Matt Damon on Nerves

April 25, 2016

The late great thespian Laurence Olivier was said to be so nervous before stage performances he needed a bucket in the wings in case he lost his dinner. Robert Pattinson has admitted to hating auditions with a passion because, “I get so nervous, like cripplingly nervous.” And Emma Stone has confided that she often needs to use coping strategies to deal with occasional panic attacks. There are many ways to deal with nerves and anxiety in relation to auditions and acting including deep breathing, positive visualizations, vigilant preparation, listening to soothing music, and consistent sleep, exercise and meditation. But, possibly the simplest and most effective advice in regards to acting nerves comes from the one and only Matt Damon. Matt is an Academy Award winner, and A-lister, and he’s acted alongside many legendary actors in his young life. Not to mention he’s kicked serious butt as the unstoppable Jason Bourne! Matt’s advice to deal with nerves is to simply “make a decision to not be nervous.” This is actually advice he received from Tom Hanks on the set of Saving Private Ryan. In this Australian ABC News interview, Matt shares the first time he heard this helpful approach:

“I was asking [Tom] about the movie he did with Jackie Gleason. I said, ‘What was it like to work with Jackie Gleason?’ And he thought about it for a second and he said, ‘You know, I made a decision to not be nervous.’ And I went, ‘What?’ And he goes, ‘I knew everyone was so nervous around him. And I just said I’m not going to be nervous around him. And once he realized I was treating him like a fellow human being, we really had this great working relationship.'”

Turns out, this was the strategy the star-struck Damon tried to use when interacting with the celebrated Tom Hanks on set as well. After all, we’re all human, and certain people–maybe a big-time producer, major star, or renowned casting director–can trigger a serious case of the butterflies right when you’re hoping to be on top of your game.

This uncomplicated advice illustrates the enormous personal power you possess as an actor. The mind is a powerful thing; consciously controlling your thoughts might make all the difference in the way you approach people and situations. And if you can make a decision to not be nervous, what else can you make a decision to do?

Tom Hanks on Adapting in His Acting Career

September 20, 2015

Tom Hanks is among the Hollywood elite known for having a remarkably prolific career spanning decades. How has he kept his career so enviably alive and well over the years? In this interview, Hanks gives us an important clue as to his winning career strategy. He explains:

“I think about every five years, I went through some sort of process of reexamining where I was in life, you know, as a man as well as an actor and thinking like guess what? I’m 36 now and there’s a whole world of movies that I can’t make anymore because I can no longer–I don’t want to–play the young man who’s trying to figure out life. I want to play a man with bitter compromise; I want to play someone who’s been through something. So, it’s a never-ending process, I think, of examining where you are in life as a human being, and then transposing that so it’s going to be reflected in your work somehow.”

What worked for him as an actor in his mid-twenties, for example, the lead role of Kip Wilson on the TV series Bosom Buddies, was relying heavily on energy and boldness. But Hanks explains that just a few years later, he noticed he was maturing when he realized he needed to bring more to how he approaches his performances. This new wisdom informed subsequent noteworthy roles like the enthusiastic childlike Josh Baskin in the hit comedy Big in his early 30’s–however this time period in his life was also marked with a number of flops. But Hanks once said, “You learn more from the things that don’t work out than the things that do. I worked harder on ‘Turner & Hooch’ than I did on 80% of the films I made.”

Next, Hanks career evolved with more dramatic roles like lawyer Andrew Beckett suffering with AIDS in Philadelphia as well as romantic comedy-dramas like Forest Gump in his late thirties. At that time he said, “My work has become less pretentiously fake and over the top.” In his mid-forties, Hanks gravitated to roles in films like Saving Private Ryan and Catch Me If You Can. More recently, now in his late 50’s, Hanks starred in Captain Phillips, and he’s paired up with Steven Spielberg in the upcoming film Bridge of Spies about covert politics during the Cold War to be released in October.

As of 2014, Hanks’ films have grossed upwards of $8.4 billion worldwide, making him one of the highest-grossing actors in history. Clearly, he’s managed his career brilliantly. He asserts, “Anytime you go off to do something new, you’re involved in a reinvention, and any actor who says otherwise is just trying to lower expectations.”


Watch Tom Hanks Rehearsal Tape for ‘Forest Gump’

June 20, 2015

In this footage of Tom Hanks rehearsing for his Oscar-winning role of Forrest Gump with co-star Robin Wright, you can hear him speaking without the characteristic Southern drawl we all now associate with his endearing character. That’s because when Hanks initially accepted the role, he was thinking of easing Forrest’s distinctive accent. Was this creative decision as powerful as the eventual choice to replace it with a heavy drawl?

