What You Should Know About Film Characters

Enjoy watching those rerun television westerns? How about an old fashioned love story? It's often the characters that keep us coming back for more.

What prompts you to choose a new movie to see? Is it the theme? Setting? Genre? Or is it the characters who will be played by popular, sizzling, or long beloved actors?

Most of us have had a favorite actor at one time or another. Typically, a Hollywood actor plays a certain kind of role, such as a brooding youth or a defiant commander. We tend to overlook these characterizations by simply choosing to see a film because our film idol plays a part.

But to fully appreciate an actor's range of performance skills, it helps to know something about the character types that frequent today's films. Producers and directors study a number of scripts to find one they feel will draw a sizable audience, and they usually have an actor or acting type in mind when they cast the film.

So what kind of characters appear in today's films? Here is an overview of the most common or popular type. See if you can mentally assign certain actors to these roles.

1. Strong, silent hero. Cut from the cloth of WUTHERING HEIGHTS legend Heathcliff, a brooding leading man can draw an audience's curiosity as much as their admiration. Heroes should be a bit questionable or flawed to keep viewers perched on the edge of their seats.

2. The diabolical but charming villain. If the bad guy were all bad, he could be easily avoided. As in real life, one or two good traits help to balance out the negative and make him more of a potential lure to the unsuspecting innocents.

3. The bumbling good guy. Modern heroes, sometimes called "anti-heroes," look and act like the guy next door. But during emergencies they spring into action to save the day and get the girl. Today's good guys may be overweight or have a noticeable flaw. Sometimes they metamorphose into a more attractive character. The evolution is part of their magnetic quality.

4. The seductress. Traditionally dark and exotic over centuries of literary development, 20th century versions went blonde with vixens like Jean Harlow and Marlene Dietrich. This bad girl goes after the good guy, sometimes links with or overcomes the bad guy, and is defeated by the good girl. Whew, that's a lot to keep track of!

5. The good girl. Good-looking while not necessarily beautiful, the heroine (nowadays called "hero" to avoid sexist language) represents domestic values and sincere character. Though she may have a negative quality, she is overall adorable and admirable. Both bad guy and good guys fall for her, even the silent type, and she teaches the bad girl a lesson, usually that crime doesn't pay or something along those lines. Naturally she gets the good guy in the last scene and everyone goes home happy (except the bad guy and the bad girl).

Knowing a bit about how characters measure up and what you might expect them to do helps to build suspense and appreciation at the cinema. So go to the theater or pop in a video and start rooting for the hero of your choice!

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