Riz Ahmed’s Determination to Land His ‘Rogue’ Role

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Riz Ahmed plays the volatile Rebel pilot Bodhi Rook in the huge box-office hit Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. In this BBC Radio clip, he admits to being relieved when he found out he landed a part in the film. After all, he thought he’d burned all his bridges with the director. Ahmed explains it this way:

“I started spamming [Director Gareth Edwards] really aggressively….He sent me the kind of script to record the audition, and he made the mistake of giving me his email address. And I’m like a bit psycho-obsessive with my work. I love it, but I go down a black hole. It stops even being about getting a result. It’s like, ‘Oh, what if I did it like this?’ So, over the next three days I sent him like fourteen different versions of the scene. I just kept spamming him.”

Right off the bat, Ahmed emailed two approaches to the material. But when he awoke the following day and realized Edwards had not yet replied, Ahmed says:

“So instead of thinking, ‘He must be busy,’ I thought, ‘Let me just send him more.’ I just kept doing that every few hours….I kept doing like different accents and different costumes.”

Continuing, he says Edwards eventually emailed him back, writing, “Thank you for sending me all the auditions. Please stop sending me all these auditions. I’ll let you know.” A few weeks later, Ahmed was offered the role! Ahmed now jokes, “It’s amazing that I’m not in prison with a restraining order to be honest.”

Ahmed’s career is certainly on the upswing these days. He also starred in HBO’s critically lauded crime drama The Night Of playing accused murderer Nasir Khan opposite John Turturro. Indeed, both Ahmed and Turturro have received Golden Globe nominations for best actor in a miniseries or television film for their performances. Ahmed is stunned by the popularity of the eight-episode series, describing the process of getting it made “a rollercoaster.”

Riz Ahmed was born in Wembley to Pakistani parents who moved to the UK in the 1970s. His breakout role was in Nightcrawler as Rick, a jittery sidekick of Jake Gyllenhaal’s character, the thief Lou Bloom. When first invited to audition, Ahmed was told he was not fit for the role, but was still permitted to audition. One of 75 actors to try for the part, Ahmed managed to stand out. Within the first minute of his audition tape, the director Dan Gilroy grew confident in Ahmed’s capabilities. Ahmed also recently played Aaron Kalloor, CEO of a social media enterprise, in Jason Bourne.

Additionally, Ahmed is a rapper known as Riz MC–half of the hip-hop duo Swet Shop Boys along with Himanshu Suri. Riz MC is featured on The Hamilton Mixtape performing in the song Immigrants (We Get the Job Done) with K’naan, Snow Tha Product, and Residente. This means two of Ahmed’s projects are simultaneously rated number-one: The Hamilton Mixtape nabbed the top spot on the Billboard 200 chart, and Rogue One ranked number one on the movie box-office chart.

It’s most likely unwise to “spam” a director you’d like to work with, or even a casting director or a producer. But it’s clear Ahmed’s single-minded focus and determination has yielded significant results in relation to his career goals. Riz has made a habit of trusting his talent and instincts with both acting and music–and it’s certainly paid off.

Colin Farrell and Hugh Grant on the Entertainment Industry

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Is entertaining large audiences or winning awards in little-known films more important for an actor?

“Do you think acting is a kind of goal in itself, and almost a quasi-religious experience, and it’s like therapy and you’re trying to please your fellow actors? Or do you think it’s just a tool for entertaining people?” Hugh Grant recently posed this question to Colin Farrell. The two actors spoke at length during a one-on-one interview for Variety’s Actors on Actors and towards the end, Grant asked this “penetrating question.”

Farrell responded, “I think all of the above. I think it can be quite often a different thing for the actor than it is for the audience. But I think if there’s an experiential symbiosis between what the actor is experiencing in their own lives and internally, and what the audience is experiencing in purveying the work that the actor presents, I think that’s a state of grace.”

Grant, who is famous for his roles in romantic comedies, box-office hits like Notting Hill, and is regarded as an international heartthrob, agreed with Farrell’s assessment. But, he then presented this line of questioning in more practical terms; that is, delving into how an actor is likely to make decisions throughout his or her career. Grant asked: “If you had two scripts on your desk, and one was almost certain to be a big smash hit because people would really be entertained by it. But the part is kind of 8 out of 10. Then you have one where you know no one’s going to see this outside the San Sebastian Film Festival, but the part is 10 out of 10. Which do you choose?”

