The Mystery of Acting

March 1, 2013

Christian Bale in The Fighter

There are a million ways that actors describe the mystery of the actor’s journey. When the audience sees quality acting, it’s instantly recognized, creating a visceral response and genuine emotional impact. But how does an actor tap into this abstract ability? As complicated as it is to perform brilliantly, it’s another challenge entirely to describe the process. Here are a few examples of actors attempting to deconstruct the mechanisms of an unforgettable performance:

“I’ve always remembered something Sanford Meisner, my acting teacher, told us. When you create a character, it’s like making a chair, except instead of making someting out of wood, you make it out of yourself. That’s the actor’s craft–using yourself to create a character.” –Robert Duvall

“All an actor has is their blind faith that they are who they say they are today, in any scene.” –Meryl Streep

“You’re creating a different world and the actor’s job is to be able to convince the audience to enter into that world, whether it be actually something that you recognize from your own life or not.” –Christian Bale

“Never relax, and mean what you say.” –James Cagney

“Speak clearly and be human.” –Victorian actor, Henry Irving

“Part of being an actor is letting things come about organically as opposed to forcing them.” –David Duchovny

“Part of the reason of being an actor is you like playing other people’s lives and exploring all the psychologies in that and the emotions.” –Nicole Kidman

“Acting deals with very delicate emotions. It is not putting up a mask. Each time an actor acts he does not hide; he exposes himself.” –Rodney Dangerfield

“Being an actor means being an instrument for someone else. I want to give myself completely.” –Catherine Deneuve

“Well, I think any actor can probably identify with being a professional liar. You don’t always look at yourself that way, but I know a lot of days I do.” –John Cusack

“As an actor you become that lighting rod between the person who made the play and the audience.” –Christopher Walken

“Studying cows, pigs and chickens can help an actor develop his character. There are a lot of things I learned from animals. One was that they couldn’t hiss or boo me.” –James Dean

“In the beginning was the Word. Man acts it out. He is the act, not the actor.” –Henry Miller

“Well, in order for me to be successful … In order to be a great artist–musician, actor, painter, whatever – you must be able to be private in public at all times.” –Lady Gaga

“That’s what sets apart one actor from another, and that you can’t teach. You can’t give someone that. When you’re working, putting a character together, or in a scene, that’s where things will happen that you have to have the intuition to notice them, and to register them.” –Gary Oldman

“There’s a fine line between the Method actor and the schizophrenic.” –Nicolas Cage

“Oh yes. I’m an actor, so I just learn my lines, and show up and do it. I gave it a little bit of thought.” –Anthony Hopkins

What great actor did I miss? Please share your favorites. And more importantly, how about sharing your own personal philosophy on the mysteries of this intriguing craft?

Supportive Friendships Can Boost Your Acting Career

April 6, 2012

“A friend is someone who many years ago offered you his last $300 when you broke your pelvis. That friend is Gene Hackman.” –Robert Duvall

Think of your acting buddies. Are they solid? Do they get it? You know what I’m talking about. Pursuing the dream of a successful acting career can be a tough road to hoe. It’s not for the faint of heart, and only a select few reach the highest levels in the industry. If this is the dream to which you aspire, you’re going to need all the support you can get.

But how much do quality friendships really matter when you’re pursuing a career in acting?

Consider Matt Damon and Ben Affleck. Close friends since childhood, they co-wrote and starred in Good Will Hunting, and since have gone on to appear in many films together. Affleck says their friendship is now as strong as it’s ever been, and they have a slate of films they plan on developing together.

The films of the seventies had a raw, violent quality, but they were also heartfelt, and spiritually intense. Films like The French Connection, Marathon Man, and The Godfather dealt with the bonds of friendship and the importance of loyalty. Three actors who worked constantly in that revolutionary decade of filmmaking are also close friends and comrades in arms. Robert Duvall, Gene Hackman, and Dustin Hoffman were honing their crafts and looking for work in the highly competitive New York film scene when they met and became fast friends. Duvall and Hackman actually roomed together at one point when money was tight. The three encouraged and helped one another, and often participated in elaborate practical jokes to keep their spirits light.

While playing Monopoly, Nicholas Cage encouraged his friend and struggling musician Johnny Depp to become an actor. Cage introduced Johnny to his agent; the next day, Depp auditioned and got a part.

In your career, you may discover that finding such supportive friends is not always so easy. Somewhere along the line, you might notice that you avoid telling a certain friend about your awesome auditions or when you land choice roles because you sense he or she might not be entirely happy with the news. Indeed, if you are really serious about your acting career, there will likely be times you’ll want to consider avoiding certain counter-productive people and colleagues–and instead surround yourself with people you admire, who motivate you, and with whom you can talk openly about the sacrifices you’re making in pursuit of your dream.

Having good friends who share your values is important in any career. Some would argue they’re especially valuable when pursuing acting because the field is based on raw emotions and expressing vulnerability. Sometimes simply having someone to read your lines with, or someone to drive you to an audition can make all the difference. And when someone refers you for a part or to an agent, that can make a real impact. When you find such friends, it’s something to appreciate fully.

Most importantly, do your best to be a genuinely supportive, encouraging friend to other aspiring actors as well. Celebrate when they book a role. Share helpful acting advice. Don’t hesitate to make the first move toward friendship. Despite the competitive nature of the entertainment industry, it is ultimately a people business chock full of collaboration. The quality of your relationships are of utmost importance–and they enrich your life.