“If you follow your bliss, you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while, waiting for you, and the life that you ought to be living is the one you are living. Wherever you are–if you are following your bliss, you are enjoying that refreshment, that life within you, all the time.” –Joseph Campbell

Being an actor takes a lot of drive. Whether you’re a newbie, or you’ve been immersed in the acting game for a number of years, tuning into your sense of purpose will both guide and sustain you over the long run. Maybe your convictions will help you choose the right roles; maybe they will help you appreciate the roles you get; maybe your convictions will push you to take more risks and reach out for bigger challenges. Below is a list of actors expressing various sources of motivation that either brought them to acting, or keep them going on a daily basis.

“If I weren’t allowed this outlet, there wouldn’t be a place for me in society.” –Daniel Day-Lewis

“That’s what I like about acting. When you’re preparing for a role, you do your research, and the bonus is you get to learn these skills. Now, it’s on to whatever the next thing is I have to learn.” –Parminder Nagra

“I started out as a guitarist in the early ’80s. I hooked up with a guy who idolized James Dean and he gave me a copy of the Dean biography, ‘The Mutant King,’ which I thought was really interesting. While reading the book I watched Rebel Without a Cause and I thought, ‘Wow, this guy really has something,’ and I was hooked.  I wasn’t really into acting at the time–but James Dean was the catalyst.” And “There’s a drive in me that won’t allow me to do certain things that are easy. I can weigh all the options, but there’s always one thing that goes: ‘Johnny, this is the one.’ And it’s always the most difficult–it’s always the one that will cause the most trouble.” –Johnny Depp

“I’m really, really happy with what I do for a living. And, I mean, that’s what I consider work: like being on set, bringing a character to life, and, you know, working with other actors and directors and stuff. That’s what I consider to be work, and it’s so much fun.” –Gabourey Sidibe

“When I started in movies, I said, ‘I want to be the biggest movie star in the world.’ The biggest movie stars make the biggest movies, so [my producing partner James Lassiter and I] looked at the top-ten movies of all time. At that point, they were all special-effects movies. So Independence Day, no-brainer. Men in Black, no-brainer. I, Robot, no-brainer.” And “I love to create. There’s something about making movies that just really get me excited. It’s not the movie-making probably as much as the storytelling. I love people being wrapped in a story and being able to deliver that emothional punch line at the end of the story.”–Will Smith

“I love performing in costume dramas. Because if a funny kind of way, you feel more free. You know about the period. You can read the books. You can see the paintings. But you’re never actually going to know what it was like. You are never going to have been there so there is always room: you can stretch those boundaries a bit.” –Keira Knightley

“That’s the reason why I chose acting, to get to work with people like Sean Penn.” –Kristen Stewart

“I’m up for anything that will get me to the truth of a performance.” –Nicholas Cage

“I never felt like I completely, 100% understood something so well as acting.” And “I’m doing what I love, and then I get months and months of rest. I have a lot of money for a 21 year old. I can’t stand it when actors complain.” –Jennifer Lawrence

“On some level, acting was a survival thing, I suppose. I never made the connection at the time, certainly, but this ability to go on stage and take on some lines that are written for you and perform in this costume that’s been given to you, and have an audience that’s all ready for you: it just seems like a perfect way to live your life. But it was also a wonderful escape.” –Guy Pearce

“Every time I go to work, I feel like it’s the first time; I feel terrified and excited and exhilarated and like a deer in the headlights. I think: ‘How do I do this?’ And then it just happens. Like riding a bike, you know?” –Liv Tyler

“My work is more fun than fun but, best of all, it’s still very scary. You are always walking some kind of high wire. I guess it’s like being a sportsman. When people ask great football stars or cricketers what they will miss most when the time comes to stop, they’ll tell you that it’s that moment when the ball comes to them. In that moment, there’s that wonderful anxiety, that feeling of ‘Please don’t let me screw this up.’ If I didn’t have the chance to do what I do, it’s that I would miss more than anything. That terror is what makes me feel alive. It’s a wonderful feeling, unlike anything else in the world.” –Tom Hanks

“I think the only reason I remain an actor is that you can never quite get it right. So there is a challenge to it.” –Susan Sarandon

“That’s what I like about acting. You don’t know where you’ll be in a year.” –David Walton

“I just love being an actress. I want to do it forever. Right now, I’m just having fun running from aliens. Who wouldn’t want to have that kind of pretend world?” –Dakota Fanning, age 11

“It’s an awesome thing to be flung out onto the stage twice a weekend in front of 250 people, and you have to make it up as you go along.” –Joel McHale

“Nobody ever encouraged me in this business. I encouraged myself. I was a very dull and shy child. I was the last person you would expect to be a success in this business. But I always felt if I kept going something would happen. But I even surprised myself at times. When I was doing ensemble theater and comedy work, I felt I had some talents. But when I started doing my shows in Berkeley and found that I could be funny on my own, I was shocked.” –Whoopi Goldberg

“One of the most important keys to acting is curiosity. I am curious to the point of being nosy. What that means is you want to devour lives. You’re eager to put on their shoes and wear their clothes and have them become a part of you. All people contain mystery, and when you act, you want to plumb that mystery until everything is known to you.” –Meryl Streep

So what, dear Thespian, draws you to the field of acting? Please share!

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