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
Yakim says this creative exercise is an important part of an artist’s training. “In acting you have to use a lot your imagination,” he says. “And the imagination does not go naturally to places where the body cannot go there. The more you free the body, the freer the imagination is to go wherever it needs to go.”
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.
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.
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: “Are you talking as Clay [Lemmon’s character] now or as Jack Lemmon?”
Lemmon: “No, as Jack Lemmon. I’m an alcoholic.”
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.
“We were, and indeed are, very different actors and people. I will always be an active actor, and John a passive one. I’m a peripheral player who goes out to the character, whereas he stays in the center, finds something in the part that will suit him, then pulls it in towards himself.”
Olivier, contrasting himself with John Gielgud. On Acting, Laurence Olivier.
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
“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
“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”
“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
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.
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
“First, you have to psych yourself into a good night’s sleep, after having arranged a fool proof wake-up call. Second, you have to be sure of your transportation arrangements when you do get up in the morning because your time is their money, and if you don’t know how you are getting to the studio or the location on time, you won’t have the job when you do get there, late. Establish where to go (the venue of your shoot might always be changing) and then mentally rehearse your journey there as if it were the first scene in the film. You’ve got to get your own act together before the camera’s act can begin. Being prepared isn’t just for the demands of your part; it’s also for the demands of the studio or location. You must get your bearings and establish where to go and what to do when you get there.”
Acting in Film: An Actor’s Take on Movie Making, Michael Caine