The Wizard of Oz
Ben Platt: 5 Movies That Inspire Me as a Performer
Ben Platt
Ben Platt
Actor

Ben Platt began his career onstage, appearing in a Hollywood Bowl production of The Music Man when he was just 9 years old. At 23, he became the youngest solo recipient of the Tony Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical for Dear Evan Hansen.

Between those milestones, Platt began growing his film career, beginning with a supporting role in 2012's Pitch Perfect. He's since played Meryl Streep's biggest fan in Ricki and the Flash, reprised his role in the movie adaptation of Dear Evan Hansen, and signed on to Richard Linklater's 20-year production of Merrily We Roll Along.

"As I get older and have the blessing of being even somewhat autonomous and choosing what I do — which is still not always the case — we're all still auditioning now and then!" he says. "I've really learned to appreciate what the experience of making it is going to be, and if that's a worthwhile life experience to have."

For Platt, the new comedy he's in, The People We Hate At The Wedding (on Amazon Prime Video Nov. 18), was exactly the experience he was looking for. He and Kristen Bell star as self-centered and self-sabotaging siblings who travel with their mother (played by Oscar winner Allison Janney) to their half-sister's wedding in England, with comically disastrous results.

"The script was hilarious and sweet, and I got to play something I hadn't quite played before. But, at the same time, the idea of shooting in a beautiful country with really kind people, and having a really uplifting, joyful experience sealed the deal," Platt explains. And though the role didn't call on his vocals, "It's the closest to my actual self that I've ever played. He's a queer character and we have similar senses of humor. He definitely is different from me, but it was the most I was able to play into my own instincts and think less about transforming," he says. "It was kind of a relief to not have to wear so many hats that aren't my own hats."

Platt's identity as a queer person, a musical theater lover, and an actor looking for his next great part are all reflected in the movies that most inspire him. Below, he shares with A.Frame five of the films that have helped make him the actor he is today.  

1
The Wizard of Oz
1939
The Wizard of Oz
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Directed by: Victor Fleming | Written by: Noel Langley, Florence Ryerson and Edgar Allan Woolf

I used to watch it every day after school when I was a kid, for the first eight to 10 years of my life. I used to dress up like Dorothy. I had little red slippers and a blue jumper, and I had a dog, my family's lab, that I would treat as my Toto. It was such an escape, so fantastical and such a full world. It was my first exposure not only to the way that a musical can do that, but film and just acting and art in general, and how it can be even more exciting place to spend time than the real world. That was one of the first times I was bit by the bug.

Also, as a queer person, Judy and that character have so much resonance, and it's this kind of unspoken allegory. It's a very queer movie. I think I identified with that a lot, before I even really realized.

2
West Side Story
1961
West Side Story
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Directed by: Jerome Robbins | Written by: Ernest Lehman

West Side Story is one of the first musical films that I really appreciated, not really as an adult but as a kid old enough to understand filmmaking a little bit. I love all musical movies, as I'm sure is evident by this list. I think that was one of the first where I realized where filmmaking and the art of musical theater really can meet and enhance each other. I feel lucky to do lots of different things, but the idea of marrying all those things in the form of a musical film definitely really resonated and excited me.

That movie was so brilliantly directed, and it's just visually stunning. I thought that the remake was fantastic too — we can consider that an addendum on the list — but I think the original is so kinetic and there's such a realism, even though we've got people dancing and doing ballet in the street. It's something that still feels so real and there's something down and dirty about it that I thought was impressive and exciting for a musical.

3
Birdman (or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
2014
Birdman
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Directed by: Alejandro G. Iñarritu | Written by: Alejandro G. Iñarritu, Nicolas Giacobone and Alexander Dinelaris

I find that sometimes you have to find your way into very high-brow Oscar films via an appreciation for the filmmaking. Or if it's not necessarily connecting with you thematically or subject matter-wise, you kind of watch it from the perspective of just appreciating it as an artist. It's like, I really want to be able to engage with the zeitgeist and know what are the great films right now. But this, I feel like I was able to do that, and then also because it's A) set in the world of theater and B) so unbelievably well acted and compelling and the filmmaking feat of making it feel like one fluid shot is kind of an irreplaceable experience. I remember watching that for the first time in a very visceral way.

I loved seeing something set in the world of theater that was kind of effed up and gritty and strange. There was nothing wholesome about it, which you don't often see when it comes to depicting people in the theater. I really loved that film, and the performances across the board are really, really spectacular and made me want to give performances like that.

4
Pleasantville
1998
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Written and Directed by: Gary Ross

Pleasantville is a movie that I watched as a kid and connected with so much and just watched over and over again. My favorite thing about it is probably the score. The Randy Newman score is just so gorgeous and so enhancing of the movie in a way that I hadn't appreciated in a non-musical film before — how much music can make or break a movie and the emotionality of the movie. I used to listen to the instrumental score all the time on my little iPod touch.

But the whole film is a beautiful metaphor for accepting people's differences and flaws. It's a movie all about how that's where humanity really lies, and that's what makes us people. So, all of those difficult, uncomfortable human things are what make life beautiful, and I've always found that metaphor really beautiful. Again, it's also really well acted. Joan Allen's amazing in it. Jeff Daniels is amazing, and Reese [Witherspoon], Toby McGuire. And it's visually really gorgeous, which is a theme from The Wizard of Oz, of this black and white giving way to color.

5
Cabaret
1972
Cabaret
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Directed by: Bob Fosse | Written by: Jay Allen

Cabaret is probably the best musical film ever made. You can have an argument about probably four or five musical films, but it's definitely one of the best musical films ever made. It's just so upsetting but also so compelling, and the way that the musical numbers are treated in a purely realistic way makes it feel like such a fully grounded drama. It's a film that could exist free from this incredible score [by John Kander], so the fact that it's already that compelling without it and then you also get that score? It's just really special.

Obviously, it's, like, Fosse's finest work and as a musical film, to stand toe to toe with The Godfather, it's got to be something special. Liza is incredible, and Joel Grey is one of my heroes. He's one of the only people to play a role both in the original cast and in the film and garner awards for both, and it's a really iconic performance that is definitely influential in terms of my own performing.

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