Where I Try Playing Catch-up With My Favorite ‘Fictional’ Stars By Stalking Their Real Life Counterparts. *Warning: This article makes frequent references to the Twilight Saga, non-Twihard fans, suck in that incredulity, now.
Street stalking is actually passe. It’s too much of an effort hiding behind the bushes outside your favorite movie star’s house, waiting for a peek into the color of Brad Pitt’s underpants or whatever amuses the fantasies of celeb stalkers. If it’s all about getting a deeper insight – and a bit of a peep – into what makes your idol tick, then pay attention to the bits and pieces of information they drop in interviews.
You know that feeling, when you read an interview of your beloved movie star or author and chance upon references to books, movies and music that caught their imagination and you follow the trail, helpless, for you want an inch more of insight into the workings of their brilliant minds? The trail of their favorites leads you into interviews of the directors, poets and playwrights whose works are the stuff of inspiration for the favorite directors of your favorite writers. Pretty much like keeping up with Inception. An overwhelming anxiety to keep up with what inspires some of the most admired and adored – if not brightest or insightful – celebrated personalities of our times.
I can certainly never keep up with reading all the interviews of some of my fav Hollywood stars – Pacino, De Niro, Edward Norton, Jennifer Connelly, Cate Blanchett and the scores of others involved in movie making who aren’t really considered celebs, but are rockstars in their own rights. And this is just films! I haven’t even begun with my favorite writers, musicians, playwrights and sportspersons, the artists, painters, stand-up comedians, craftsmen and spiritual gurus.
One of my favorite, all-time-top-of-the-list Manga series is ‘Ghost in the Shell‘, which includes anime books, television spin-offs, series and video games. To keep up with the latest gossip on the franchise, I Googled for interviews of the director of the film Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence, Mr Mamoru Oshii and was soon sucked into a maze of verbal conflagrations and Descartesian jousts all tangling up for a Minestrone fare that served Buddha, Confucius, the Old Testament, Saito Ryokuu, Richard Dawkins, Max Weber, Jacob Grimm, Plato, Milton, and La Mettrie, author of “Man a Machine” time-traveling from 6th century B.C. India to 1748 and later in Germany. Mindblown? You bet!
Fanning a Fantasy
To be honest, it’s not really Pacino I am in love with. I mean, of course, I admire his towering talent and his dedication to the movie-making craft. But more obvious, it’s the characters he has portrayed over the years that I am in love with. And in the other extremes of intellectual cliches, it’s not Robert Pattinson that my heart does lhub-dhub for. It’s the undead, diamond-dazzling, blood-sucking vampire Edward Cullen that he portrays that I get wistful for. When we cyber-hunt for clues into Rob’s favorite book or best friend, we are waiting to see if the flesh-and-blood Rob matches up to the undead Cullen he plays in the Twilight series. The more he real life star admits to sharing traits with his fictional counterpart, the more his fans will idolize and typecast him as the stuff of their fantasies.
So, I really dig New York Times sections such as ‘What’s On Your Mind’ or other web regulars like ‘Here’s What They are Reading’ et al. It gives me a peek into the minds of my idol and allows me to play catch-up with them. That feeling of comradeship and empathy is acutely intense when you see your beloved idol gushing about a movie that you absolutely loved – across the distance, you and he / she somehow shared a moment of similitude, enough to throw you together in your mental universe at least!
Keeping up with the eloquent and intellectual celebs is also a good benchmark to see how well you measure up on an intellectual ballpark with those you admire and aspire to emulate. I certainly don’t have any plans of being an actor, but it helps to know that the qualities I admire in say, Cate Blanchett, are somehow shaped by her reading or movie preferences, or the places she travels to or the fashion show she was enraptured with. If I too could partake a tiny portion of her habits, perhaps, I too would be somewhere in the vicinity of the path of greatness that Blanchett is already on. But that’s not the point exactly. The whole exercise pivots on the fact that I love Blanchett for who she has been across so many movies. My admiration for her is largely mixed in with my love for her make-believe personas and what that character would be reading, listening to or cooking right now – something that I could emulate perhaps – and not Blanchett herself.
