Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Peter Sarsgaard

Peter Sarsgaard, Toronto, Sept. 7, 2007

PETER SARSGAARD WOULD BE ONE OF THE ACTORS I'D NAME TO PROVE MY POINT that character actors are far more interesting than leading actors today. It's worth noting that Sarsgaard had been listed among the 26 Sexiest Men Living by Salon magazine the year I took this photo, which probably says something about Salon magazine or the times or both. (Also on the list - Ira Glass, Jon Hamm and Strong Bad.)

Sarsgaard had made his reputation mostly playing villains, fuck-ups, oddballs and the occasional Decent Man Overwhelmed by Things. His stock in trade is a sort of uncomfortable intensity that he attributes to his Catholic upbringing. "In Catholicism, you're supposed to love your enemy," he told the New York Times. "That really impressed me as a kid, and it has helped me as an actor...The way that I view the characters I play is part of my religious upbringing. To abandon curiosity in all personalities, good or bad, is to give up hope in humanity."

Peter Sarsgaard, Toronto, Sept. 7, 2007

Someone like Sarsgaard is the perfect subject for how my portrait style evolved during the height of my one-minute-hotel-room shooting period. Hardly a cipher, it was easy to sit down in front of him in a dim room like the ones at the Intercontinental and command just enough of his attention for a minute or less to get a glimpse of the strange intensity he used in his performances.

The "dim room" probably works better for this portrait than, say, the "bright rooms" at the Four Seasons; it certainly lends just enough of a hint of unease or even menace, appropriate to the subject. Before I started looking at these shots again, I remembered this period as a terrible compromise - serviceable work being done under severe constraints - but it's only at the remove of time that I've come to appreciate the creative decisions those dark rooms at the Intercontinental forced me to make, whether I knew it or not.

Peter Sarsgaard, Toronto, Sept. 7, 2007

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