See, the dirty secret about the Average Joe is that we probably couldn't pick out great acting if we saw it in a police line-up. So far as life goes, we know what we know. Critics will waste ink and newspaper space lavishing praise on their favorite, but the end of the day all 'the rest of us' are looking for is to be convinced. Convince us that you're suffering. Convince us that you're in dire straits. Or convince us that you're on top of the world. Whatever it is that the role demands, convince us ... or we're otherwise unimpressed.
But actors and actresses are real people, too, and for a generation of viewers there remains actors who just seem like authentic people outside of the day job they're known for. For example, Mark Hamill maintains a solid web presence with his fans, and -- outside of the work he's done up on the silver screen -- he seems like a mostly affable guy. Occasionally, his politics get annoying (such is life), but most of the time he just comes across as this Average Joe -- he could be you or me -- who gets to play in the galaxy far, far away when called upon.
Ned Beatty was one such actor, so far as I ever saw.
His screen roles -- some of them were bigger than life, but much of what I thought to be his best work was very every day -- made a certain impression with the entertainment intelligentsia; but in interviews or in behind-the-scenes snippets he just came across so ... so ... ordinary. I have seen and read a few bits wherein he talked politics (of a sort), but he didn't 'beat the drum' the way some of our cultural elite feel the need. And whenever a work he did or a scene he performed courted a bit of controversy, he'd sound off on it in some way that was thoughtful -- not smartspeak or intellectual -- and I could relate to what he was saying even if I didn't agree with the core principle.
He was often cast as a supporting player; and -- in that respect -- he played characters who were less-than-the-best, perhaps even not the brightest. But he always managed to instill these roles with a sense of humanity: they might be victims, but they retained something of themselves despite whatever they were forced to endure. Think what you may, not every actor can accomplish what he did; and methinks his work deserves a bit of study for those serious about honing the craft.
Dare I say? His work in the early Superman films? Yeah, they were necessarily buffoonish. That was, of course, the central nature of the bumbling Otis. Still, it never descended to the level of camp in the hands of a master of his craft; and Beatty was definitely one of those.
Thoughts and prayers go out to the family and friends of this very talented player.