By Ernest Thompson
I’ve worked with a boatload of Billys through the years, from the original Broadway production of “On Golden Pond” through the movie, the musical, the live TV version with Julie Andrews and Chris Plummer, and the all black Broadway revival with James Earl Jones. Jordan Puzzo is as good as any of them. I directed him last summer and was immediately taken with his fearlessness.
Jordan already had an impressive film resume – for a 13-year-old – but my production of “On Golden Pond” was his first time on stage. It’s not hard to look at the way Jordan carries himself and see that he’s an athlete. Hockey’s his sport and I’ve played enough myself to know the idiom, so I had my pun intended ice breaker. I frequently use sports metaphors in directing and in my classes for actors, and for writers, too – I’m a beach volleyball bum myself – so it’s helpful when someone knows what I’m talking about. Jordan Puzzo speaks the language.
There’s a focus unique to playing a sport that lends itself well to acting and I like it when I can use the analogy to help a performer, on stage or film – same attack as far as I’m concerned – find his or her discipline. I take seriously the notion that one PLAYS volleyball or PLAYS hockey, as in we’re still kids and it’s still a kid-like venture. Same with acting: we’re PLAYING Let’s Pretend. With Jordan, once we found our rhythm, the work became play and the results were amazing for everyone who saw his performance and for his cast mates as well, myself included. “On Golden Pond” works best when it’s a true ensemble of actors and Jordan learned quickly to become a reliable team player. PLAY-ER.
The other parallel between sports and acting is the age-old one: effort equals execution. Jordan’s a hard worker. He’s come to classes at Whitebridge – and will come to more, or else. At 14, he already knows the virtue in working to perfect his craft. My friend Karen Black, I tell him, with a 60-year lead on him, still takes classes in Hollywood; it’s like an athlete constantly training. It makes the PLAYING that much more gratifying. See Jordan Puzzo in FUNERAL KINGS and you’ll see a natural screen presence, but, more, you’ll see an athletic prodigy just beginning to find his game.
Ernest Thompson is the Academy Award winning actor and playright who adapted ON GOLDEN POND from his own stage play. He lives in New Hampshire at Whitebridge Farm with his wife Kerrin. He hosts writing and acting workshops there along with producing movies that provide work and experience for local filmmakers.