Everyone Has Reversals

Story Lessons, Big and Small (Warning: Spoilers!)

November 18, 2007

For the Love of Toni Collette*

As a result of a script I'm struggling with right now, I've been thinking a lot lately about supporting characters. Major supporting characters, who have needs and arcs of their own, as well as those who simply have a function in a given story.

Sometimes, in a script, supporting players feel like supporting players -- they come in, do their thing, and go. On the page, they look pretty insubstantial. When you're reading a script, you just don't give them much thought.

But these are the people that populate the movie the script wants to be. And don't we want excellent actors to play even these less glory-filled roles?

Consider Toni Collette's career. Since her endearing Muriel, she has not really become a lead (despite my adoration for her, and everything, in About a Boy). She's not the superstar people will pay to see in any old thing. Instead, she largely takes the supporting role. The co-worker in Changing Lanes. The not-quite-love-interest in The Hours. The mom in Sixth Sense and Little Miss Sunshine. None of these roles is huge... and yet they all had enough meat to them to warrant Ms. Collette's signing on.

I'm thinking we need to pay attention to the supporting roles. I'm thinking that our movies are only going to be stronger if Toni Collette is in them.

Ergo: write meaty, interesting supporting roles, and Toni may follow...

*Toni Collette is simply one example. Feel free to consider your own: James Franco? Zooey Deschanel?

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