ACTORS don’t often participate in DVD commentaries because they’re not paid enough. Pure and simple. Actors, or their agents, see the millions being reaped from this lucrative ancillary market and believe they have earned a piece of it.
Which is why Eddie Murphy is sadly absent from Paramount’s special edition of Trading Places , for example; the man who you would think was crucial to that film’s success and would be integral to the DVD.
These absences are the one weak spot in the DVD format. Key stars just won’t play ball, and there appears to be no resolution in sight. Studios won’t pay six- figure sums to the Jim Carreys of the world to lay down a commentary, and the actors won’t do it for goodwill or for their audience.
That said, I don’t think it’s a big blight, given how indulgent most commentaries are. The actors who tend to participate are those who are creative or producing partners — your Will Ferrells, Jack Blacks or Wilson brothers — or those starting out in the business who’ll do anything to raise their visibility.
And I’m a little over comedians who believe just rocking up unprepared to a sound booth with their mates will somehow turn into DVD commentary gold. Which is why I had to listen to Penelope Cruz and Salma Hayek’s commentary for the recent release, a western comedy, Bandidas .
Something told me this film, written by French maverick Luc Besson and directed by two Norwegians, Joachim Roenning and Espen Sandberg, wouldn’t lose much without hearing the dialogue. And who couldn’t give up an opportunity to listen to a commentary by two actors for whom English is not their first language?
But the actors’ attitude to it is given away fairly promptly when Cruz notes it is ‘‘ the first time I have to do this’’ and ‘‘ there’s going to be a few long pauses’’.
At first, the duo offers many of the platitudes actors deliver way too often and of which I’m tired. Hayek confesses she’s very proud of one scene because she’s actually riding the horse; Cruz pulls out the perennial ‘‘ we had to cut so many takes in this movie because we were laughing at each other’’; and they confess admiration for their co- stars, in this instance the unlikely trio Sam Shepard, Dwight Yoakam and Steve Zahn.
But, as they warm up, there’s a few — well, a couple — of interesting peeks into both the production and their off- screen lives. And, no, I hadn’t imagined how hard it must be to run in a corset. I will now try it.
Some of the observations are quite disarming, especially Hayek’s admission she suffers such hiccup attacks they decided to incorporate it as a character trait.
The actors’ respective attitudes to life off the screen are betrayed by Cruz’s complaints about not having a bathroom on location. A small thing, you would think, but out in the wilds of Mexico, Hayek was worried about the snakes and Cruz was worried about paparazzi. That’ll happen to you if you shack up with Tom Cruise, but those Sydneysiders who saw Hayek waltzing around Bondi Beach in a bikini a couple of years ago won’t be complaining about her freedom from photographers.
Hayek is very much the big sister in this commentary, chiding Cruz during one longwinded anecdote: ‘‘ Get to the point, you aren’t writing a novel.’’
There’s not much else to convince studios many actors are worth paying for their DVD commentary insights.
* * * DISC WATCH: Blue Fin ( Rainbow, G, $ 9.99). The 1977 Australian children’s classic makes it to DVD at last. It’s child actor Greg Rowe’s memorable follow- up to another beauty, Storm Boy , released on this format last year. bodeym@ theaustralian. com. au