Jumping Through Hyper-Links
The hyper-linked, multi-tabbed world of Web 2.0 is such a great sleuthing platform for precisely this sort of sifting, categorizing, fine-tuning, and capitulation. Vanity Fair, Harper’s Bazaar and People Magazine are some of the ‘tell-tale’ pages I follow to keep up with celeb gossip, news and morsels of savory information about their arty pursuits. It’s simply impossible to scroll down an interview of James Franco (Spiderman, 127 Hours, Planet of the Apes) without being bombarded with references to his four (inhuman) advanced level courses that he’s signed up for at university. It clearly follows that he talks in length about his favorite writers, movies that he loves and actors whom he derives inspiration from – all hyperlinked keywords which lead me to more fascinating pages on food, culture, entertainment, arts, fashion, money, politics and travel. It’s a heady hyperlinked journey that you embark on, floating on the lulling, rhythmic cadence of your fantasy star’s thoughts.
I am furiously opening several tabs even as I bookmark several pages for a leisurely read at a later date. Of course, the kick is potent when your senses are swirled in the heady feeling of being hot on the trail of not just one, but several of your literary, cinematic and musical idols – simultaneously. I recently read this interview of
Let me not be shy of introducing my latest pet peeve – Edward ‘Bloodsucker’ Cullen aka Robert Pattinson, who suffered the ignominy of playing Cedric Diggory in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (shudder at that foul memory of Cullen then). For us Twihard fans, Robert Pattinson exists only as Edward Cullen and the vampire certainly cannot exist in a parallel universe as Cedric Diggory. There can be only one Edward (I know, a bit dramatic, but that’s the world of Young Adult-Vampire fiction) and when we follow Robert’s interviews in the media, it’s only to cull information that would help us flesh out Edward in our imagination. While the actor struggles to understand this strange fascination for the fictional character, his obvious discomfort with the attention only seems to add to the image of Cullen that we glean from the books. Twihards (Twilight fans) have this heightened expectation that he remain unchanged for them, in the fictional but very persuasive world of the town of Forks, and it doesn’t take much to convince us that it’s Cullen who’s the real entity, with Pattinson just playing a stand-by. Frightening, that thought.
As Close As It Gets
And it’s at that point, when the scales are tipped to cross elation into the territory known as ‘creeping anxiety’ that I recently got my wake up call. Pattinson strictly abhors the world of Twilight and the ensuing media-frenzy and fan-saga it has engendered. While Edward Cullen also hates drawing attention from humans, his is a reticence that seduces the reader, where as Pattinson’s real life aversion borders on lack of poise crossed with social-anxiety-disorder; would have been a total turn-off if it weren’t for the fact that Pattinson acknowledges this pet peeve and goes off on a tangent about all this being new for him. Endearing no?
When I read some of the personalities that caught Pattinson’s interest, including Rolling Stone founding member Keith Richards, I felt a swift disconnect. Having no interest in 80s Rock, I went back to my fantasy of what Edward Cullen would have liked and devoured in his fictional world – Debussy, that’s who, and with Wuthering Heights and Jane Austen thrown in for good measure! If the flesh-and-blood Hollywood star doesn’t have reading habits that match up to his fictional avatar, then my Twilight-hazed mind was finding it a bit difficult to acknowledge this reality. A fan’s righteousness knows no right … or left.
To be sure, Pattinson, like most of his talented industry colleagues, are due a tremendous degree of respect for the effortless ways in which they manage to erase their personas just so that their make-believe alter egos can thrive. Its that talent that drives the fans flocking to watch their every movie, hoping for shades of their favorite parts in subsequent roles that their movie stars essay. It’s that aura of brilliance that gets fans like me hoarding their every quip, bookmarking their every quote and signing-up for every official Production House website that advertises their forthcoming films (or albums or art shows). But this is as good as it gets. We can only keep up with our idols’ current reads and favorite restaurants. We cannot have a piece of their mind (much as we like to think of it as succulent, rich and creative). To be acknowledged as a fan requires us to live in that unbreacheable distance between anticipation and achievement.
- Nilofar Ansher