Home Performing Arts The Travails of the Iconic; in Front and Behind the Cinema.

The Travails of the Iconic; in Front and Behind the Cinema.

Joost de Muinck Keizer. Photo by Alexander Singh.

Seeing that ‘Scallywag and Vagabond’ (SCV) is a start up perhaps it would be appropriate (even though SCV is still trying to come to terms with what that word actually means…) to cover in its newest ambitions the careers of up and coming (pre Bob de Niro, Marlene Dietrich and even pre Christopher Walken send-ups) actors, or stars if you like.

Obviously we’ve all been taught to love movies and celebrities that play the heroes and villains on stage but hardly have we had a chance to be enumerated to their foibles immediately at hand as they progress on their journey to not only become icons for me and you but in many ways icons for themselves.

This past week SCV took time out to interview with their favorite up and coming actor, Joost de Muinck Keizer , fresh from a royal sojourn in the lady’s royal throne Shakespeare court in London, where we hope and trust he had time to accede to the challenges of becoming an icon, a venerable one at that…..

SCV; Birthplace?

JDMK; Amersfoort, the Netherlands.

SCV; Youngest memory of acting you can recollect, whether done in front of the mirror or not.

JDMK; Hercules in Primary School when I was 9. After my first line on opening night I turned behind me to say out loud to the director in the wings: “Was that ok?” hahaha! It’s a true story.

SCV; What made you decide to become an actor?

JDMK; Performing for me combines all the things I love doing and I see it as a spiritual pursuit, not just as a vocation. It requires you to ask yourself vital questions all the time, it’s the biggest challenge I can imagine, and being here in NY I am surrounded by these questions, this mad exquisite jungle, the tender loins of humanity.

SCV; Is that when you came to NYC?

JDMK; No, this I had found out earlier in life. I came to NY after I had established myself in my country, having performed in vast theater and tv..

SCV; Is it true that you also starred as Holland’s number one heart throb in one of it’s top rated soap operas?

JDMK; Heart throb? (laughing) I never take these things seriously, it’s just a word one reads from time to time next to a picture of you in some magazine. But all in all it was a wonderful experience, to be working with very talented people for an extended amount of time.

SCV; Most actors would kill for to play a starring role in a top rated soap, but you walked away.

JDMK; I don’t think I had a choice really. One of my favorite novels is The old man and the sea,” by Ernest Hemingway, where the hero of the story risks everything to fish not in the safety of the harbor where all the little fish are but where all the big wild beautiful fish live deep in the ocean, far far away from the harbor.

SCV; So perhaps one could call your journey “The young man and the sea?”

JDMK; One has to remember in Hemingway’s story the hero Santiago walks away at the end of the novel with nothing but his pride, his catch nothing but a discarded skeleton, his sacrifice the role of his life, his missed prey the biggest catch of his life.

SCV; Where have you studied? And what recently took you to London?

JDMK; I studied with many teachers over the years, over in Europe and here in the States. This summer I took some time to devote to Shakespeare by attending the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in London. I was going to shoot a movie with director Martha Fiennes (Ralph Fiennes cousin) over there. The film got pushed back to the fall so I took the summer work at the Royal Academy. It was truly inspiring to be at the most renowned acting institution in the world, places where the greatest actors in the world went to get their education. Such as Anthony Hopkins, Richard Attenborough, Kenneth Brannagh, Michael Caine, Joan Collins, Raplh Fiennes, Clive Owen, Maggy Gyllenhaal, and many more. The teachers were simply amazing and it was a very special experience.

SCV; Can you define what an actor does?

JDMK; The best definition I ever heard was: “acting truthfully under imaginary circumstances”. This is what I think is expected of an actor.

SCV; You alluded earlier that being an actor requires oneself to be ask the most vital questions of all time. Can you be so kind to tell us what those questions are?

JDMK; It’s funny you should ask, because I think while I was in London I really came to admire Shakespeare. I mean all his characters ever do is struggle with their mortality, their identity, their conflict of being, their morality, their madness. So I think at the end of the day acting is like art imitating life, were you have to ask yourself who am I, am I capable of murder, am I capable of rising to the challenge, am I capable of being my own God, am I capable of coming clean for myself?

SCV; What’s the difference between being a star and an icon?

JDMK; A star is a person who is able to attract many theatre or moviegoers by his or hers exceptional talent, looks or both. It’s also a business model. It’s a person who the industry markets as such, for I don’t feel that every star these days is that talented or that exceptionally good looking.

But an icon on the other hand that’s another thing, that’s the benchmark, it’s the pinnacle of an era. It’s where you measure yourself to unbridled talent, talent that forever takes a life on its own, where generations of movie goers are mesmerized, provoked to another realm, it’s its own authentic movement.

