All the love, time, and devotion poured into learning the noble and compelling craft of acting is not enough these days; today’s thespian needs to be ready to whip up a self-tape when an audition opportunity presents itself. But not everyone feels they have a decent command of lighting, sound, angles, and cameras—at least, not yet. And just how far should an actor go when it comes to production? Here are some famous actors who likewise have struggled with creating self-tapes.

Benedict Cumberbatch

Sherlock actor Benedict Cumberbatch once shared how an iPhone self-tape helped him land the role of Khan in J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek Into Darkness. Back in 2012, the British actor described how over the winter holidays, he received several phone calls saying that the esteemed director Abrams was considering him for a “not-so-good guy” in the upcoming starship Enterprise flick. The British actor was urged to make a self-tape as soon as possible. 

But Cumberbatch was not at all confident in the technical aspect of creating a digital audition. Needing support, he reached out for help. He recalled, “So I rang some friends of mine—and when I say friends, I mean the top casting directors in England.” But when everyone was away on vacation,  he contacted several other industry professionals hoping someone—anyone—would help him make an audition tape. 

Finally, his best friend agreed to assist him in the task. Cumberbatch recounted, “My Flip [phone] wasn’t working, I couldn’t get any kind of recording device. I said, I’m going to do it on my iPhone. It’s high quality, it’s HD. It will be fine.” In ArtsBeat, the actor described:

“So I ended up squatting in their kitchen, at about 11 o’clock at night. I was pretty strung out, so that went into the performance. And his wife, Alice, bless her, with two children asleep—they’ve got enough on their plate without this actor in a crisis in their kitchen—and she’s balancing two chairs to get the right angle on me and desk lamps bouncing light off bits of paper, just trying desperately to make it look half-decent. Because it’s going to J.J. Abrams’ iPad.” 

After the mini shoot, Cumberbatch had to deal with compressing the footage. After the mad rush and all the stress of getting the tape to Abrams, he was dismayed to learn J.J. was on vacation! It was about a week later that Cumberbatch learned he indeed landed the role. 

Tyrese Gibson

When Fast & Furious actor Tyrese Gibson learned Quentin Tarantino was casting for the revisionist Western Django Unchained, he knew he wanted in. The rapper, actor, songwriter passionately created a self-tape for the title role, going to great lengths to hopefully increase his chances of landing the part. Gibson shot various scenes, each in its own location, and he changed his costumes accordingly. In fact, he even added a heart-wrenching soundtrack to accompany his performance. He then ended the tape with one of his own quotes: “As an actor, you should NEVER assume people know what you’re capable of. We are perception creators so if those perceptions don’t exist, you create them.” Of course, the role of Django went to the Oscar-winning actor Jamie Foxx. But Gibson’s tape did end up going viral.

Eliza Scanlen

Before Australian actress Eliza Scanlen was cast in the HBO miniseries Sharp Objects and starred in Babyteeth and Little Women (2019), she had to grow accustomed to self-taping. Scanlen recalled, “When you’re an aspiring actor, you do so many self-tapes that it gets to a  certain point where you have to develop a thick skin, otherwise you will never survive.” Being a young actress, she could often count on help from her mother. “My mom usually does my self-tapes, and we’ve built a kind of shorthand with one another,” she said. Something Scanlen learned about self-taping along the way was to open things up. “Just having fun with it and not feeling restricted in your space and giving yourself enough space filming the shot to move around, things like that.”

Comments

comments