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Sheen Does Blair Again

March 26, 2009

One of the things an actor dreads the most in his or her career besides not being cast is being constantly typecast. It's very hard for performers to move away from playing thugs, upper-class twits and heroes if that's what gets them a paycheck.

With this in mind, I'd like to voice my concern about Michael Sheen. Sheen is one of the best actors working on stage and screen today. Until a few years ago, his diversity and flexibility were what set him apart from other actors of his generation. I was completely won over by his turn as Amadeus on Broadway opposite David Suchet's Salieri in 2000. I also caught his lithe Henry V for the Royal Shakespeare Company and his slick David Frost both on stage and screen in Frost/Nixon. On screen, I also enjoyed his role as Robbie Ross in Wilde with Stephen Fry. Sheen's embodiment of Tony Blair in The Queen was one of the most captivating aspects of that film.

And now I fear this fine actor might get stuck playing this particular politician forever. So it's no surprise to hear that the actor will reprise the PM in The Special Relationship, a new movie written and directed by Peter Morgan about the relationship between Blair and Bill Clinton. Dennis Quaid and Julianne Moore have been cast as the Clintons.

Perhaps I shouldn't be getting myself all worked up about an actor playing the same character twice in his career. Surely two turns as Blair isn't so bad? Some actors do nothing but play the same character (or type of character) over and over again for years. But Sheen's embodiment of Blair has so far been so complete and engrossing that I fear for his future. In The Queen, his ability to show the British Prime Minister's political expediency and vulnerability was remarkable. I hated and loved the character at the same time. In short, he played the role a little too well.

Let's hope he doesn't end up standing in for the PM's waxwork at Madame Tussaud's when the original has to be sent to the shop for touch-ups.

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