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Actors Create 14 Decisive Moments

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With a gifted performer, quite a story indeed. From Tilda Swinton’s agonized Joan of Arc turn to James Franco’s suave self-seduction, the minutes add up to a kind of minifestival in “Fourteen Actors Acting: A Video Gallery of Classic Screen Types.” These brief clips portray not only the art, but also the joy and vigor of performance.

They were directed by Solve Sundsbo of Norway, whose clients as a fashion photographer have included Chanel, Yves Saint Laurent and Dolce & Gabbana. The videos accompany the black-and-white portraits Mr. Sundsbo shot for “The Scene Makers: Actors Who Defined Cinema in 2010,” in the Hollywood Issue of The New York Times Magazine.

“You’re going from making iconic images to creating narratives,” he said, “but there is less of a narrative capacity in 60 seconds, so you need to create something like a poem that can lead your imagination.”

Kathy Ryan, the magazine’s photo editor, put the challenge simply: “We had to get somewhere really quickly with an impact. And it had to be beautiful.”

Earlier magazine issues devoted to great performers have featured the work of Paolo Pellegrin and Inez van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin, among others.

This is the first time that video has been as significant as the print portfolio.

Ms. Ryan said she knew from the beginning that she did not want this year’s performers simply to sit for a portrait.

“Celebrity portraiture demands reinvention,” she said.

That included the addition of music, which was composed by Owen Pallett, a Canadian musician, and recorded in Prague by the Czech Symphony Strings.

“Music can steer what people see in a picture,” Ms. Ryan said. “It can drastically re-chart the direction the picture was taking the person.” A lively scene can turn menacing in just a few beats. And a visually suspenseful image can be made comical by just one chord.”

The process of writing the music for each video was instinctive, Mr. Pallett said. “As soon as the image hit my eyes I knew automatically.”

However, his collaboration with a print publication and a photographer wasn’t crystal clear for everyone.

“I had a really hard time explaining the gig to my grandma,” Mr. Pallett said. “She was like, ‘Why are you writing music for a magazine?’”

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Javier Bardem

In Character: "The old sneakers that I wore during the whole of 'Biutiful' always put me in the place of someone who has walked nearly barefoot along the hard ground without bleeding."

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Lesley Manville

Hardest Take: "The final shot in 'Another Year': a lifetime of pain, loneliness and resignation without uttering a sound."


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Jesse Eisenberg

Actor's Cut: "In 2005, I did a play called 'Orphans' with Al Pacino, who told me, 'Just because they say, "Action," doesn't mean you have to do anything.' It helped me think of acting as something that I was in control of."

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James Franco

Would Remake: "The butter scene in 'Last Tango in Paris.'"

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Chloë Moretz

In Her Shoes: "In 'Let Me In,' Abby's bare feet seemed an essential part of her characterization. Seeing her stand in the snow barefoot tells you instantly a lot about who and what she isn't."

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Jennifer Lawrence

And Cut: "When I was filming 'The Beaver,' Jodie Foster told me to shout, 'What do you know?!' until she called, 'Action!' By the time I got to my eighth 'What do you know?!' I was so flustered, embarrassed and annoyed that I just screamed, 'What do you know?!!!' At that moment, she called, 'Cut!' It was the worst five minutes, but it freed me from worrying about what I look like to other people."

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Natalie Portman

Classic Replay: "The lift from 'Dirty Dancing,' which we did in 'Black Swan.'"

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Robert Duvall

Wordless Moment: "The most difficult and easiest was when we hung Jake Spoon in 'Lonesome Dove,' because it was easy to do and difficult to repeat."

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Annette Bening

Greatest Sequence: "Diane Keaton and Warren Beatty" — now Bening's husband — "finding each other at the train station in 'Reds.'"

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Anthony Mackie

In Costume: "In 'Night Catches Us,' I asked for all of my clothes to be a size too small! I wanted to feel constricted and uncomfortable. Not stiff but unwelcomed by my surroundings."

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Noomi Rapace

Great Performance: "In 'True Romance,' Dennis Hopper knows it's his last chance to make his son proud. He faces certain death without a word to betray his fear or sense of defeat. It is so poignant and so underscores what it means to fight for your child and show them love amidst incredible violence."

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Tilda Swinton

Best Direction: "'Come early, hold your own light and don't expect to get paid' — Derek Jarman, every shooting day between 1985 and 1994."

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Matt Damon

Speech Coach: "In 'True Grit,' I sever my tongue about halfway through the film. I was trying to figure out how to do that and how to talk from that moment on and settled on the idea of wrapping a hair tie around my tongue a few times and then just trying to speak normally. Rather than trying to garble my articulation, I gave myself a genuine handicap."

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Vincent Cassel

Acting Class: "The worst advice I ever got from a director was to 'be good.'"

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Michael Douglas

Directors' Notes: "The best was 'Don't do anything, just listen.' The worst was 'The camera can always tell when you're lying.'"

The links don't embed, to watch all 14 videos you can find them here

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Tags: james / dave franco, natalie portman, photo shoot
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