Award-Winning Actor and NYFA Board Member Matthew Modine Holds Master Class for Acting for Film Students
April 6, 2017
Award-winning actor and New York Film Academy Board Member Matthew Modine delighted Acting for Film students with his intimate master class, held at NYFA’s theater in Battery Park. Modine says his loyalty to and friendship with the Academy sprang from his relationship with its founder, Jerry Sherlock, whom Modine says had a profound impact on his life.
Perhaps best known for his performance as Private Joker in Stanley Kubrick’s "Full Metal Jacket," Modine made his feature film debut in John Sayles' "Baby it's You" (1983), soon becoming one of Hollywood's hottest young actors with his contributions to three Vietnam War-era films. The first was Robert Altman's "Streamers" (1983), in which he played a soldier preparing for decampment to battle. This was followed by a starring turn as the mentally unstable titular character of Alan Parker's "Birdy" (1984). Modine also starred as a high school wrestler in "Vision Quest" (1985), and as an FBI agent in "Married to the Mob" (1988).
Re-teaming with Altman, Modine played Dr. Ralph Wyman opposite Julianne Moore in "Short Cuts" (1993), which won a Golden Globe for best ensemble performance. He earned Emmy and Golden Globe nominations for his portrayal of Dr. Don Francis in the HBO movie "And the Band Played On" (1993), and received another Golden Globe nomination for his role as Sammy Ayers in the Hallmark movie "What the Deaf Man Heard" (1997).
Modine made his feature directorial debut with the crime drama "If ... Dog ... Rabbit" (1999), and earned recurring parts in the television series "The Bedford Diaries" and "Weeds" in subsequent years. He also became more active on the stage, portraying legendary playwright Arthur Miller in "Finishing the Picture" during the Goodman Theater's 2004-05 season, and tackling the iconic role of Atticus Finch in a Hartford Stage production of "To Kill a Mockingbird" in 2009. He made his Broadway debut in the revival of "The Miracle Worker" in 2010, and contributed supporting roles in "The Dark Knight Rises" (2012) and the Sundance darling "Jobs" (2013).
Most recently, Modine won the SAG Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series award for the role of Dr. Martin Brenner in the Netflix original series "Stranger Things." He appears in the "Sicario" sequel "Soldado," the thriller "47 Meters Down," and the British comedy of manners "The Hippopotamus," which was directed by NYFA alumnus John Jencks.
Modine says his acting aspirations began as a child when he would go to the drive-in movie theater where his father had worked. From there, Modine began telling his friends that he was an actor, until it actually became true when he got the leading role of George Gibbs as a sophomore in his high school’s performance of "Our Town." From there he moved to New York City to study under Stella Adler.
"There was something about New York that called me," said Modine. "I was taught by Stella Adler. She told me if I was only there to be a movie star, to just leave. She said, 'I dont teach you to be a movie star, I teach you to be a human being.'"
This philosophy has remained true to the core of who Modine is, both as an actor and in his role in society. Admittedly a very liberal man, Modine doesn’t shy away from sharing his political and spiritual beliefs, and believes all actors should act accordingly as it is their duty as artists.
"What we do is very important," said Modine. "We tell stories that change people's lives."
Modine kept the evening loose and was very inviting. In fact, he began by introducing each and every student to the audience, so that everyone was acquainted with one another. He stressed the fact that actors should have each other’s backs.
"You don't want to be with another actor that doesn't have your back," he said. He also added to, "Find a scene partner that is better than you. It'll help your game. You'll learn from them."
Once again stressing the importance of understanding each individual from a worldly perspective, Modine referenced "To Kill a Mockingbird," saying, "You’ll never truly understand a person until you get into their skin and move around in it."
Modine continued the evening by breaking down powerful scenes from his films, including "Birdy," "Full Metal Jacket," "Married to the Mob," "And the Band Played On," "Streamers," and others.
One surprise to Modine came when it was announced during the master class that "Stranger Things" was nominated for a Peabody Award.