Irish actor, Colin Farrell’s career reflects a wide range of roles. He portrays the powerful magician Percival Graves in the box-office smash Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. But just before that, he starred in the science-fiction drama The Lobster, which garnered a small overall audience but which has received several nominations and awards.

So when considering which kind of scripts he gravitates to, Farrell revealed that although he has a “really healthy appreciation for the nature of commerce of the film business,” and he loves doing action films, he tends to favor the the “smaller, more intimate stuff.” He likes roles in lower-budget films, “because the characters don’t have to find such a big audience, the characters have a greater sense of specificity to them and maybe a greater internal struggle that can find avenues of emotion or intellectual exploration that the hundred million, hundred-fifty million films don’t afford.”

On the other hand, Hugh Grant expressed concern that actors can take things too seriously. He said, “I sometimes think we are in slight danger of disappearing up our own a**es–actors–and really we should be there to entertain people. We shouldn’t forget that. It’s an entertainment business.”

How about you? When you dream of your optimal career as an actor, which category of scripts and roles do you yearn for more? How important is the quality of the work in comparison the the size of the audience a project garners?

The Healing Power of Acting

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Sometimes the process of acting goes beyond being more than an exploration, passion, or career goal. And it, in fact, has the power to transform its participants’ lives in a healing manner.

Take Michael Shannon, for example. Shannon is known for his versatility on screen in films like Revolutionary Road which earned him an Oscar nomination, Take Shelter, 99 Homes for which he received a Golden Globe nomination, and Nocturnal Animals. In this Off Camera interview, Shannon describes his difficult childhood. His parents divorced early on, and he describes his high school years as “a disaster”–and he eventually dropped out of school.

Painting a picture of his high school social difficulties, he says, “I was in a different city with a bunch of kids I didn’t know at a very large school. So my freshman and sophomore year I couldn’t make friends to save my life.” On top of it, his father with whom he was living at the time, was going through his own hard times, which ultimately lead Michael Shannon to move. In turn, he immersed himself in community theater.

Indeed, the more he performed, the more he realized acting “might be more than just something I’m doing to kill time and ease the pain.” Instead, the theater allowed him to change how he and others perceived him. Shannon revealed:

“I guess I had a lot of inappropriate behavior, or I didn’t really fit into like normal societal situations. I struggled with those, but the great thing about the acting is that I could go on stage and act insane, where in real life if I acted that way, I’d get chastised and punished or told to shut up. But when you do that on stage, people applaud  and say, ‘Wow, you’re a genius.’ So it was a pretty easy bridge to cross.”

Sally Field is another example of an actor who found acting to be a healing force. In an emotional interview for Variety’s Actors on Actors, Field opened up about a deep depression she experienced in her late teen years. She told Hailee Steinfeld, “It took me a long time to get to anybody to really learn a craft, and that wasn’t until I was in my second television series, and unfortunately it was something called ‘The Flying Nun.’ I was suffering so badly, I was so depressed and I was 19 and I didn’t want to be playing something called the Flying Nun. I did not want to be dressed as a nun all day long.”

But fortunately she found a support that helped her emerge from the depression. For Field, that support was The Actor’s Studio. Field admitted:

“[The Actor’s Studio] really began to form who I was not only as an actor, but helped me be who I became as a person. Because it gave me tools…so that I never lose my own voice…acting tools, that I can go into myself and if I can call on those pieces of myself as an actor, then I can call on them as a human, and I couldn’t do that before.”

To hear Field’s entire comments on the topic, you can view the interview on Variety’s Actors on Actors which debuts on PBS SoCal on January 3rd.

Do you attribute acting with being a healing force in your life as well? Please share.

