Tag Archives: Actor Wisdom

As If Thinking – Fake It Til You Make It

One of my favorite ‘tricks’ came from a psychotherapy client I worked with years ago. He suffered from episodic bouts of severe depression. After a while, he figured out a way to handle the depression while working a complex career position. When he woke up in the morning, if he felt the symptoms of depression, he would pretend that he was an actor in a movie. After he would shower, he would stare into his bathroom mirror and shout out loud to himself Action! He would then act as if he was a non-depressed movie character.

The point of this exercise was to temporarily get out of his depressed mode and act as if he were a non-depressed business person going to work and completing his daily routine. I thought this was a clever short term psychological technique of not allowing the depressive symptoms to overtake his life. Many times, people will allow the symptoms to keep them from functioning in their daily lives, making the symptoms even worse, a vicious circle soon occurs.

Sometimes, if you act as if long enough, you become that role…for good or for bad.

Quora

see also No Stupid Questions: Does “As If” Thinking Really Work? (NSQ Ep. 12)

To Be Thought Normal – Fast Food Stanislavsky List

To be Thought Normal
Agree with caution.
Ask dull questions.
Check appearance, opinions.
Be concerned about the time.
Dislike bodily contact.
Don’t take up much space – unless trying to imitate others.
Seek reassurance.
Find others strange.
Be formal.
Have a slight smile, or a slight frown.
Have moderate and/or nervous voice.
Keep others at a polite distance (if possible).
Laugh in moderation.
Sit symmetrically.
Small concealed fidgeting.
Speak in clichés.
Try not to make the first move.
Panic momentarily and instantly recover.

Johnstone, Keith. Impro for Storytellers

Lists are ways of giving the players permission to create characters that may be alien to them.

Long ago I directed a play at the Danish State Theatre School and discovered that the students knew hardly anything about the ideas of Stanislavsky (the great Russian director and acting teacher). He believed that if an actor is absorbed in trying to achieve a purpose, automatic systems will kick in (as happened to Tony Curtis, who was screwing up his debut as a messenger-boy until an older actor murmured, ‘Try to get a tip’).

Fast-Food Stanislavsky was my attempt to speed up the learning, and to my astonishment it made the players seem boundlessly imaginative.

Actor Clark Middleton Interview

You have said that your wish for people with arthritis is that they not be defined by their disability, but empowered by it.

You have to take the lead, redefine your narrative. Disabilities certainly create obstacles, but how you interpret those obstacles can become a creative act. I work in a business where one’s appearance matters, at first, perhaps more than anything else. However, people get to know you, your character and confidence, how you transform a room or engage others. Those factors can change how people see you. Not because of, but in spite of our disabilities.

Actor Clark Middleton Shares Insight Into His Shows, The Path and The Blacklist
Jeryl Brunner
Parade

Cary Grant as Cary Grant – Review by Tom Wolfe

“Cary Grant!” says the first one, coming right up and putting one hand on his shoulder. “Look at you! I just had to come over here and touch you!”

Cary Grant plays a wonderful Cary Grant. He cocks his head and gives the Cary Grant mock-quizzical look – just like he does in the movies – the look that says, “I don’t know what’s happening, but we’re not going to take it very seriously, are we? Or are we?”

“I have a son who is the spitting image of you,” she is saying.

Cary Grant is staring at her hand on his shoulder and giving her the Cary Grant fey-bemused look and saying, “Are you trying to hold me down?”

Loverboy of the Bourgeoisie, Tom Wolfe
via Roger Ebert’s Book of Film: From Tolstoy to Tarantino, the Finest Writing From a Century of Film
Amazon

Diderot, Garrick, King Lear

ROACH: Yes, well Diderot comments on that in the Paradox of the Actor, which you alluded to a moment ago. It was a demonstration of facial physiognomy, of control over the face and its expression, that paralleled a pianist playing scales. Garrick started on one emotion, and then ran his face through nine distinct emotions, recognizable, stopped, and ran his face back down through the same sequence, but in reverse, just as you would play a scale on the piano.

BOGAEV: Wow. And these two screens are kind of like a frame, a picture frame or a door frame?

ROACH: Yeah, they’re like a proscenium to frame his face. So it was just the face coming through. And that—to your point about did he need a full-body posture or movement to work his magic—the answer is as long as it was close enough, he could do it with his face alone.

BOGAEV: So, talk about a rubber face. So Diderot, as you say, wrote these passages in the Paradox that he attributed to Garrick and Garrick’s voice. He has Garrick talking about acting and also about the type of person that an actor should envision himself portraying, and he talks about an ideal man, as opposed to playing oneself. Garrick says that if you play only yourself, you’ll be a crappy actor, a mediocre actor.

ROACH: Yes, yes. That’s exactly…  You’ll be mediocre. It is a being that you imagine, that you bring into being, by the force of your creative imagination. And when you think of it, it’s an extraordinary thing to, as it were, give birth to a human being who’s not yourself, but the distillation of all that you have observed and remembered and felt, and then can recombine to put it into the two hours’ traffic of our stage.

