After posting last week about the dissatisfaction so many architects have with the profession, I couldn't help but look up some of the ridiculously romanticized images of architects crafted by Hollywood. Some of these movies actually had something to do with architecture, but most often the architect is a title used as a character prop for a sensitive, but not totally starving artist kind of guy. (There is at least a couple of movies with female architects, but I couldn't remember them and a search did not easily turn them up. I am not really sure what the female architect role is supposed to represent to the movie world.)
left to right, top to bottom:
an unlikely architect: Woody Harrelson in Indecent Proposal
an architect that actually works a bit in the movie: the great Brian Dennehy as Storly Kracklite in The Belly of an Architect, cuckold architect. Surely an architect never had a better name.
architect as kick-ass vigilante: Charles Bronson in Death Wish. Probably the most unrealistic portrait I can imagine, although his "cleaning of the city" could be a aesthetic statement, a kind of one man urban planning.
architect as the rational, reasonable, humane guy: Henry Fonda in 12 Angry Men. A courtroom drama, but they needed one guy that isn't too prejudiced or too emotional, so, enter the architect.
architect as superhero: Gary Cooper in The Fountainhead. If anyone goes to architecture school because of this book or movie, God help us all.
really?: Adam Sandler in Click. I never saw this movie, turns out no one else did either. Evidently, this architect keeps trying to make field changes, at a great cost.
Oh come on now!?: Keanu Reeves in The Lake House as a frustrated architect.
and just a typical day in the office: Kirk Douglas with Kim Novak in Strangers When We Met
Liam Neeson in Love Actually, a widowed architect
Luke Wilson in My Super Ex-Girlfriend, I think this casting an architect as a "regular guy" maybe the only instance.
Matthew Broderick in The Cable Guy, dumped-by-girlfriend architect.
Tom Hanks in Sleepless in Seattle, another widowed architect. Unlucky in love, clearly he needs better communication skills and refresher in coordination.
Steve Martin in Housesitter, another dumped-by-girlfriend architect - architect builds dream home for dream girl and gets dumped, another good architect name, Newton Davis.
Paul Newman in Towering Inferno. Still the hero, but the tower deserved the inferno. Go on vacation, and they finish the building without you causing the death of hundreds. And, you end up doing a field inspection in the middle of a party.
Tom Selleck in Three Men and a Baby, yet another dumped architect.
Wesley Snipes in Jungle Fever. Ah, remember when we used to draw by hand and the office was full of drafting tables...
What do we make of it that Hollywood likes to use "architect" as a shortcut for "sensitive guy" ? It's easy to have a character be an emotive artist type or a cold, calculating business type, but when you need something a bit in the middle, "architect" kind of works. Spouses of architects be warned, there is a pretty good likelihood of you kicking the bucket before the movie even starts. And, I can't not find a single movie where the architect is the bad guy. Overly sensitive and obsessed maybe, but that is forgivable in cinema eyes. What is most certain is that all of these architects seem to have plenty of time for lovers and intrigue, not so much time spent down at the building department or actually drawing.
Do these portrayals make young folks want to become architects? Maybe so, but compared to doctors and lawyers, there are very few movie architects. Maybe if we convicted some felons or saved a few lives on the operating table - that is the tale of the movie architect - when the story doesn't really call for too much high drama, cast an architect as the male lead. He'll be sensitive and most likely lonely and ready for his leading role in a romantic comedy or a mild drama. Then again, Newman saved a bunch a people and Bronson kicked ass. Of course, those guys always do, "architect" or not.