Originally published in the Union College Magazine, Fall 2014
“Silver Linings Playbook” is an acclaimed film that received no less than eight Oscar nominations in 2013. Its cast includes Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Robert DeNiro and a man with a theater degree from Union.
This fact, that he’s an actor, is still a little bit unbelievable to Phil Chorba ’05. He’d never – ever – considered the career when he was in college. But an injury that refused to heal properly changed all that.
“I broke my ankle during my sophomore football season. I was upset about my early athletic retirement, I’d played football since the first grade,” said Chorba, who visited with students during a class of Theater Professor Bill Finlay’s in April. “And since I was still recovering, I didn’t want to walk far to class.”
“North College, where I was living, was literally right next door to Yulman Theater,” he continued. “I took a class with Patsy Culbert and things immediately took off. What was merely convenient geography altered the trajectory of my life.”
Chorba, a Chi Psi brother, acted in six large productions during his time at Union, and loved every second of it. He had an affinity for the stage.
“With football, and pretty much everything except cooking, I had to bust my ass to compete, but with acting, I had some raw talent,” he said. “It felt so good to be naturally good at something.”
That doesn’t mean he wasn’t nervous when he got cast as Jordie, Jennifer Lawrence’s sleazy ex-boyfriend, in “Silver Linings Playbook.”
“At first, I was terrified on the set because of all the names attached, but everyone was really cool and friendly,” Chorba said. “Bradley is very warm and complimentary. Jennifer has a very bubbly and sharp-witted personality and is also very welcoming.”
So is “Silver Linings Playbook” his big break? Will it be that special, career-altering role entertainment reporters always talk about?
Not a chance, and not because it wasn’t a great experience or opportunity.
“The biggest thing that people don’t know about acting is that there is no such thing as a big break. It’s a total myth, it’s more like you have hundreds of little breaks,” Chorba said. “You point out a big role that one actor did and I’ll tell you about all the commercials and bit parts in soap operas they had that slowly built them up to a higher level.
“It’s show business after all, and no one is going to rally investors for $50 million dollars to give an unknown a chance.”
Chorba is certainly raking up his share of little breaks. He’s done a bunch of commercials and he’s appeared on T.V. shows like “Lipstick Jungle,” “The Team,” “Onion Sportsdome,” and “Broad City.” He also performed in a short horror/thriller from Indie film outfit Borderline Films.
“My most challenging role was playing the anonymous title character in a dark neo-noir short film, ‘Man with a Gun,’ which came out in June,” Chorba said. “And I have an episode of Steven Soderbergh’s ‘The Knick’ that will debut later this year.”
While he hopes for continued success, Chorba doesn’t want to see his name in shining lights or have a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. He just has two simple goals.
“When my son Orson, now 4 months old, goes to college, I want to be able to write a check without any trouble,” he said. “I want to work enough that my family lives well, but not so much that I become a celebrity.”
His perfect scenario goes like this:
“Someone walks by me and a second later they think, ‘Did I go to high school with that guy? How do I know him?’ Then, a few blocks after that they think, ‘Ohhh, he’s that guy from that thing – Paul Chorpa, maybe? Yeah, that’s his name, Paul Chorpa.’”