Jennifer Aniston Stands Up to Years of Tabloid Abuse

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It’s hard to stand in a market line and stop yourself from reading startling headlines like “FBI Captures Bat Child!” and “Dolphin Grows Human Arms!” And then in the midst of it all are the hysterical titles about the tabloid-favorite Jennifer Aniston. For two decades, publications have been grabbing our collective attention with headlines like: “Angelina Jolie Beats Jennifer Aniston Down the Aisle,” “I Can’t Stop Loving Brad,” “How Angelina Tortures Jen,” “Jennifer Aniston Strapped For Cash,” “Jen Gets Revenge,” “Jen Jilted by Her Fiance,” “Jen Confronts Fiance’s Secret Girlfriend,” “My Life Without Justin,” “Yes, I’m Pregnant–with Twins!” “Pregnant and Alone,” “Jen’s Baby Dream Shattered”–and on and on it goes.

Well, a “fed up” Aniston insists this steady stream of false reports is “getting old.” So, she penned an essay in The Huffington Post writing, “I don’t like to give energy to the business of lies, but I wanted to participate in a larger conversation that has already begun and needs to continue.” In turn, she calls out the multitude of authors who claim to write “under the guise of ‘journalism,’ the ‘First Amendment,’ and ‘celebrity news.'”

“For the record” she states that rumors of her being pregnant are untrue, and she’s had enough of all the speculation about her relationships as well as all the “sports-like scrutiny and body shaming” she’s endured. Also, the Friends star hopes to raise readers’ awareness of the negative ways such stories can shape our ideas about ourselves. She insists:

“We are complete with or without a mate, with or without a child. We get to decide for ourselves what is beautiful when it comes to our bodies. That decision is ours and ours alone. Let’s make that decision ourselves and for the young women in this world who look to us as examples. Let’s make that decision consciously, outside of the tabloid noise. We don’t need to be married or mothers to be complete. We get to determine our own ‘happily ever after’ for ourselves.”

More recently, the Office Christmas Party actress shared in a Marie Claire interview the reason why she authored the op-ed. She answered, “My marital status has been shamed; my divorce status was shamed; my lack of a mate had been shamed; my nipples have been shamed.”  With all the quality relationships she’s enjoyed over the years, the popular roles she’s performed, the awards she’s won, all the most-beautiful lists she’s graced, and being a top-earning actress for 15 years, she continuously sees a pathetic portrait of herself being painted in the press. She said, “It’s like, ‘Why are we only looking at women through this particular lens of picking us apart? Why are we listening to it?’ I just thought: I have worked too hard in this life and this career to be whittled down to a sad, childless human.”

So when asked to come up with her own celebrity headline, Aniston replied,“How’s this? ‘When I’m pregnant and married, I will let you know,” and adding, “And by the way, stop stealing my thunder! Let me have the fun of telling that story.”

 

 

‘America’s Mom’ Florence Henderson Passes On

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Florence Henderson, famous for playing Carol Brady on The Brady Bunch, died of heart failure on Thanksgiving night at the age of 82. In the 1970’s sitcom, Florence as Mrs. Brady would warmly give wise and sensible advice to her TV children, thus earning her the title of “America’s Mom.” The Brady Bunch played for five seasons, and continued for decades with reruns in America as well as 122 countries around the globe. Henderson’s portrayal of a widow with three daughters who marries a widower with three sons, represented the first blended family in television history. The Brady husband and wife also represented the first couple to sleep in the same bed before TV audiences.

Henderson was born on Valentine’s Day, the youngest of ten children, in Indiana. But unlike her iconic role as Carol Brady, her own mother left the family when Florence was just ten years old. Indeed, Florence grew up in poverty with her father working as a tobacco sharecropper. During an interview on CNN, Henderson once revealed that to play Mrs. Brady, she created the kind of mother she wished she’d had.

Henderson started acting at the age of 17, and debuted on Broadway the following year. She went on to perform in Broadway hits like Fanny and The Girl Who Came to Supper before landing the role of NBC’s first Today girl in 1959 broadcasting the weather, fashion topics, and the lighter aspects of the news. In 1962, Henderson was the first woman to guesthost The Tonight Show before Johnny Carson took the lead.

Just last year, Matt Lauer interviewed Henderson who revealed that she felt younger than she did at the age of 30. The star beamed as she said, “I try to get up every day and say, ‘Wow, it’s a great day, and I’m alive. I have four healthy children, five healthy grandchildren, I have granddogs. I have friends. I am so blessed to be able to still do what I love–I work all the time, and I’m just grateful!”

