I’ve long been a fan of Inside the Actors Studio, hosted by James Lipton. As an avid movie watcher, I’m always interested in hearing how really great actors approach their work, and learning details about the films I know and love. The show is in many ways a type of master class, in which both the guests and audience have a chance to share openly with each other. There are of course a number of parallels that can be drawn between music and drama – particularly stage acting for plays and musicals – and I thought it might be fun to find some relevant quotes from a few of Inside the Actors Studio‘s distinguished guests. I’m sure there are plenty more, and if you know of an especially good one please feel free to comment. For each quote I’ve included information such as the season, episode, and the general subject to which the quote applies.
Robert Downey, Jr.: Season 12, Episode 5 (On Preparation)
There’s not really a lot to explore until you know it so well [the script], backwards and forwards 150%, that you can say it backwards and forwards 150%.
Dave Chappelle: Season 12, Episode 9 (On Failure)
I’d never been booed off stage before, but I just remember looking out and seeing like everybody booing–everybody…And that was the best thing that ever happened to me, best thing, because before that time, I had never bombed, let alone got booed off stage, and bombing was horrifying…so that night was liberating because I failed so far beyond my wildest nightmares of failing, that it was like, hey, they’re all booing, my friends are here watching, my mom, this is not that bad, and after that I was fearless.
Sir Ian McKellen: Season 9, Episode 5 (On Risk)
If you can in rehearsal risk everything, dare everything, take as it were, your clothes off if necessary, your emotional clothes off, discover things about yourself in the public arena of a rehearsal, if you can do that, then you’re likely to stumble over some truth about the character which relates to the truth about yourself, and then you’ll be on the right track.
(On Choosing Projects)
James Lipton: How do you make your choices, what are the criteria that make you say I’d like to do this project?
Sir Ian McKellen: I tell you what it won’t be about – it probably won’t be about how much I’m going to be paid. It probably won’t be about where is the work to be done. It probably won’t be about the size of the part, though it will be about its impact on the story being told. But, it will be about who’s directing it, and who else is likely to be in it, and do we have enough money to do this properly, in terms of rehearsal, or enough takes if it’s a movie. And if it’s something that I’ve just done recently or reminds me of territory that I’ve already trodden over, well then I probably won’t want to do it. And if the director’s right and the script’s good and the part is impactful, and there’s some other sparky actors involved, and it’s something that I’m not absolutely certain that I can do, then I’m a happy man.
Jim Carrey: Season 17, Episode 2 (On Acting)
That’s kind of like, the thing I’d love to, you know, to share with people, that it’s much more than just acting. You’ve got to transcend whatever b*(&^%$t is going on around you at the time, and actually make a performance happen. That’s really the work of acting. Yeah, I call it “distracting.” I always feel like, you know, acting schools should do scene work, get them to a certain level of excellence, and then bring the scene up [on stage] while I throw tennis balls at your head. Then let’s see how you do.
Al Pacino: Season 12, Episode 4 (On Expression)
For me, the key is to find it, personally, and in this play [Creditors, by August Strindberg] I could express myself to such a point that I couldn’t do it in life as much as I could in this play. As a matter of fact it’s so much easier to do it, and much less taxing, to do it in your work, than to do it in life. Life, it’s sort of hell getting upset. But on stage, you can do it, because there’s a license to do it, and it’s a different kind of thing, it’s like having an instrument that you’re playing through.