BOGAEV: Can you give us some examples of where you see this in action?

ROACH: Diderot…

BOGAEV: For instance, he did Lear.

ROACH: Yes, yes. So that would be a good example because it was one of his most famous and successful Shakespearean roles. And he left a note behind, it was actually to the French when he was giving his parlor exhibition of Lear, and he explained how he came to his understanding of the crushing tragedy of Lear’s loss of his daughter. Garrick had heard tell of a madman who was kept confined in a private home nearby where Garrick lived, and he got permission to study the gestures of this madman, which consisted of an impassioned reenactment of a terrible event. And again and again and again, this poor man would go over this, a traumatized memory that he kept repeating and repeating. Evidently, he’d been holding his child in his arms on an upper story window while a parade went by outside, and he lost his grip on his little girl, and she fell to her death in the street below. His tragedy was reenacting this. Garrick had the insight that this was the Lear action. Garrick would reenact this madman’s gestures and then coolly step back and say, “Thus it was I learned to imitate madness.”

Joseph Roach interviewed by Barbara Bogaev
Shakespeare Unlimited

https://www.folger.edu/shakespeare-unlimited/joseph-roach-acting

Ben Mendelsohn On Fresh Air

GROSS: You know, you’re about the facts. You’re about using logic to try to solve this murder, and you’re unwilling to accept any supernatural explanation. Do you relate to that as a person? And ever – have you ever had an experience that couldn’t be explained by rational thinking?

MENDELSOHN: Yeah, I do relate to it as a person. I’m a son of a scientist. And I think in a lot of ways, I’ve had many things that are hard to explain in a mathematical or – in a way that I’m aware of, that are mystical to me. In fact, I think that we – you know, what happened in the scientific revolution, if you like, is that we actually locked off a lot of our mystical faculties and that we, as a being, probably do a lot better with some more of our mystical faculty doors open. So yes, I’ve had many things – you know, like that thing where you’re just thinking about someone and they call you. You know, that one? I mean, I’m sure you’ve had that, right?

GROSS: Yeah, I’ve kind of had that.

MENDELSOHN: I’ve had that so many times, and I get it with certain people. I’ve had situations in my life where, inexplicably, you know, someone’s just there when you just need them. And I don’t know whether we do that as a way of reverse engineering, you know, like, miracle or whether there’s something else operating out there. We can’t explain it all yet by science. That’s my – that would be my point.

‘Outsider’ Actor Ben Mendelsohn On Australian Machismo And Mastering Accents
Fresh Air

Note – in the interview Mendelsohn says Scorsese is in Taxi Driver in two places. I know the famous one: “What a 44 magnum would do to a woman’s”… He left the other one for the listeners. Stumped me.

Hamlet as improv part …

Hamlet is a tragedy where there is a part left open, as a part is left open for an improvisational actor in farce. But here the part is left open for a tragedian.

He is fundamentally bored, and for that reason he acts theatrically. The play is written entirely out of spite against actors, and by its nature the role of Hamlet cannot be done by an actor. An actor can act everything except an actor. Hamlet should be played by an actor brought in off the street, and the rest of the characters should be professional actors. The point about Hamlet is that he is an actor and you can’t act yourself. You can only be yourself.

W. H. Auden, Lectures on Shakespeare

Brad Pitt and Anthony Hopkins – Interview Magazine

HOPKINS: I’ve been dreaming of elephants. I don’t know why. There was a film I saw, when I was a child, called Elephant Boy. The elephant would take Sabu, the main character, through the jungle, and I remember sitting there with my grandfather watching it. My impression is that I sat on this big beast, whatever it is—life. At some point, I made an unconscious choice to sit on this beautiful, powerful thing. And I just go where it takes me. I think that what happens to people like you and myself. We don’t even know why. Maybe it’s a desire to escape from something. But what I believe now is that we can’t take credit or blame.

Interview Magazine

6 Jaw-Dropping Moments From James Lipton’s ‘Inside the Actors Studio’

No ordinary TV host, Lipton took a journalistic approach to his job. He spent two weeks preparing for every interview, watching every film and TV show in which a guest appeared. The actual interviews lasted four to five hours (edited down for television). And Lipton arrived at every taping with his trademark blue index cards, ready to interrogate guests.

Jack Lemmon
The legend appeared on Lipton’s show in 1998. While discussing the film Days of Wine and Roses, Lipton mentioned a scene where his character admits he’s an alcoholic.

What happens next isn’t on YouTube, but even as just a transcript, it’s still one of the most powerful moments in the show’s history.

Lemmon: “Which I am, incidentally.”
Lipton: “Who?”
Lemmon: “Me.”
Lipton: “Are you talking as Clay [Lemmon’s character] now or as Jack Lemmon?”
Lemmon: “No, as Jack Lemmon. I’m an alcoholic.”