Upon hearing the sad news of Henderson’s passing, Maureen McCormick who played the role of Marcia Brady tweeted, “Florence Henderson was a dear friend for so very many years & in my <3 forever. Love & hugs to her family. I’ll miss u dearly.”

“Weird Al” Yankovic, who worked with Henderson on the music video Amish Paradise, tweeted, “So terribly sad to hear of the passing of the great Florence Henderson. It was a true honor to have known and worked with her.”

In fact, Florence Henderson’s impressive resume was quite long and varied. Besides starring in Broadway hits and being ranked among the top one hundred Greatest TV Icons according to Entertainment Weekly, Henderson has worked as a talk show host, a cooking show host, she authored the book Life Is Not a Stage: From Broadway Baby to a Lovely Lady and Beyond, and worked as a certified hypnotherapist. Additionally, Henderson was a commercial spokeswoman for brands like Oldsmobile, Wesson oil, and Polident. And at the age of 76, she even competed on Dancing with the Stars!

Her later film works include The Grandmothers Murder Club  about “Four older women who kill people–but they deserve it!” Henderson said. And she appeared in the parody Fifty Shades of Black with Marlon Wayans.

The advice she often gave to kids was: “Keep a cool head and keep a warm heart. And always remember those who helped you on the way up.”

Rest in peace, Florence Henderson.

Benedict Cumberbatch on Character Development

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“Yes, I do build up a backstory in my head even if it’s just for me.” –-Benedict Cumberbatch

Marvel’s Doctor Strange actor Benedict Cumberbatch’s resume includes a long, impressive list of awards and nominations for his film, television and theater work. In part, he can boast appearing in four films that were nominated for the Best Picture Oscar: Atonement, War Horse, The Imitation Game, and 12 Years a Slave–the last of which won the category. On a recent webchat on The Guardian, Cumberbatch answered fans’ questions about a variety of topics. After sharing what his favorite flavor of coffee is, and which books he’s currently reading, the Sherlock star was asked if he takes the time and effort to create a backstory for his characters. Cumberbatch responded with an admittedly “verbose” answer. But here is his reply regarding processes to build up backstories and specific skills for his prolific characters.

“Yes, I do build up a backstory in my head even if it’s just for me,” he said. “As far as preparation goes, it’s important to understand the who, what, where, why of the character before you meet him.” Cumberbatch continued:

“That helps the character employ those tactics for whatever action they’re trying to perform, which can necessitate a limit of choice as well as a discovery of new things to be learned as an actor to portray the character with. For example, a character I played in a Martin Crimp play called ‘The City’ at the Royal Court [theater], was describing an incident where he was humiliated in his new job to his wife, and I began to [characterize] the voices in his story when Katie Mitchell [director] pointed out that it was unlikely he would have the confidence to do that as opposed to me, because I could. Those differentiations are vital, but often (and this really ain’t no humblebrag) I’m chasing the tailcoats of my character’s abilities, whether it’s their intelligence or professional excellence, or even their ability to sing/play piano/ride a horse/paint some of the great works of modern art! All these things require a heavy tutoring in new skill sets, one of the many privileges of our job, i.e., getting to learn new stuff and continuing with a form of further education, I suppose. And the results, while varied, sometimes work, but it’s all smoke and mirrors, and I often feel like a horrible fraudster. I think the worst is when I played violin as Sherlock–a skill that takes years of childhood and adolescent practice time….But just to finish, vocal and physical differences, prep of any sort, work on a backstory, learning a skill, all has to be given time and when it isn’t you run into [generalizing], and I’m fully aware I’ve done that on occasion, and so aim to create enough space around my work so there is enough space between roles and I have enough time to [honor] the tasks each present me with.”

When it came to developing Doctor Stephen Strange, the English actor delved deeply into the character using the source material as well as relying on president of  Marvel Studios and “superfan” Kevin Feige and the film’s director Scott Derrickson’s encyclopedic knowledge of the character and story. He also referred back to his experiences as a teenager when he taught English in a Tibetan monastery which got him in touch with “the power of the mind to change your reality.”

Here is a clip of Cumberbatch and Derrickson as well as actor Mads Mikkelsen talking about how they prepared to capture the mystical world of Doctor Strange.

