Monday, April 23, 2018

Emily Mortimer

Emily Mortimer, Toronto, Sept. 2004

I'VE WRITTEN HERE BEFORE THAT ONE OF THE STRANGEST THINGS ABOUT PHOTOGRAPHING ACTORS is the likelihood - more common with young actresses than anyone else, admittedly - that you might have seen them naked, onscreen, before you ever meet them, fully clothed and in person. It's a forced intimacy that happens with almost no one else, and it has never seemed fair or right.

A couple of years before I took these portraits of the British actress Emily Mortimer, I'd reviewed a movie called Lovely & Amazing, in which Mortimer and Catherine Keener played the unhappy daughters of an equally troubled mother. In one particularly brutal scene, Mortimer's character, an aspiring actress, asks the callow movie star she's dating (Dermot Mulroney) to do a critique of her body.

She stands nude at the foot of his bed while he goes into pitiless detail, after which she meekly thanks him. Watching it, I couldn't help but feel some measure of her humiliation, and I like to imagine that was the intention of director Nicole Holofcener, otherwise the scene is mere pointless cruelty.

Emily Mortimer, Toronto, Sept. 2004

Nude scenes have become a rite of passage for young actresses in and outside Hollywood, with screen captures that will pop up in a Google image search forever afterward. Mortimer has survived hers - they sometimes mark the beginning of the end of budding careers - and has had a very decent career in Hollywood and the UK, often cast as the "brainy but beautiful" character, and voicing a role in a Pixar film.

Besides being a fine actress, Mortimer has the gift of a particular sort of beauty - the "English rose" - that hasn't been sharpened to a fine point by Hollywood glamour. I wish the shots I'd taken during our very brief portrait shoot had been better, but I think it probably would have taken more than a couple of dozen frames to get past her polite reserve, or for me to overcome my own embarrassment.

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