Persona As Process

As a figure of identity, the actor has always posed the question of authenticity - of who speaks here, under what capacity of the self and with what moral authority1 (Barish, 1981). Thomas Hobhes, for example, denied that the actor could be a real person since real persons were the authors of their own words (Hobbes, 1975). The anti-theatrical prejudice has deep roots in moral and religious controversy, but its historical reproduction probably draws on a simple fact of occupation — actors are pretenders, which raises recurrent questions about the fit between who they seem to be and what they are. This is obvious when an actor changes character many times, but even individuals who seem to play themselves are pretending.

The character portrayed by any actor has only a nominal existence and is only a flaccid designator of person (Kripke, 1980). The character could be played by a large (but not infinite) number of actors. The actual performance, especially when recorded, has the potential to create a rigid designator - this performance of a character is in some sense definitive. After the fact of a great performance on film, the character can never resolutely return to a state of flaccidity.2 Anthony Perkins (Rycho, 1960, USA) is Norman Bates, and Vince Vaughn's recreation (Psycho, 1998, USA) is at best, homage, at worst, a parasitic reactivation. Perkins is Bates; Vaughn played Bates.

Naturally, there is room for debate about the definitiveness of a character rendition. From a craft point of view, a performance may be regarded as weak, even if it is regarded amongst the film-going public (or film reviewers) as definitive, and vice versa. In Hollywood, at least, performances are regarded as definitive if they entail a projection of a rich interior, and box office success. These dimensions do not always jell with craft or critical standards, and remain contentious. However, institutionally, they are the essence of stardom.

In the performance of the Hollywood star, the projection of a rich inner self by external means is at its fullest remove from the impression of interiority that the actor could accomplish unaided, or with a passive use of cinematography. Appearance, demeanour, vocal and physical behaviour are not only given a new semantic importance in film signification, but the possibilities for fabricating these qualities are vasdy increased compared to live performance. The strategy of concerted cynosure - the use of close-ups and framing to create a spectacle of the actor inside the narrative process - only deepens the perception that the actor and character are intimately connected.3

In addition to the apparent fusion of star and character on screen, the publicity machine works to maintain this impression off-screen. In general, the public is invited to suppose that what is seen on screen, if aided cinematically, is nonetheless the 'natural' fruit of the star's personal agency — creative vision, personality, etc. - that inheres before and after

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