehensive at the same time. book adaptations were give and take– giving you things that you didn’t expect but taking away things that you really wanted to see with your own eyes. I had scouted around a little and got a feel for who the cast was and what the big things to expect in terms of storyline were. the vampire was that boy who played Cedric (Robert Pattinson) in one of the Harry Potter movies (The Goblet of Fire). his jaw could cut glass it was so sharp, I couldn’t wait to see him as Edward Cullen!
After I had seen the first Twilight movie and followed along with the filming of the second with my forum friends, I asked them about Rob. one of them had become a fan and so directed me to her favorite fan sites. I wasn’t sure what to think of him at first, he was so different from both his character and the photoshoots of him that I had seen. he was younger than me (11 years) which felt odd. the more I saw of him though the more I liked him, he was awkward and goofy and still free from the grown-up constraints that I had been fighting against in my life. I soon found a blog and it’s fan forum that was fun and sarcastic and lighthearted, they celebrated what they liked and “mocked with love” what they found ridiculous. it was a very different tone from the Christian Bale world that I had been operating in, so it was hard for me to jump back and forth between them. sometimes I was too serious for the Twilight world and too sarcastic for the Christian Bale one. eventually I had to choose between them. I chose Twilight.
I was still very much a fan of Christian but I visited that forum less and less. so many of the regular members had moved on and the ones who were left rarely talked about Christian’s work anymore. so I went rogue and did my Christian Bale fangirling on my own while also discovering the new world of Twilight, which included Robert Pattinson, fan-fiction, and The Brit Pack (Rob’s musician/actor friends). the Twilight world was so full, always something going on. and the interactions I was having on the forum were silly and nonsensical at times while also being serious and informative at others. I became a moderator on the forum which really boosted my confidence and influenced my online presence. Rob himself became my ‘crush’ focus at that time, he made me feel young…not that I wasn’t, aside from my age difference with him but I had lost myself in family life and I was struggling to find out who I was again. I felt part of a community and my senses were on fire with everything that I was discovering. my crush on Rob was mixed in with all the experiences I was having and the fictional character that I grew to love. he had a knack for smoldering through a picture lens and so the visual gratification I received from that fact fueled my crush. he himself was still awkward and goofy but rounding out into more of a man than a boy as time went on, which was nice to see.
all good things either evolve or fade away and my Twilight fixation was no different. as the movies were reaching their end, the community started to disband. the fanfiction community had taken a big hit with the wave of authors who were publishing their stories and the careers of the Britpack boys were moving forward, granting them less time to spend with one another. male friendships had always held a romanticism for me. the boys I had known in real life tended to have lasting friendships with each other that weren’t bogged down in petty drama or jealous possessiveness. I relished the tendency they had to remain fun and playful too. my childhood was spent around a lot of the male species and I had always gotten along with them, filling the role of little sister or best friend rather seamlessly. I liked boy friendships, they were lasting, unlike every single one of my female ones. so by the time Rob and his girlfriend/costar were involved in the cheating scandal, my enjoyment of it all was fading. I had formed a nice group of female (gasp!) friends that did stay together after all the drama. we’ve essentially converted the forum into our own personal fandom free zone. it’s a nice safety net to have as we continue to explore other fandoms, both individually and collectively.
at this point I was still enamored with Christian Bale in the acting sense but was craving another fandom type experience with someone new. I looked around for awhile but was not finding anyone that fit the bill…until I saw The Hobbit. Richard Armitage was exactly what I was looking for: he was someone who impressed me with his approach to the craft of acting itself, he was personable and nice to look at, and he had a fandom attached to him already due to his roles in several television shows and mini-series. I found an added bonus this time around in that Richard caused me to want to be a better person. Richard is really nice, and he has a way of giving his full attention to whomever he is speaking with. I’d never seen that before in a celebrity/actor, someone who was actively listening instead of just formulating what to say next. his caring nature influenced my personal outlook greatly.
