At the 92nd Academy Awards last Sunday, Brad Pitt’s performance as the professional stunt double Cliff Booth in Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood was honored with an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor. The win wasn’t too much of a surprise considering Pitt’s had quite a run this awards-show season, with his portrayal of Booth essentially raking in trophies at the Golden Globes, Screen Actors Guild Awards, Critics’ Choice Movie Awards, BAFTA, and more. 

But this means the superstar has been required to give many acceptance speeches in front of large audiences. That shouldn’t be a problem; after all, he’s been in the entertainment business for over 30 years, right? Heck, he even won a Best Picture Oscar in 2014 as a producer of 12 Years a Slave, and he stepped up to the mic then. It seems like Pitt would have acceptance speeches down cold by now—especially after the funny and charming speech he gave at the Globes just weeks ago. 

Well, after accepting his Oscar this time around, Brad made a striking admission backstage in the press room. One reporter asked him to comment about a rumor suggesting he’d hired a speechwriter for this awards season. “Historically, I’ve always been really tentative about speeches,” Pitt responded. “They make me nervous. So this round I figured we’re going to put some real work into it—try to get comfortable, and this is a result of that. No, I definitely write. I have some funny friends; I have some very, very funny friends that help me with some laughs, but, no,  it’s got to come from the heart.” 

Also, Pitt revealed the 2020 awards season has been especially memorable because “for me, it was about getting cozy in front of a mass of people. I know this sounds antithetical given the profession I’ve chosen, but it’s not necessarily my thing.”

Brad Pitt is not the only movie star who’s fearful about public speaking. Like millions of other people in the world, plenty of actors become anxious, if not feel terrified, when faced with large crowds despite pursuing a career in the spotlight. Here are three actors who’ve likewise expressed their trepidation with public speaking. By the way, the fear has a name: Glossophobia.

Harrison Ford

When the American Film Institute was honoring Harrison Ford with a Life Achievement Award in 2000, he struggled with his acceptance speech before the vast audience. The Los Angeles Times reported that he admitted, “The greatest fear in my life is public speaking.” The Star Wars actor went on to say giving speeches is “a mixed bag of terror and anxiety.”

Katherine Heigl

Katherine Heigl revealed during a tribute to Shirley MacLaine at the American Film Institute how nervous she feels speaking in front of a crowd. But her deep admiration for her role-model MacLaine inspired Heigl to step up in front of the mic. “I’m kind of petrified of speaking in public,” she admitted. “I know it seems ridiculous. But when they first asked me [to speak] my first thought was fear, and my second thought was, ‘But it’s Shirley MacLaine!’”

Julia Roberts

In the film Larry Crowne, Pretty Woman actress Julia Roberts plays a college professor of public speaking. But when it was time to shoot the teaching scenes, Roberts confessed she felt petrified. “All these faces looking up at me, thinking, ‘What is she going to teach us?’ I needed to find my composure. It was very hard—it was terrible, in fact,” she said. The scenes reminded her of her personal struggles with stuttering as a child. 

Glossophobia need not stop actors from achieving their career goals. Fortunately, practice, preparation, relaxation techniques, and being genuine can help when facing a crowd. Do you ever experience glossophobia?

 

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