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Mila Kunis Pens Gender-Bias Essay

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Mila Kunis describes herself as “livid” in a recently penned essay calling out Hollywood on issues of gender bias. The essay was published on her husband, Ashton Kutcher’s website aplus.com.

The Black Swan star describes her experience with an unnamed producer who was pressuring her to pose semi-nude for a men’s magazine to promote an undisclosed film. However, Kunis writes, “I was no longer willing to subject myself to a naive compromise that I had previously been willing to.” This refusal was met with a threat by the producer: “You’ll never work in this town again.” Feeling livid and objectified, Mila stood her ground for the first time despite fearing the possible repercussions to her career. Much to her relief, she states, “And guess what? The world didn’t end. The film made a lot of money and I did work in this town again, and again, and again.”

Mila joins a growing list of women who have called out industry sexism over the years. Other actresses taking a stand include Meryl Streep, Jennifer Lawrence, Zoe Saldana, Sandra Bullock, Kerry Washington and Geena Davis. Indeed, according to research from Geena Davis’ Institute on Gender in Media, women are underrepresented in film, and when they do appear, they are seen and heard far less than their male counterparts. They are also paid less, and are three times as likely to appear nude in scenes as their fellow male actors.

However, Kunis describes several kinds of “microaggressions” she’s encountered along her career path, saying:

“Throughout my career, there have been moments when I have been insulted, sidelined, paid less, creatively ignored, and otherwise diminished based on my gender. And always, I tried to give people the benefit of the doubt; maybe they knew more, maybe they had more experience, maybe there was something I was missing. I taught myself that to succeed as a woman in this industry I had to play by the rules of the boy’s club. But the older I got and the longer I worked in this industry, the more I realized that it’s b***! And, worse, that I was complicit in allowing it to happen.”

To rise above this treatment, Kunis formed a production company with three women she admires. Together they develop shows for television, and work with many professionals who demonstrate equity and respect while tending to project details. However, Kunis describes how from time to time she continues to encounter “appalling” comments from others.

In turn, she concludes with purpose:

“I’m done compromising; even more so I’m done with being compromised. So from this point forward, when I am confronted with one of these comments, subtle or overt, I will address them head on; I will stop in the moment and do my best to educate. I cannot guarantee that my objections will be taken to heart, but at least now I am part of creating an environment where there is the opportunity for growth. And if my comments fall on deaf ears, I will choose to walk away.”

She hopes other women who experience similar unwanted remarks and diminishing treatment in the workplace will be inspired to assert themselves more readily.

Mark Duplass Shares How He Made Films with Limited Resources

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“If you really want to be in the business of being an actor, the days of thinking only as an actor are probably over. The most frustrated actors I know are the ones that are waiting for someone to give them the gig. You must make the gig….And the tools to make stuff now are available to everybody. You could make a movie on your phone. And people do.” —Jason Alexander

Duplass Brothers Productions is an independent film and television company founded by Mark Duplass and his brother Jay. Together they write, direct, produce and act in their projects. Known for creating movies on limited budgets, their work comes to life with a strong emphasis on improvisation and collaboration. And it especially digs deeply into what people attempt to hide from others, namely their vulnerabilities, insecurities, fears as well as moments of joy associated with what’s often considered to be small events. As a team, they don’t allow skimpy resources to stop them from creating projects that they’re passionate about.

Originally inspired to be like the Coen brothers, they followed the “rules” that seemed to be laid clearly before them; that is, work hard, go to film school, and learn all the required and practical production skills. “And we got so obsessed with the propriety of everything,” Mark recalls, that they neglected to tend to the most important part of filmmaking: “the meat.”

Years passed, and although the brothers felt the conviction that they indeed had “something to offer,” they weren’t really yet achieving their creative goals. In this Off Camera interview, Mark describes how one day he spontaneously told his brother, “Forget all the **** we learned in film school–forget it all. Like Mom and Dad’s video camera, I’m going to get a tape, and I’m coming back.” By the time Mark returned, Jay had given some thought as to what subject matter might work. Jay described a time when he nearly had an identity crisis while struggling to record an outgoing greeting on his answering machine. The brothers went with the idea–just the two of them–right then, and improvised as they worked. Mark describes the process of making the seven-minute short film This Is John by saying:

“This felt like us when we were little following our instincts. All communication was nonverbal–very Neanderthal-like. And we edited it down, and it was our first movie that got into Sundance. And that has set the tone for everything we’re doing today, which is–as much as possible–to trust that weird little voice that’s inside of us…And the more I do that, the better off I am generally.”

