Oh, Grow Up
How did your childhood idol break their personal mold so that they could be considered an adult? To break away from the Mary Ellen Walton image, Judy Norton Taylor posed for Playboy. A lot of young actresses used playboy to get the public to forget that they were, once, children. Brooke Shields didn't have to because she was never a child. Starting out in the movie PRETTY BABY and then moving to the provocative Calvin Klein jeans ads, getting people to buy her as a child was never a problem--though getting people to accept her as a serious actress was. Jodie Foster was fourteen when she played a teenage hooker in TAXI DRIVER and just to make sure that the childhood mold was broken, she played a sexually active teenage killer in THE LITTLE GIRL WHO LIVES DOWN THE LANE that same year. Ricky Schroder didn't do anything drastic--he simply changed his name to Rick and took ONLY serious parts (though he did pose in an artistic nude for a legitimate magazine doing an article on "what's sexy now"). Christopher Atkins DID pose nude for Playgirl and his career foundered anyway.
Show business is filled with young people who decide, early in their lives, that performing is the way to go; and we have certainly all heard the stories about how difficult it is to be a child actor and the ramifications that it can cause later in life (Patty Duke is one of the most vocal artists about this occurance.) The stories of huge failure are numerous (and always being featured in stories on the E! Network): DIFF'RENT STROKES kids have become one of popular culture's most oft pointed at examples. There are the scandals (Alfalfa Switzer was murdered), the troubled (Danny Bonaduce jokes about "going to jail a LOT"), the embittered (Jay North has spoken openly about the downfalls from his life as a child actor but has turned it into something positive, counseling young actors in their careers), the bad choices (Elizabeth Berkley in SHOWGIRLS) and the ones who just walked away (Kristi McNichol says she "just got tired of acting").
Then there were the ones who just, succesfully, transitioned to being accepted as adult actors.
Mario Lopez, Kirsten Dunst, Melissa Gilbert, Susan Dey, Elinor Donahue, Mark-Paul Gosselar, Kim Fields, Thora Birch, Jamie Bell..... Christian Bale played Patrick Bateman AND Batman. Oh, and a boy from the tv show GROWING PAINS has been nominated for the Academy Award for the third time, this year: Leonardo DiCaprio. Just like my favourite actress, Diane Lane, who was a nominee in 2002 for UNFAITHFUL. And Opie Taylor won and Oscar for directing BEAUTIFUL MIND.
It IS possible for a succesful child actor to become a succesful adult actor, in spite of the worlds' view of them as being forever young. It IS possible for a succesful child actor to be considered a grown up without making a sex tape or going to rehab to prove that they are, in fact, no longer twelve.
So why, on January 30th, did EVERY news program lead with the story of the furor over Daniel Radcliffe's shocking photos for the West End production of EQUUS? It was on the cover of newspapers and on the AOL bulletins. I am sure it was covered in many places I didn't see. Everywhere I turned, that day, it was the hot topic. Chatterati on websites, everywhere, had to weigh in on Harry Potters nude pics. People think it is appalling. People think it is sexy. People are speculating about what kind of message this sends his young fans. People are criticizing his pale skin, his body hair, his body, his morals, his ethics... You name it, people must discuss it. I know we are a race of closed minded know it alls and judgemental puritans but I just think there must be something more important to focus our attentions on, rather than an actor taking a job that requires him to nude. And the nudity isn't gratuitous! EQUUS is a serious play, a work of art that has been produced on Broadway, filmed by Hollywood and presented in theaters around the world since its Broadway debut in 1974. The story is a serious one and the acting must be first rate. The boy who has been criticized for being "only ok" in the Harry Potter movies (and if I may weigh in, I think he is a beautiful actor--always honest, and you know how much I love THAT) has been chosen to perform in a piece that demands true acting talent. He is the most famous child actor in the world--oh, wait. He isn't a child anymore. According to IMDB he will be 18 in July. By the time I turned 18 most of my friends had begun engaging in sexual congress (including myself) and all of them had seen naked men and women in books, magazines and movies. This boy, this man, though, has chosen to be seen naked FOR HIS ART and he won't be seen naked by observers of his art (alone); he will be seen naked by stupid, insipid, childish fans who flock to the theater just to see Harry Potter naked.
I was in London when Kathleen Turner opened in THE GRADUATE. The lines for tickets were around the block. The thing is--most of us had already seen Kathleen naked in films like BODY HEAT. What was the big deal? And in the London production, she was lit, straight on--not backlight like on Broadway. People are so obsessed with seeing other people (especially famous people) naked. I get it but I don't get it. It's one of those things I wrestle with. I suppose it is because I have seen SO many naked people--in front of my camera. I photograph nudes often. It's a body. It's beautiful. God created these bodies for us. I think it is a wonderful work of art; AND there are those who make it more of a work of art by taking care of it, by making their bodies look like the bodies we, so, admire in the artwork seen in museums (and other places). So Daniel Radcliffe has chosen to blend his two artworks for one glorious purpose: EQUUS. And his body is a work of art. Look at the photos. It is a work in progress but it is beautiful. This is not the opinion of some lascivious perv: it is the opinion of a photographer who must light the human body to accentuate the muscle tone. It is, also, the opinion of a gay male obsessed with his own body image, who diets and excercises to look like a porn model and who beats himself up when a binge keeps him from that appearance.
Some of the online chatters have been nasty about Daniel's palid skin. I think it's beautiful, clear, white skin that will probably not have any cancerous growths because he MUST keep out of the sun (without sunscreen!). Others have criticized his hirsute-ness. Well, all I can say about that is: whatever. I think people are just judgemental and mean.
My bottom line is this: good for Daniel for being a man, for being an artist, for growing up through his art and not humiliating himself in public (I think it is much more effective to retain the respect of others by appearing nude in an artistic play, rather than having your brazilian waxed vagina all over the internet like Britney Spears and Paris Hilton). He isn't falling in the street cause of drugs and alcohol and he hasn't been seen online in a home made sex tape. He has his dignity and his integrity and, soon, he will probably have an Olivier Award.