Frustration can arise for just about any actor in the world due to reasons and circumstances beyond their control. There’s the frustration when work is slow, when you come in second for a desired role, when you feel unsupported by the cast or crew, when you’re low on cash, or when you land roles with which you feel zero connection–to name just a few! When you’re in the thick of a messy situation, seeing an upside can be challenging to say the least. But Tim Harford believes that frustrating situations present unique opportunities to tune into creativity and to excel in unforeseen ways. Citing cognitive psychological studies, he illustrates how the predictable step-by-step gains that occur under typical circumstances pale in comparison to those in which messiness enters the equation. Frustration halts complacency and requires problem solving. But Harford warns that obstacles are often accompanied by unwelcome,  unpleasant feelings–and this is why we humans resist hurdles as much as possible. But what we resist, what we don’t enjoy, that which frustrates us can lead to a better performance.

Take Robert Pattinson for example. He went from playing Cedric Diggory in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire to being cast as telepathic vampire Edward Cullen in Twilight. Although this was a tremendous opportunity for the young actor, Pattinson admitted he had no interest in the character, saying, “When you read the book … [Cullen’s] the most ridiculous person who’s so amazing at everything. I think a lot of actors tried to play that aspect. I just couldn’t do that. And the more I read the script, the more I hated this guy, so that’s how I played him, as a manic-depressive who hates himself.” Pattinson would go on to portray the brooding and moody Cullen for four years, becoming a teen heartthrob to boot. Pattinson never attempted to hide his frustration with the role during interviews. “My entire performance is based on having extreme discomfort having contact lenses in your eyes,” he said.

The Sound of Music is a movie for the ages. Once seen, who will ever forget Julie Andrews as the musical governess sewing children’s clothing out of curtains, Christopher Plummer as the uptight Captain Georg von Trapp, and all the adorable singing and dancing kids? It’s a movie that people enjoy watching over and over again. But one actor who was cast in the film didn’t want to watch it even once! Although Christopher Plummer wanted the role of the romantic lead and was glad to work opposite the multi-talented star Julie Andrews, he was very frustrated with the limitations of the strict and humorless Trapp. “I was a bit bored with the character,” he said. Disgruntled on set, Plummer referred to the film as The Sound of Mucus. He found Trapp to be inhuman, and in his frustration, felt compelled to overcome the problem. “Although we worked hard enough to make him interesting, it was a bit like flogging a dead horse,” he said. Grinning and bearing the repellent part certainly paid off though: the movie went on to be regarded as Plummer’s most memorable film role (among his prolific 50-year career!) the movie won two Oscars and is regarded as one of the all-time best movies by the American Film Institute. Indeed, years would pass before Plummer decided to watch the film. He was pleasantly surprised to see it actually was pretty good–but unpleasant memories of playing the Captain never ceased to cramp his style.

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