Their subsequent work includes The Puffy Chair which also screened in Sundance and attracted the attention of major studios; the comedy-drama film Jeff, Who Lives at Home; they co-created HBO’s series Togetherness; and the duo recently finished the comedy romance about two ex-high school sweethearts who cross paths 20 years later in the film Blue Jay which will be released on Netflix this coming December.

Mark firmly believes in allowing actors to go off script in the quest of capturing an authentic emotional moment. “If you’re locked to the words on the script, as good as those scripted words are, if you didn’t have the time to rehearse them correctly or if the perceived dynamic between the actors is different from what the writer imagined, and you’re not allowed to stray from that, you’re going to have a stilted scene,” he insists.

Here is the short This Is John–the film that had such an impact on their careers. Mark and John’s work serves as both a reminder and an inspiration that it’s indeed possible to produce quality work with limited resources.

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Successful People Avoid Doing These Things

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What contributes to one’s success is a complex matter. Skill level, attitude, social deftness, one’s ability to listen and to take initiative represent just a few of the innumerable qualities that can contribute to favorable outcomes in one’s career.

But according to Travis Bradberry, the president at TalentSmart and the coauthor of Emotional Intelligence 2.0, an important attribute in the quest for achieving success is the ability to manage emotions and remain calm especially while under pressure. TalentSmart studied over a million subjects and found that the “upper echelons of top performance are filled with people who are high in emotional intelligence.” Indeed, the company’s research found that a whopping 90 percent of top performers demonstrate high emotional intelligence. So, here are a few of the behavioral patterns observed–specifically, things that highly successful people deliberately avoid in order to remain calm and controlled in all circumstances.

Avoid living in the past

Sometimes it’s quite a challenge to overcome the perceived failures of the past. People often prefer to stick with what’s safe and comfortable. But according to Bradberry, “Emotionally intelligent people know that success lies in their ability to rise in the face of failure, and they can’t do this when they’re living in the past.” He continues, “Anything worth achieving is going to require you to take some risks, and you can’t allow [past disappointments] to stop you from believing in your ability to succeed.”

Don’t dwell on problems or holding grudges

What you choose to focus your attention on directly affects you emotional state. Therefore, Bradberry says, “When you fixate on the problems that you’re facing, you create and prolong negative emotions and stress, which hinders performance. When you focus on actions to better yourself and your circumstances, you create a sense of personal efficacy that produces positive emotions and improves performance.” In other words, simply taking steps to seek solutions can make a big difference in both how you feel and in what you accomplish.

Similarly, those who tend to be successful avoid holding grudges. He explains that when you repeatedly relive a negative conversation or experience, you trigger a fight-or-flight physical response. “When a threat is ancient history, holding onto that stress wreaks havoc on your body and can have devastating health consequences over time,” he states.

Don’t say “yes” too often

Studies have shown that people who overextend themselves increase their chances of feeling stressed out and depressed. Although it can be surprisingly hard for people to say “no” to others in various circumstances, Bradberry insists it’s a “powerful word that you should not be afraid to wield.” Successful people don’t soften their “no” responses with explanations like, “I’m sorry but I don’t think I can….” Rather, they are direct and stand firm knowing they are prioritizing the fulfillment of their current responsibilities and commitments.

Don’t get stuck on the idea of perfection

It’s important to remember that nobody is perfect–nor is anyone’s work without its flaws. Bradberry’s wisdom imparted to perfectionists might help them to see the bigger picture, and better appreciate their efforts. He says, “Human beings, by our very nature, are fallible. When perfection is your goal, you’re always left with a nagging sense of failure, and you end up spending your time lamenting what you failed to accomplish and what you should have done differently instead of enjoying what you were able to achieve.”

