The first in a series of actors’ reminiscences researched by Jack Tewkesbury:
AT FIRST, ACTING WAS ONLY A MENTAL EXERCISE
I was a college intellectual — you know, the kind of a guy who can write in three languages on a restroom wall.
I was a philosophy major in college, which prepares you to do nothing but teach philosophy or write. I had done a couple of plays. I was looking for something that was challenging and would provide me with a variety of experience.
When I first went on stage I was frightened to death, so I was interested in overcoming that fear. Later I became fascinated with the process of working with a group of people. If I had known then how difficalt it was to get a job as an actor, I might have tried something else.
But even then I thought of it as a job you worked on for a finite time, and when you finished that you went on to something else. It seemed an interesting, productive way to live.
I worked as a carpenter only because I was doing the same part over and over again on episodic television. I wanted to begin to control my own career, so I found another way of making money to pay for the food and rent. I wanted to be able to choose from among the parts that were offered me. I never gave up my desire to be an actor.
I’m not the type who hides behind a character. Neither am I a rubbernosed actor. I don’t go for accents or vocal characterizations. I pretty much use myself in my films, but I don’t rewrite the role in terms of myself. I try to play the character.
I never lose sight of the fact that I’m acting. I don’t became so immersed in the part that, if you were to talk to me after the camera stopped rolling, I would still be in character. I’ve never developed anything for myself because many times, when projects are developed with a specific actor in mind, they tend to lean on his supposed strengths and avoid what are thought to be his weaknesses.
I would rather play something written for Dustin Hoffman than what is written for me. I don’t think a character should be written to serve an actor. He should be created both by the screenwritter and the actor to serve the story.
|25th April 2012,|