This letter may never reach you, and it may never make a difference in your decision, but I’m going to write it anyway because that’s all I have the power to do right now.
I am an actor, one of many. I’m a University Dramatic Arts student in Canada. I’m not on Broadway, Chicago, or in West End London. I’m from a small city, an hour too far away from Toronto’s theatre and film district. I’m no one of importance, but that is why I believe this to be important for me to write for everyone who’s where I am or further.
So, now that you know a little about me, I’m going to tell you some things about you, something that has been bothering me as well as many others for a very long time. The Internet, the Academy, and critics of all kinds have said something about this, but for some reason, you continue to ignore it. You may do that to this letter too, it is on a stage blog, but the least you can do is listen to what I, and many others, have to say.
I’ve loved theatre for years, and film for even longer. So you can imagine my excitement when I hear of a new musical film being released. A musical film is a show I can watch over and over again, but with ten times the budget. But the reason why I don’t feel one hundred percent safe when I hear of it’s release is the cast list. For some reason, when you release a musical film, you cast the most famous actors even though they have no previous experience in singing or dancing, and we’ve never seen them do so before either.
Can I ask why?
I understand some actors need to break from just acting gigs, but if you had to choose between a Broadway actor with years of training versus a celebrity who doesn’t have any experience or capability to sing, why is your solution lowering the key and auto-tuning everyone instead of just choosing someone with experience? I don’t know about you, but “Master of the House” in Les Miserables was a lot less catchy in the movie because of this. But you had to cast Borat. I also tend to skip “SOS” in Mamma Mia because of Pierce Brosnan’s singing. But you had to cast James Bond. I don’t even watch Into The Woods because of everyone’s singing doesn’t sound natural.
Don’t Hollywood actors have enough money? Do they really need to be in a musical? Because there are a lot more talented and trained actors around the world who would probably kill for the opportunity to play a role in a musical film, but you’re ignoring them!
I haven’t forgotten your casting of almost every original actor in Rent, but you also changed the script so the show wasn’t an opera, which took away from the true writings of the late Jonathan Larson. You also casted Josh Gad and Audra McDonald in Beauty and the Beast, but as supporting roles. In it you made Gad sing “Gaston” in a higher key despite not being able to sing that high because Luke Evans probably couldn’t reach the notes otherwise. You make Broadway actors work around your vision while everyone else wants to see a good show on screen with technology that theatre can’t achieve. You do that while editing everyone’s voices, which you shouldn’t have to if someone is talented enough.
It’s not just singing that you have miscast, it’s also dancing. You might’ve heard of a flop that you recently made (or remade) called Dirty Dancing. Have you seen the reviews? Did you have to cast the untalented has been of Little Miss Sunshine as Baby? Was she holding you at gunpoint? Because the rest of us who saw this unnecessary remake didn’t see why, maybe you can enlighten us a little?
Even people who have talent and haven’t seen city lights have been successful in film such as the casting of Auli’i Cravalho in Moana. Disney casted someone who had never been in any films before, but she was fantastic even live, something many actors can’t do without editing and it worked. Disney had nothing to lose in casting her (if anything it helped promotion) and neither do you. It still amazes me that Ryan Gosling’s auto tuned voice won the Oscar over her’s (which was likely barely edited). It doesn’t sound like it should’ve happened, but you let it.
I’m sure that with your film degrees, you know that actors were sometimes dubbed if they had the face and acting ability but not the voice. I’m well aware that musical movies that did this such as My Fair Lady and West Side Story are still beloved despite this, but some aren’t aware of this case because some of these singers weren’t credited.
Don’t get any funny ideas that this would work today. Though the sound may be more appealing, it takes away any hopes and dreams of those behind the camera of being noticed or appreciated. You really think Tom Cruise would admit he didn’t sing anything? Or give credit to the person who did? Would you? Of course not.
So, I’m prepared to offer you a solution. Feel free to use it when you prepare to do another musical movie. I hear Wicked and Aladdin are in the works, so, why not start there? This may sound crazy, but if you want to silence every critic out there who thinks your attempts at musical movies are failing, here’s the solution:
Hire actors who can sing. Who can hit the notes comfortably which are written for their character. Who can act the role as well as they would on stage. Whose voice is attractive, not just the actor.
An easy way to do this?
Hire Broadway/West End trained triple threats, or equally trained and talented unknowns or celebrities. We’ve been saying it for years, it’s so obvious, but you should know now that I’ve written this that it’s the only way to guarantee a successful musical film.
Thank you for taking the time to read this. I hope I got through to you and we don’t have to speak again on this matter.
Love, An actor