Don’t deny you have had this daydream in which you imagine yourself dashing up to the stage at the Kodak Theatre in your perilously high Christian Louboutins, nervously clutching a little slip of paper. Even without the cheat sheet, we all know that we must thank the director, the screenwriter, cinematographer, costume designer, make-up artist, hair stylist, our co-stars, agent, teachers, parents, husband and children, without whom we would never have gotten beyond our middle school production of ‘Cabaret’.
But there is one thing you must NEVER EVER forget to do – and yet many Hollywood actors do – and that is give a gracious shout-out to your body double, the professional who spent decades perfecting her art in the ballet studio so that she could make you look good in your toughest moments on screen. It doesn’t matter who did what percentage of the actual dancing that made it past the editor’s blade: you want to ensure that your double feels her contribution has been more than adequately acknowledged publicly by you, the Star of the Film… It’s not just a point of etiquette, it is also a smart strategy to nip any grievance in the bud, so that if one day she decides to speak out and claim credit for her work, people will be inclined to dismiss her as spiteful and ill-bred… that is, if you make it a point to recognize her and express your appreciation in front of millions of viewers on Oscar night.
This is not to disparage your natural talent and all the hard work you put into the role yourself. And it’s not your fault that Hollywood producers and casting directors refuse to cast real dancers in films about dance, except as body doubles. They seem not to realize that professional ballet training includes acting training, that there are hundreds of beautiful, highly trained, dramatically capable dancers out there. Producers just want a big name to attract moviegoers. But attentiveness and graciousness cost you, the Star of the Film, nothing, and can win you loyalty from people behind the scenes.
Which is why I’ve already rewritten and rehearsed my own acceptance speech a dozen times, and in every version I make sure to thank my body double profusely.