Sunday, 23 September 2012

Cosmetic Surgery

Cosmetic surgery is somewhat of a mixed blessing for an actor. In many ways it is the last thing they should be doing. Actors need movement and expression in their faces and their individual features and flaws are much more interesting to watch than mass perfection. But while surgery used to be confined to the very famous and/or wealthy, a huge percentage of the Western population now routinely undergoes both minor and major cosmetic procedures. How do actors present themselves in such a climate? If they are to reflect the population, they must at least be taking the same amount of care of themselves. And how do they fulfil the image of the fantasy movie star if everyone is sculpting their bodies to perfection?

Those actors under most pressure will be female and working in the States and the biggest threat to their career is ageing. For them, getting the balance right between looking great for their age and losing their facial personality is more than a personal concern. There will be swathes of acolytes whose income depends on that actor's success who will be only too happy to recommend a good surgeon. If they don't have work done, they might be in competition with those who have and if they do have surgery, the world is eager to notice and disapprove. A review for a Demi Moore film in a Sunday broadsheet remarked that her performance was only notable for demonstrating her considerable plastic surgery. Yet there is a distinct possibility that if she hadn't had the surgery, she might not have been in the film at all; your dedication to your career is measured in some quarters by your commitment to your surgeon.

In England, it is not quite so pressurised. We don't make so many films, the small screen is more forgiving and the stage is positively greedy for character and quirks. We even seem to have an innate suspicion of good-looking actors, especially English ones. French actors are allowed to be beautiful and brilliant, it just suits them.

Living in a country where getting a manicure was regarded as the height of extravagance, British actors used to be relaxed about their body image. The only real pressure I ever received was from a costume designer on a Barbara Cartland film I once screen-tested for, who was most frustrated by my lack of cleavage, 'You could have something done about that' she hissed as we stuffed yet another sock into the cavernous corset.

Then I went to L.A. and it was all a bit different. It took me a while to understand what was happening when every audition I went to I met dozens of stunning, physically perfect actors. One evening I went to a party with a friend and, like the auditions, there were beautiful women everywhere you looked. I wondered what I was doing in that city; I couldn't compete with the level of perfection, nor did I really want to. Crestfallen, I was standing at the bar when I noticed a well-dressed older man staring at me from across the room. His eyes were boring into me and even when I returned his gaze, he didn't look away. At least someone, I thought, finds me interesting for who I am. Embarrassed but flattered I turned to my friend. 'That man, over there. He's really staring.' I said. 'He can't take his eyes off me.' 'Oh, him.' said my friend, 'He's a plastic surgeon. He’s just working out what he could improve. Don't smile for God's sake, he'll get a dentist over.' Sure enough, within a few minutes, several well-dressed older men had presented me with their business cards and reassurances of 'competitive rates for Brits'. How did they know?

I didn't get any surgical work done. At 26, it all seemed both too late and too early. And I figured at least I'd always have a big audience of cosmetic surgeons, waiting in the wings.


  1. The pressure to have cosmetic surgery, to appear very young when one is now a different age, must be enormous. Maybe it has to do with the type and number of film roles for women or the packaging of the LA film industry. I'm not sure. I work with stage actors, mostly, who come in all shapes and sizes with their faces just as they are. From time to time, a very young actress will turn up who wants to work in film. One knows this because she is no bigger than a stick insect, and at dinner break sits staring down at 3 grapes on her plate, while her male counter-parts eat (and drink!) whatever they please. Watching her, I have to control the urge to take her home and feed her lasagna. What you beautiful ones do to yourselves to make us all happy is incredible.

  2. Diplomatically worded, Jan. Lasagna all round please.

  3. Sophie, at 26 you were stunningly beautiful( still are) and you def. did not need any work done.
    I just watched you on Youtube in the Bryan Ferry Video, Avalon. Stunning!

  4. Sophie, Sophie, Sophie... Please tell us you never will - or never did. Watching Book of Blood for the umpteenth time recently, I couldn't help thinking that you look even greater now than you did in the 80s and a big part of that was the maturity that shone through. Once we've passed our 20s, true beauty is defined less by physical perfection than personality. You happen to be blessed by both: don't f*** up one in favour of the other.

    My condolences for your father - who happened to be not only a great actor but a strikingly beautiful man too, despite never getting a facelift (if he actually did, please do not shatter my fantasy).

  5. That is most kind of you, William and I must tell you that I fully intend not to go down that particular road. My father certainly didn't and I thank you for your condolences. Life certainly seems both too short and too full to spend it cutting bits off and sticking bits in.
    Take care x