Well, it was the director, Bob Zemeckis, who convinced Hanks to adopt the familiar twang as it was established in the novel from which the movie was adapted. But specifically, Hanks went on to pattern his character’s manner of speech to match the unique accent of the young actor who played Forest in his early years, Michael Conner Humphreys. As you can hear in this video clip, the adorable Humphreys sounds much like the Forrest we’ve come to know.

This illustrates the collaborative process it often requires for a character to evolve. Writer Winston Groom who authored the 1986 novel Forrest Gump, envisioned a Forrest with some “rough edges” and he pictured John Goodman playing the part. However, it was John Travolta who was offered the title role; but he passed on it. Although this video clip is described as an audition for Hanks, he never actually auditioned for the part. He had finished working on A League of Their Own, Sleepless in Seattle, and Philadelphia and so was simply given the role. However, this clip is reportedly a screen test for Wright as well as Humphreys, Hanna R. Hall who portrayed the young Jenny, and Haley Joel Osment who played Forrest Gump, Jr..

Forrest Gump went on to win many accolades including Oscars for Best Picture, Best Actor in a Lead Role, Best Director, Best Visual Effects, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Film Editing.

Do you have a personal story of collaboration and evolution of a special character? Was it a positive and transformative experience as it was for Hanks and his co stars? Did it empower your art or advance your career? Or in retrospect do you wish you’d listened to your own instincts and ignored the input of others? Enquiring minds want to know!

Will You Think Twice About Losing or Gaining Weight for a Role?

October 10, 2013

tom-hanks-type-2-diabetes.jpgTwo-time Oscar-winning actor, Tom Hanks recently appeared as a guest on the Late Show with David Letterman where the host expressed how wonderful and youthful Hanks was looking. Tom shared that he’s making healthy choices in his life after visiting his doctor. “I went to the doctor and he said ‘You know those high blood sugar numbers you’ve been dealing with since you were 36? Well, you’ve graduated. You’ve got Type 2 diabetes, young man.'”

Those “high blood sugar numbers” that Hanks mentioned are what’s referred to as pre-diabetes. According to Clinical Director of Mount Sinai Diabetes Center, Dr. Ronald Tamler, “There is this stage where blood sugars start climbing, and that condition is called pre-diabetes, and we can already see who’s at risk for getting diabetes. And so, at that stage, you can turn back the clock and prevent people from getting diabetes.” Eating healthfully and increasing physical activity cuts an individual’s chance of getting the metabolic disorder in half. Specifically, you can lower your risk for getting Type 2 diabetes by 58% upon losing 7% of your body weight (15 pounds if you weigh 200 pounds). And exercising moderately 30 minutes a day 5 times a week can help decrease your chances by 30%.

So how did Hanks develop the disorder? Doctors say that the dramatic weight fluctuations he experienced to play different film roles may have contributed to his condition. According to medical reporter, Dr. Holly Phillips: “In dramatic weight gain and dramatic weight loss, the equilibrium of the body is just completely off.” Hanks indeed gained 30 pounds to play a slovenly baseball coach in the 1992 film, A League of Their Own, and about eight years later lost 55 pounds to play the ship-wrecked survivor, Chuck Noland, in Cast Away.

Weight fluctuations are nothing new in the entertainment industry. Christian Bale lost a startling 62 pounds while dieting on coffee and apples for his role in The Machinist, and then morphed into a robust, musclebound Batman in less than one year. And Matthew McConaughey dieted on one daily piece of chicken, Diet Coke, and egg whites in pursuit of playing an AIDS patient in Dallas Buyers Club, losing about 40 pounds. Losing or gaining weight for roles demonstrates praiseworthy commitment to the craft, and can often lend to greater Hollywood credibility. But nutritionist Ian Marber warns, “Dramatic changes in weight interrupts the metabolic rate. Even if you’re losing or gaining at a less dramatic rate–of say five to 10 pounds repeatedly–it still ‘confuses’ your metabolism.” Although Marber can’t confirm any direct links between Type 2 diabetes and dieting, he does confirm that it certainly increases the risk of developing the disorder.

57-year-old Hanks is now one of the estimated 25.8 million people in the United States who is struggling with diabetes. One reason this disorder takes many by surprise is because people with pre-diabetes may not experience any clear symptoms. That’s why Tom Hanks coming forward with his condition is an eye-opener. If it can happen to someone with so many advantages and resources, then it can happen to anyone. What do you think? Will Hanks’s diabetes change the way actors alter their weight while committing to their characters? Will you think twice if producers ask you to gain or lose weight for a particular role?

The American Diabetes Association’s website has tools to aid in early detection of the disease. To take a free and easy diabetes risk test, click here.