John Bonazzo, New York Observer

Tips from professionals


What is something you know because of your profession, which you believe everyone should know to make their lives better, easier, or healthier? from AskReddit

be interestED, not interestING. I used to work in film and picked up a lot of acting tips used by industry professionals. one of the biggest lessons you learn in acting is when you’re in a scene, don’t try to show up the other person or look cool or say your lines in the most epic way possible. instead, you truly listen to the other actor’s lines. you notice details about them. you just immerse yourself in the moment and genuinely take it all in and understand it. and just by doing that and feeling the emotions of the scene and responding naturally, accordingly, boom, you’ve won an oscar for the most realistic performance, because it /is/ real. but that’s also a really good way to live life, really, truly listen to people when they speak. try to understand them. notice beautiful little details. remember what they love and what they hate and what makes them happy. be invested in the moment. don’t just live your life trying to act cool.

 

Masters degree in theatre here, I feel like I could write a book about how beneficial theatre classes are for general life. Punctuality, cooperation, compassion, listening, how to walk into a space like you own it, etc etc etc. Add some improv lessons in there and you can handle any situation.

Acting exercise – Imitate the type of person you detest most

On one occasion, I tried an exercise that Grotowski had invented. It seemed quite innocent: each person is invited to imitate the type of person he detests the most. “But there’s a catch,” said Grotowski. “You will see. The actor will reveal his own deepest nature without knowing it.” Andreas Katsulas, half American, half Greek, claimed to have a horror of religion, and he played an invaluable role in the group, for he would puncture any solemnity or pretentiousness with irresistible ridicule. For this exercise, he chose to imitate a pious young monk and walked up and down, pulling his face into a parody of a holy look. Gradually, though, the reality of the image he was illustrating outran his intention, and a deeply hidden contemplative quality in himself transformed his expression, giving to his body a luminous tranquillity that was truly his own. Actors often fear that if they lose the personality that they know, they will become bland and anonymous. This is never the case. Through the grit of hard work, it is the true individuality that appears.

Threads of Time, Peter Brook

Olivier gets a lesson from Tyrone Guthrie

20181124_0154513356354596483889217.jpg

“Something significant happened to me a short time before I played Richard. I was in Manchester playing Sergius in Arms and the Man. One night, Tyrone Guthrie came to see it, and after the show he and I began walking back to the hotel together. I remember the spot vividly: we were under the canopy at the front of the opera house. I still think of it whenever I’m in Manchester, walking to the studio from the Midland Hotel. He stopped and said, “Liked you very much.”
And I said, “Thank you. Thanks very much.”
Hearing my tone, he asked, “What’s the matter Don’t you like the part?”
To which I replied, “Really, Tony, if you weren’t so tall I’d hit you.”
He then asked me, “Don’t you love Sergius?”
I replied, “Are you out of your mind? How can you love a ridiculous fool of a man like that?”
At which he observed, “Well, of course, if you can’t love him, you’ll never be any good as him, will you?” Words of wisdom. I hadn’t looked at it in that way before. It taught me a great lesson.”

On Acting, Laurence Olivier

Show Biz Wisdom

“The show must go on.”
“Always leave them wanting more.”
“You see the same people on the way up as you do on the way down.”
“You can put as much effort into a bad movie as a good one.”
– Proverbial Wisdom

“There are no small parts, only small actors.”
– Constantin Stanislavski

“I love acting. It is so much more real than life.”
– Oscar Wilde

“All the world is a stage”
– Shakespeare

“Nobody knows anything…… Not one person in the entire motion picture field knows for a certainty what’s going to work. Every time out it’s a guess and, if you’re lucky, an educated one.”
– William Goldman

“Make sure you get paid.”
– Mick Jagger

Acting – resistance vs creativity

Resistance Slows the Flow of Creativity

Our resistance to feel can be so ingrained that we sometimes feel a little ashamed when we express certain emotions. We get embarrassed. We fear that some of our feelings may be regarded as weak.

It’s actually counterproductive to eliminate any one human emotion. If you categorize certain emotions as “good” and certain ones as “bad,” an attempt will be made to eliminate the “bad” ones. This will shut your instincts down. By discriminating against one emotion, you discriminate against them all.

Consciously or unconsciously, emotions organically move through us all the time. Each of us is a part of the whole of the human consciousness. Each one of us can relate to and reach into each other’s sufferings, hopes, and realities. Each one of us can feel because we share the commonality of the scale of all emotions. It just takes willingness. Your emotions are your most important asset. In the work, the last place an actor needs any of his feelings to be is in hiding.

In acting, a weak performance is being stuck in one emotion or choice.

“Acting Is About Making Great Choices”. Kimberly Jentzen, http://www.backstage.com

Also

Listen and react

 

Listen and react. If you’re thinking about your lines, you’re not listening. Take your response from the other person’s eyes, listen to what he says as though you’ve never heard it before. Even if you’re rehearsing. Actually, rehearsing can be a good test of your spontaneity: if you’re running lines with another actor and the assistant director comes up and says, “Sorry to interrupt your rehearsal,” you’ve failed. If he comes up and says, “Sorry to interrupt your chat,” then you’re on the right course. Your lines should sound like spontaneous conversations, not like acting at all.

Acting in Film: An Actor’s Take on Movie Making, Michael Caine