JOHANNESBURG - Not all leading men are the stars of their own productions and sometimes it is the supporting cast members who steal the show.
I recall Apocalypse Now! - arguably the best war movie to ever be put on film.
In it, Captain Benjamin L Willard, played by Martin Sheen, is tasked with terminating (with extreme prejudice, nogal) Colonel Walter E Kurtz, who has gone rogue in Cambodia during the Vietnam War and is now running his own para-military unit deep within the jungle, ruling his men as a demi-god.
What follows is a study of the horrors of war and the descent into madness - the heart of darkness, if you will - metaphorically symbolised by the winding Nung River, which resembles “an immense snake uncoiled, with its head in the sea, its body at rest curving afar over a vast country and its tail lost in the depths of the land”, if you refer to the source material the film is based on.
But I digress ...
There is no doubt that Sheen’s character is the main protagonist in the story and the audience experiences this world through his eyes. Yet, in the film, his thunder as the main man is stolen not once, but twice.
The first is by Lt Col William “Bill” Kilgore, played by Robert Duvall, who digs surfing, blasts Ride of the Valkyries over the speakers of his assault helicopters and enjoys the smell of Napalm in the morning.
The second instance, is with the introduction of Marlon Brando’s Kurtz, who muses at times whimsical, and then maniacally, on the nature of war, the human condition and civilization. His monologue on realising what is necessary, though not moral, to survive the condition of war - his face hidden in shadow as he delivers the soliloquy - is harrowing.
It is the performances of these two thespians that gives the fliek that ‘wow factor’ but it is Sheen, as the lead, who binds the movie together into a cohesive whole.
Recently, Heath Ledger as the Joker in the Dark Knight, Christoph Waltz in Inglourious Basterds and Brad Pitt in 12 Monkeys, to name but a few, did something similar - they stole the limelight with their prodigious talents and made the experience all the more satisfying.
So, what has this got to do with anything, you ask. Well, it’ got everything to do with Proteas ODI captain AB de Villiers.
There can be no doubt that he is a colossus in the cricketing world and in South African sport. He is adored, revered, hero worshipped by the masses. His stats are obscene - over 8 000 runs in Test cricket and ODIs, both with an average of over 50. He can whip the ball to any part of the field of his choosing, destroy much-vaunted bowling attacks, while inventing and executing ridiculous shot-making strokes.
He seems to understand, perceive if you will, the game of cricket, as all savants in a particular field of study do.
Let us for a moment sweep aside debates surrounding the uncertainties created of who will replace national coach Russell Domingo at the end of next month; the loss of players to Kolpak deals that may or may not have had an impact on the current form of the Proteas; the blooding of new players that could halt winning momentum; and the apparent ‘Galactico Syndrome’ the senior national men’s team is dealing with under their larger than life skipper and how this may impact their approach to the game, and ask: Is AB a leading man?
Is he a captain?
Or, is he better suited in the supporting role of a histrionic player who walks on, stage right, with all the swagger of an artist on the top of his game, takes the play by the scruff, delivers his lines with jaw-dropping intensity, and then suavely exits stage left, to rapturous applause and all the plaudits.
Methinks, the recent failings of the Proteas in the UK, suggest he is less the first mentioned and more the latter.