Richard’s acting took the things I loved about the craft that I had witnessed with Christian Bale and brought it to another level. he too cared about the character’s thought process, used the character’s individual traits and idiosyncrasies to enhance the performance but Richard went one step further and created a backstory, or personal canon, for the character in his mind. this made the characters richer and deeper and come alive for me in a special way. Richard also has a talent for using his eyes and body to convey things that others can only do through voice and dialogue. it became a sensory experience for me to be a fan of Richard Armitage. The fandom experience had it’s pros and cons. the pendulum seemed to swing from one end to the other and back again on a regular basis. I think that had more to do with me and my expectations than anything else. I learned a lot about myself as part of the RA fandom and it has helped me to finally find that balance in myself that I’ve struggled with for so long. a big part of that had to do with the blogging experience and being part of that particular type of community. my creativity blossomed in a way it hadn’t since I was a young adult, and that has had a very positive influence on the way I see myself.
The Hobbit movies are over now and so a new balance to the fandom is trying to emerge, it’s not clear what that balance is going to consist of. it’s not a bad thing, it’s just different. I’m different. I no longer have that consuming fire I did to ingest anything and everything about Richard, and then share each and every thought about it along the way. I’m still very much a fan of Richard Armitage and am following his career with anticipation and elation but there was an opening, a niche that was no longer filled to the brim. and Jamie Dornan walked right in.
From Jamie to…
Jamie Dornan took me by surprise, and he continues to do so, not only because I wasn’t expecting him but that he’s breaking down my preconceptions. I had watched him in the series Once Upon a Time but once that role was over, he disappeared from my radar. he popped up again in the promos for Fifty Shades of Grey. I’ve had mixed feelings concerning many things surrounding that book but I do like the characters and their love story. while browsing around to satisfy my curiosity about the film version of the character, I came across Jamie’s television series The Fall. this series spoke to my love of psychology and trying to make sense of why people do the things that they do. I wanted to understand how the character of Paul Spector could maintain a husband/father facade while giving in to the compulsion to kill. I liked Paul, disturbing as that is. I do root for the bad guy on occasion but it’s usually because I feel they are redeemable, that they will eventually find some form of redemption. is Paul redeemable? what could redemption possibly look like for him? do I even want him to reach that point? (hopefully my questions will be answered in season 3!). something that grabbed my attention about Jamie’s performance, was that he didn’t speak very much. we, as the audience, are watching Paul and getting to know him by sight alone. that was possible due to Jamie’s excellent use of body language.
Jamie made a name for himself in modeling before he became an actor. it didn’t take me long to see that Jamie had been perfecting those body language skills for years as a male model: conveying different facets of sexy, smoldering, confident and capable maleness by a look, a head tilt, a change in posture or facial expression. previously noting this difference in regards to Robert Pattinson’s Photoshoot charisma vs his awkward off-camera self, the phenomenon shouldn’t have surprised me but it did. because when i saw the real Jamie, he appeared to be unassuming, friendly, genuinely nice and playful; he had been acting in those photoshoots. in regards to acting, Jamie does try to understand his characters and give them the respect they deserve but he doesn’t become them; he’s able to stay himself between takes. that approach is different from what I’m used to. this difference intrigues me.
Jamie makes me see things differently, about acting, about modeling, about the way he approaches life. he’s happily married with a little one at home; I will enjoy seeing it shape him as a person. but maybe most importantly, crushing on Jamie isn’t causing me to constantly evaluate myself. I’m not trying to live up to anything, I can just be who I’m supposed to be right now.
Each of these acting crushes have shaped me in their own ways and continue to do so as I follow up on them and their respective careers. my propensity to celebrate male actors and the personal ways they inspire me will continue to be a part of how I choose to express myself. It’s important to me, I don’t know why. maybe it has to do with childhood acceptance, maybe it has to do with adult insecurities, maybe it’s some form of parasocial companionship or just personal preference. it doesn’t really matter why or how. I will continue with it because it’s part of who I am.