Avoid negative people

As you’ve surely noticed, people who tend to complain as a matter of habit can really bring you down. “They wallow in their problems and fail to focus on solutions. They want people to join their pity party so that they can feel better about themselves, “ Bradberry says. If you find yourself feeling obliged to listen to persistent complaints out of a desire to be polite, kind, and sensitive, he reminds us, “There’s a fine line between lending a sympathetic ear and getting sucked into their negative emotional spiral.” He recommends people keep a distance from chronic complainers much the same way one might purposefully keep away from a chainsmoker.

In the spirit of avoiding negative people, here is a video clip created by entrepreneur Patrick Bet-David that addresses “eight personality traits that repel good people out of your life.”

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Top Actors Describe What They Believe Makes a Good Actor

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Being an exceptional actor takes a whole lot of skill level, dedication, experience, and sacrifice. Add to that, the mysterious “it” quality that great actors always seem to possess. But what do actors, from their unique perspective, say is important to cultivate what it takes to become a truly great actor? Although the required personal qualities or habits could fill countless books, here are a few examples of what actors have mentioned among their various interviews over the years.

Set a clear goal to become a great actor

Gary Oldman: “Wanting to be a good actor is not good enough. You must want to be a great actor. You just have to have that.”

Pierce Brosnan: “The word ‘star’ doesn’t mean an awful lot to me. ‘Good actor’ and having the respect of one’s peers means more.”

Tom Sizemore: “I didn’t come to Hollywood to drink or get high, and I don’t want to be considered a cool actor–I want to be a great actor.”

 

Take Risks

Lena Olin: “To be a good actor, you have to be very smart. But to be a great actor, you also have to have a streak of, ‘I’m an idiot, a complete lunatic.'”

Nicolas Cage: “To be a good actor you have to be something like a criminal, to be willing to break the rules to strive for something new.”

 

Stay Open to Life

Lane Garrison: “To be a good actor you have to feel life and observe life.”

Sarah Bernhardt: “He who is incapable of feeling strong passions, of being shaken by anger, of living in every sense of the word, will never be a good actor.”

Peter Berg: “You know to me, being a good actor, the most important quality is you’ve got to love to play, and to just be open to anything.”

 

Be on the outlook for opportunity

Denzel Washington: “Black or white good parts are hard to come by. A good actor with a good opportunity has a shot; without the opportunity it doesn’t matter how good you are.”

Bryan Cranston: “When you’re an actor in grade school, high school, college, whatever, you start to realize what you’re really good at, what you’re kinda good at, what you’re okay at, and you start to compartmentalize. But if you know yourself and what you’re capable of, it’s just a matter of opportunity.”

Kristin Stewart: “I really, specifically, love acting, and I think it’s a really cool thing to be really indulgent and follow that. I have a lot of ambitions in life, but for the next few years, I just want to be an actor. That’s a lucky opportunity, and that drives me to want to be good at that.”

 

Keep acting in perspective

Gary Busey: “There has got to be more to life than being a really, really, ridiculously good actor.”

Katherine Heigl: “If I spread myself too thin, I’m not a good actor, I’m not a good mother, and I’m just really high-strung–and everybody hates me.”

Shia LaBeouf: “If people perceive you as a good actor then they’ll wish for you to be a good actor and they’ll root for you when they watch you. But if you come out and you’re going to clubs every night, people don’t root for you anymore.”

James Dean: “Being a good actor isn’t easy. Being a man is even harder. I want to be both before I’m done.”

Daniel Radcliffe: “There’s no blueprint for where I should be. I see myself as a young, good actor who still has a lot to learn. There’s nobody at any point in their career who is the finished article.”

Anna Faris: “Blythe Danner is somebody whose career I admire. She’s a great actress and does good work, but also has a life of her own. I love my job but, at the end of the day, I want to come home and watch a movie and drink a bottle of wine with my husband.”

 

A Dose of Ego

Robert Redford: “I had just arrived in New York from California. I was nineteen years old and excited beyond belief. I was an art student and an acting student and behaved as most young actors did–meaning that there was no such thing as a good actor, ’cause you yourself hadn’t shown up yet.”

Jean Anouilh: “A good actor must never be in love with anyone but himself.”

Sibel Kekilli: “Acting for me is like a ping-pong game. That’s the secret of acting. When you have a really good actor, I always want to be as good as he is or she is.”

What personal qualities or habits do you feel are critical for actors to have in order to become great actors?

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