Monday, July 19, 2010

“El Cid”: The Supporting Cast

The supporting cast of the movie “El Cid” is uniformly excellent. The producers drew particularly on talented British actors who knew how to say lines with meaning, and project personas in an epic setting and story.

One example is Christopher Rhodes in the small but crucial role of Don Martin, the champion knight who faces Rodrigo/Heston in a joust. Rhodes has a limited number of words to establish himself as a fitting, believable opponent for the hero. The Don Martin character has killed 27 men in one-on-one combat. The actor needs to reflect that. Rhodes does. He looks rugged, tough, yet intelligent, like a champion, and says his few lines with authority. He projects, through his bearing and expression, confidence bordering on arrogance. He’s believable as a sociopath, without for an instant appearing cartoonish—not an easy trick to pull off. Unlike, say, Alfonso or his brother Sancho, there’s no trace of neurosis; not a molecule of self-doubt about who he is and what he does. Rhodes is the embodiment of the Spanish Christian warrior, the type later known as the conquistadore. More important for the film: that he appears formidable builds anticipation for the conflict against Heston’s larger-than-life persona.

(Next: The Joust.)

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