Chigurh vs. Plainview. I like Javier Bardem’s comments about letting go of the backstory for his role:
Maybe the character’s mother didn’t feed him when he was 5 years old, or something like that…. I started to do that [imagining a “backstory” for Chigurh], but then I realized… in this case, it would be much more helpful if I didn’t know where he was coming from. The challenge was to embrace a symbolic idea and give it human behavior. It wasn’t about how his mother didn’t feed him.
That reminds me of Rebecca Mead writing on Nico Muhly’s recent comments about new music in last week’s New Yorker:
He devises an emotional scheme for the pieceÄîthe journey on which he intends to lead his listener. Muhly believes that some composers of new music rely too heavily on program notes to give their work a coherence that it might lack in the actual listening. “This stupid conceptual stuff where it’s like, ‘I was really inspired by like, Morse Code and the AIDS crisis.'”
You can lose a lot of creative punch when trying to over-think and over-explain the roots. Embrace an idea and give it behavior. See if it sticks. I like that a lot.