If you’ve ever seen Jeremy Northam’s first Hollywood movie, The Net (dir. Irwin Winkler, 1995) in which he starred with Sandra Bullock, you may have a lingering feeling of wariness about life on the internet. Northam’s irresistibly seductive, amoral computer whiz Jack Devlin manages to alter Angela Bennet’s identity, gives her a criminal record, deprives her of her home and has someone else “become” her. It’s enough to make you vow never to go online again!
Since movies were first made, at the beginning of the 20th century, there have been movie stars. Rudolph Valentino was the first male actor to be idolised by people who had never met him, but who had only seen his flickering (silent) image at cinemas. And yet they felt they knew him, felt he was “theirs”. When he died, at the age of only 31, there was mass hysteria. Around 100,000 people lined the streets on the day of his funeral, and there were even reports that some fans committed suicide. Those who witnessed The Diana Effect will understand something of what it must have been like.
Since Valentino, there have been many movie stars. All, of course, were basically actors, but more than that, the movie acting profession has meant that many people going into acting for love of the craft have had to take on the addition role of “fantasy man/woman” for their audiences. For some (no names, no pack drill), this aspect of their job is of equal and sometimes more importance to the success of their career than the quality of their acting. I make no moral judgement; it seems to come with the territory, some embrace it and reap the rewards, others prefer a quieter life and to concentrate on the quality of their work.
For admirers of actor Jeremy Northam (note, not movie star, I think he would approve), the internet provides many opportunities that were unavailable to Valentino’s fans. Information about Jeremy’s career is easy to access, and there are photographs by the (Photo)bucket-load. It’s possible to find out and “know” quite a lot about him. However, the curious fan must keep their wits about them and use their instinct to separate fact from fiction.
That moment when something in an actor’s performance really touches you, and leaves a deep and indelible impression, can sometimes be an isolating, as well as transforming, experience. How wonderful it therefore is to find online communities of the similarly afflicted! If an online community is headed up by the right person (and I am very fortunate to belong to two such), then there is an implicit culture of warmth, respect (for both the actor admired and fellow members) and support. These communities are not, as you might think, made up of teenagers, whack jobs and assorted social misfits. It is my experience that members are from all walks of life and are vibrant, witty, talented people in their own right. Friendships are made online that lead to enduring friendships in the real world.
The actor Toby Stephens, on being greeted at the stage door by a group of women, asked how they knew each other. He was told they’d met online at his fansite and had become firm friends. He was delighted and amused, commenting to his wife “See, I’m bringing people together!” A wonderful tribute to the positive effect of an actor’s work.
As an admirer of the work of Jeremy Northam, I accepted some time ago that all I would ever really know of this talented man was his work. In the few interviews he has given, he has made it clear that he is an actor who loves to act, but that his private life is a closed book, keep out signs looming large. I can respect his decision as a means of retaining some sort of normality in his life. The pressures of being owned by the public seem to be so corrosive and unbalancing. I might like to fantasise about knowing him in reality (and what a lovely, sustaining fantasy it is!), but really what I am connecting with is the quality of his work, a few hints gleaned from his interviews which my mind has fun shaping, and my own particular ideal man. The real Jeremy is somebody else. I can’t help but think he’s great and that I would enjoy his company, nonetheless!
As an aside, I would love to know of any instance when an actor has met a fan and instantly declared they will leave their partner for them (admit it, dear reader, that is your fantasy!) because I have never heard of it happening!
I have gained so much from belonging to online communities. The Net hasn’t scared me off! I’m very grateful for the friendships made, the information shared, and the laughs! The community created as a result of the power and quality of Jeremy’s work ought to make him proud (even if he’d probably rather stick pins in his eyes than ever come and visit us!).
Jeremy Northam is about to be seen on US tv screens every week in Miami Medical, as Dr Matt Proctor, to air on CBS from April 2, 2010. The promos can be seen at http://www.cbs.com/primetime/miami_medical/
To meet other fans, get the latest news and chat about Jeremy’s work (a warm welcome is assured), please visit: http://www.jeremynorthaminfo.com
with special thanks to Joan (HazelPennicott) for the screencap from The Net