SCV; Who’s one of your most favorite iconic deities?

JDMK; I have to say Laurence Olivier. He’s probably one of the most intimidating actors I have ever seen. He actually frightens me, I sometimes have to wonder to whether I can really measure up to such talents. I am often left in awe watching Olivier.

SCV; Can one hope to match Olivier’s presence?

JDMK; I think what’s important is to surpass oneself and to become ones own kind of Olivier, and not to worry about such and such. One needs to be a hero for themselves before they can be a hero to the world.

SCV; What’s your favorite movie?

JDMK; Ivory and Merchant’s “Remains of the day.” I just love watching these characters quietly explode in the confines of aristocratic sensibilities and expectations. The negation of self, the un requited love, the instinct for duty and denial of self, the duality of being.

SCV; Seeing that the English have such a handle on human drama what would you assuage Shakespeare’s greatest gift to the stage was?

JDMK; It’s to translate the contradiction of humanity, both as a poetic sensibility and a viciousness that exposes both the goodness and folly of human endeavor.

SCV; As an actor do you ever fear not making it? And does that fear in some way make the performance more vital?

JDMK; I don’t think an actor ever “makes it”. You are only as good or as popular as you next three projects. There are wildly famous actors that disappear overnight and there are new one that appear even faster. I believe we as actors should focus on our work. I don’t think the fear factor of not making it contributes much to a specific performance. There is always the nerves, trust me, but the overall fear of failure does not get in the way of my work I think.

It’s not an easy life, you deal with judgment and rejection on a daily basis and you lead a very unstable existence. You can be in China for 4 months shooting on location, not seeing your family and loved ones. You can be out of work etc. And you have to constantly challenge yourself in your work and keep you ‘acting muscle’ trained and focused. There is no ‘settling down’ in the acting business, unless you are al Pacino or Merryl Streep.

SCV; Why do you think people are so wrapped in stars, especially film stars?

JDMK; I believe every society needs their role models and icons, and I think that movie stars have in their own illusory ephemeral way inspired a collective conscious.

SCV; Even if an icon and a movie star are far and similar from each other?

JDMK; They are far and similar depending where you stand in relation to creating a super star and following a super star. One feeds the other.

SCV; What’s your perfect role?

JDMK; The role that takes me out of my comfort zone, that challenges me in new ways and that requires things of me I haven’t done before. That is where you really learn and become a better actor. That is also why I decided not to stay on the soap opera longer then a season. I felt I learned all there was to learn and although the salary and stability were great, I felt I needed a new challenge.

SCV; Whose your favorite designer and why?

JDMK; Azzedine Alaia, he’s a Tunesian -born French designer whom I was lucky enough to meet a while back. I have never seen a designer who can cut fabric around a woman’s body like he can; he is a true artist who was in it for the art, and not the money.

SCV; An icon of sorts?

JDMK; Exactly.

SCV; In the movie “Rebel without a cause,” James Dean screams out ” I don’t mean to be a rebel but what choice do I have when all you grown ups are so fake” (or to that effect), given such wrenching character portrayal what memorable film or line would be apt to suit you?

JDMK;I could subscribe to that one really. But other then that, there was a line in the production of Shakespeare’sAll’s well that ends well” by the character Perolles, after he is exposed as a traitor: “Simply the thing I am shall make me live.” I love the acceptance and the duality in that. We all have a good and a bad side, and neither side could exist without the other.

‘The Duality of Joost.’ Photo by Alexander Singh.

SCV; What have been some of your most memorable roles here in NYC?

JDMK;I loved being Valentine in the “Two gentlemen of Verona” at the LaMama theatre. A good friend of mine, Rob Welsh, played the other lead, Proteus. It was a wonderful production at my favorite theatre in the world, what more can you ask for?

SCV; What are your newest projects?

JDMK; Currently I am finishing the third and final draft of a screenplay I have been co-writing with my writing partner John Griffin over the last two years. We have had interest from various places including Sundance and a Academy Award winning producer, so it’s a really exciting time. Other then that, the film in London will hopefully start shooting in the next couple months, and I am reading for a play in Amsterdam.

SCV; What’s the secret in making an audience cry?

JDMK; One can only make an audience cry by being truthful.

SCV; What makes you a scallywag?

JDMK; I’m a scallywag because I have always followed my own road in life. I went to law school when I was young and wanted to become a star lawyer, but I gave it all up to pursue my dream of being an actor. Scallywags are true to their dream, even though this might not suit everyone around them. I guess also that I am pretty outspoken and direct and like to stay off the beaten path. The more interesting things in life are often found in the little side streets you know.…

SCV; …….furthest from the harbor.

JDMK; Exactly.