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MacArthur Genius Grant to Simon, McKellan Fights for Brit Acting Stature

by Sophia Savage
September 28, 2010 10:57 AM
1 Comment
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Thompson on Hollywood


- The MacArthur Foundation's annual list of scientists, scholars, musicians and artists to receive $500,000 "genius" grants includes David Simon, the co-creator/writer/producer behind The Wire, Treme, Homicide: Life on the Streets [pictured with The Wire star Dominic West]. The Foundation says Simon's latest work on Treme explores "the constraints that poverty, corruption and broken social systems place on the lives of a compelling cast of characters, each vividly realized with complicated motives, frailties, and strengths." Among the other ten women twelve men who received the grant is jazz pianist Jason Moran, theater director David Cromer, marble sculptor Elizabeth Turk and fiction writer Yiyun Li.

You can meet all the Fellows here, where each of the recipients are featured in their own video interview. Simon talks to NPR's All Things Considered Tuesday, here as of 7 PM eastern.

Thompson on Hollywood

- While the battle for The Hobbit's Middle Earth gets ugly, the man who plays Gandalf warns of trouble: Britain's Sir Ian McKellan (one of the nominees for the greatest ever stage actor) believes his nation's acting reputation is at risk with falling standards, cut-throat academia culture and the lure of money taking over well-honed craft. McKellan tells The Guardian: "It is always a surprise to me when I meet young people who are just happy to have got a big job, or to have got a good agent. Happily there are others who talk about the long term and who take extra care with their choices and do not think too much about how much they are paid," but he does note the increasing difficulty for an actor to make a living over the past fifty years. The weakening of repertory and amateur theatre are yielding two different schools of thought: those who act hoping for fame or money, and those who do it for love. It's well and good to pursue the craft for love, but bills need to be paid, and security can be just as hypnotic as fame when the economy is crashing. "There are many wonderful actors in amateur shows who could easily make a living for themselves in the professional theatre," McKellan says, "but they choose not to." They may be a dying breed.

1 Comment

  • M | September 29, 2010 6:56 AMReply

    Bravo, David Simon! An old-school journalist with a literary bent, who knows that there are times when, as Frank Lloyd Wright said, the truth is more important than the facts. He brings unprecedented levels of integrity, insight, sincerity and passion to all of his work.

    In The Wire, he created one of the finest and truest portraits of America in any artistic medium. It is certainly the best thing that has ever been on television.

    Nicely done, MacArthur Foundation. Who needs an Emmy...?

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