Leading the newsfeed on my monitor as I checked my email instead of doing work last week was the devastating news that Ryan Phillippe had announced his retirement from acting. I will let you insert your own line about whether or not he actually ever began acting in the first place; personally I can’t remember him being in a movie since he did that one where Buffy and Selma Blair make out.
I am not sure what ‘retiring from acting’ actually means; I understand all of the words in that phrase, but together it just doesn’t quite make sense. Retirement conjures up the image of an old bloke pottering around in his garden before putting on his long socks and sensible shoes and heading down to the RSL for a midi of light beer and a sneaky slap on the pokies every Tuesday afternoon. At age 36, I have a suspicion that Ryan Phillippe would look out of place having a chat with Old Barry, who tries to pack his pipe with shaking hands while telling you about the time he saw Don Bradman bat.
Let’s be honest, an actor is traditionally not an essential cog in anyone’s machine (“Oh no, Two and a Half Men isn’t on!” “Oh no, there’s no more episodes of Sea Patrol!” “The Logies are way more interesting this year,”) so I am somewhat bewildered by Phillippe’s announcement. It’s not like he’s integral to any particular field - he is not a pioneer of medical science, nor is he a forward-thinking world leader. He’s not risking his life for others, and he’s not digging wells in Pakistan. To be perfectly Francis, he’s not even much of an actor.
The impact of Phillippe’s announcement is yet to be fully appreciated. While it means that there is one less smarmy actor with dimples, good hair and nice teeth gracing our screens, I doubt even the most hardened studio executives will be crying into their cocaine for the loss. “We’ll just get that guy from The Social Network instead,” they’ll say. “Or the guy who played Darth Vader in the Star Wars prequels,” they’ll say. “Maybe we could call Jake Gyllenhall,” they’ll say. “Can we coax Phillippe out of retirement?” they will not say.
What does it really mean to retire from acting, rather than ‘couldn’t be arsed going for an audition’ anyway? I think the term he meant was 'quitting acting.' That way, he can try and land himself a regular job to keep the rent paid, the bills off the fridge and the hair gel plentiful. I would like to imagine Ryan Phillippe plonking himself down in an interview for a desk job that pays $45,000 a year and explaining the gaps in his work history.
“You don’t seem to have any office experience in your resume, Mr Phillippe.”
“I was in that movie where I hooked up with Reese Witherspoon.”
“I was also in 54.”
“Nobody saw that.”
“My mum did.”
“No she didn’t.”
“I could act like an office worker.”
“No you couldn’t.”
Sometime in the future, there’ll be a 3D superhero spin-off movie that yearns for Ryan Phillippe to come out of retirement, just once (and once more for the sequel). Good luck filling that void.