Finally had a chance to watch the Newsweek Actor Roundtable. I love these videos. But they’re an investment. If you do have an hour at lunch, or at home later though, I promise it’s more worth your while than most talk show interviews. Because it’s not so much what they say, it’s what they say to each other. And how.

The class of 2011 features Annette Bening, Colin Firth, Natalie Portman, James Franco I WENT TO FILM SCHOOL, Nicole Kidman, and Michelle Williams.

Needless to say, Colin Firth is at his finest. He is expressive, he is funny, he is not up his own ass about the acting and the craft, especially when he talks about how celebrities are so pampered they can barely take a leak without an assistant trying to help, and watch Natalie’s face as he says this – her smile seems frozen, like she can’t understand what he means, like she’s humouring this crazy man who questions their need to have their entire lives serviced to them, as if the privilege is a right.

Natalie is actually much less annoying than at the Golden Globes. There are times, in her baby doll voice, when she verges on Rossum, but she has her strong moments, particularly at the end, her comment about finding the “one thing that James can’t do” is funny too. She’s bearable.

I could listen to Annette Bening’s diction all day. She’s also the least inhibited of all of them in her reactions. She laughs like a real person, reacts like one too, in sharp contrast, say, to the stillness of Nicole Kidman, who probably speaks the least of all of them, and whose lips are so crazy by the end, when she leans forward to clarify something, it’s crazy to me why she bothers in the first place. The whole point is that it’s supposed to be subtle, non?

In fairness to Nicole though, I do enjoy it a lot when she talks about The Hours. I loved her in The Hours. That was when Nicole was near the top of my GirlCrush list, when her talent trumped her face, and when she speaks about that time in her life, I remembered acutely how great she was then. Unfortunately that moment is brief. The rest of it is just a fascination with her eyebrows. They seem to get stuck now and again, like you’re watching the muscles fight against whatever it is that has nailed them in place.

Atom Egoyan!

Michelle Williams says The Sweet Hereafter was the first proper film that made her want to be in films. She was also very honest about life in Capeside, what it brought her, what it took away from her. There’s a reticence about Williams that’s almost uncomfortable. She does not engage unless specifically addressed, and even then, she’s very, very careful about her words. Somewhere along the line, she decided not to be spontaneous in her responses. I’ve met her before and it’s certainly true of her in person. There’s a lot of control happening behind that little face, not necessarily out of a desire to manipulate, like Kidman, but rather as a way to prevent from completely unraveling. She almost admits as much when she tries to explain why she acts. It’s probably more of an outlet for her than for anyone else at the table.

With the exception, naturally, of James Franco. After all, there’s so much art inside James Franco, there’s no choice for him but to pour it all out.

It’s becoming a roundtable regular now – James Franco WENT TO FILM SCHOOL. He drops it again this time, and he’ll probably drop it several more times on stage at the Kodak when he’s hosting the Oscars:

“When I WENT TO FILM SCHOOL, I broke down Dennis Hopper’s performance as the villain frame for frame and presented it as my final assignment. Oh yeah, and to present the award for Best Actor, please welcome Sandra Bullock.”

When James Franco I WENT TO FILM SCHOOL speaks, it’s like what he’s saying is a gift to the people listening. A gift to Colin Firth, a gift to Annette Bening, and definitely a gift to Michelle Williams who was halfway through her description of how she approached playing Marilyn Monroe when he steps in to TELL HER HOW SHE DID HER JOB. It’s tremendously entertaining. And again, if you can spare the time, I think you’ll really enjoy it. If no, read the transcript here.

Attached – Colin Firth strolling around London today. He’ll be in LA by the weekend again for the SAGs.

Photos from Matt Keeble/