Smoking cigarettes is an affectation that you don’t see as often in movies anymore. Part of that stems from the ethics of the filmmakers and studios who don’t want to promote a deadly habit, and perhaps even more influential is the fact that tobacco use now has a strong influence on the calls made by the MPAA. That being said, you can tell a lot about a character from the way they take a drag – which is why Paul Bettany likes that his titular role in Alan Ball’s Uncle Frank is a smoker.
As seen in the video up top, the subject came up earlier this month when I had the pleasure of interviewing both Bettany and Ball in advance of the new movie’s release – specifically in a conversation about “Uncle” Frank Bledsoe’s style in the film. Discussing both the character’s fashion and physicality, Bettany first noted that one thing he loved about the opportunity to star in the Amazon Studios release was that he got to dress like the stars of cinema when he was growing up. Said the actor,
It was certainly an appropriate look for the character, who is a New York University professor in the 1973-set film. It was Alan Ball, however, who brought up the subject of Paul Bettany smoking in Uncle Frank. He highlighted the decision, specifically addressing the subtext that it addresses. Ball said,
Written and directed by Alan Ball, Uncle Frank is a coming of age story told from the perspective of Sophia Lillis’ Beth Bledsoe, who grows up in South Carolina idolizing her father’s brother. When she heads off to college at NYU, she discovers a secret that Frank has long been keeping from his entire family: that he is gay, and has been living with another man (Peter Macdissi) for about a decade.
As addressed by the filmmaker, Frank stores up a lot of pain that extends from his closely-guarded secret, and watching the movie you most definitely do notice that the character lights up a smoke when the tension is at its highest.
Responding, Paul Bettany concurred with Alan Ball, and added that a character’s smoking habit was a subject he had once discussed with an acting teacher:
In addition to Paul Bettany, Peter Macdissi, and Sophia Lillis, Uncle Frank sports an absolutely outstanding cast that includes Margot Martindale, Judy Greer, Lois Smith, Steve Zahn, and Stephen Root. The film is arriving on Amazon Prime Video tomorrow, November 25, and stay tuned here on CinemaBlend for more from my interviews!
NJ native who calls LA home and lives in a Dreamatorium. A decade-plus CinemaBlend veteran who is endlessly enthusiastic about the career he’s dreamt of since seventh grade.
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