To Self-Reflect or Not to Self-Reflect: That is the Question

May 8, 2014

actors-self-reflection.jpgAll actors have unique ways of approaching their work, improving their skill set, and learning from experiences on the job. Take Tom Hardy, for example. The Inception and Locke actor recently expressed a conviction in the importance of watching playbacks of his takes in order to inform his performance. According to Hardy, “I don’t believe in the magic of theater as much as I believe in control and manipulation and illusion and sleight of hand. A lot of actors may think they’re doing something, but what’s coming across is something else entirely.” For this reason, he admits he has problems working with actors who choose not to study and analyze their own performances because, in his eyes, they are essentially refusing to acknowledge their mistakes and make appropriate adjustments.

Hardy would likely not enjoy working with the Inside Llewyn Davis actor, Adam Driver. Although Driver made an exception and opted to watch the Coen brothers’ film because, being a music fan, he “wanted to see the music,” he has specifically avoided viewing other films he’s been in such as Lincoln. “It still hasn’t really sunk in that I was in that movie, and there was something about watching it that I’m just not ready for.” So did he see his performance in the HBO series, Girls? “With ‘Girls,’ after I saw the pilot, I was like, ‘There’s no way I can watch the rest of this series, especially if it continues to go on,’ because I feel like there’s an impulse to try to make it look better or neater or more perfect…And I feel like with the things I’m in that I have watched, I go into a spiral and obsess about all the mistakes I made.” He admits it can take months to recover from such a trauma.

Other actors who don’t like to watch their own performances include The Walking Dead’s Andrew Lincoln, Game of Thrones’ Peter Dinklage, and two actors from Lost–Sayid Jarrah and Matthew Fox. On the other hand, Jason Bateman draws strength from watching his dailies, saying, “I’ve always learned a lot about what I need to do better watching myself because you can feel like you’re communicating X-level of anger or happiness or nervousness, and then you can watch it on film and it’s just not as good. Or big or small as you intended.”

How about you? Do you make it a point to review your takes to assess your abilities, or do you specifically avoid watching your own work? And does it bother you when actors have a different approach from you?