With lots of actors and performers looking for a job, the film industry can be a treasure trove for many scam artists which are incredibly adept at taking advantage of decent people. Aspiring actors who have recently graduated from drama and acting schools are more likely to fall for the hook of con artists due to a lack of professional experience.
However, if actors just starting out know how to spot and fend off these cons, they have no reason to worry. Especially for those vulnerable recent graduates, experts from Vip-Writers have collected and described some of the most common acting frauds an average performer usually has to deal with at the beginning of their career:
In the film industry, there can be many swindlers who pretend to be legit managers. They usually ask aspiring actors to pay a “submission fee.” They convince their victims that they are using their funds for submitting them for acting roles and that performers should cover these costs themselves. Meanwhile, these con artists rarely try to actually help the performers get their careers started.
Both fresh grads and experienced performers should note that honest managers never ask performers to pay them anything but an industry norm of 10-20 percent cut of what actors earn while being promoted by them.
Talent Agent Scams
This scheme is very similar to those used by those pretending to be legitimate managers. The latter introduce themselves as talent agents and give naive performers big promises and false hopes since “they are very talented and have all the chances to succeed professionally.”
These scammers blow smoke at aspiring performers telling them about many superstars they claim to have found and represented. In fact, every actor should be weary of all offers that seem to be too good to be true.
These “professionals” usually give actors their contact info and lots of promises. Once these performers call these agents to get more info about an offer, they are always asked to pay additional and/or random fees they probably weren’t told about ahead of time. These excess fees are a clear red flag you should always be weary of.
Since the Internet has become a primary source to find casting calls, and since it is very easy to set up fake websites and social media accounts, many scammers perpetuate their fraud online. There are many scam-like platforms charging a fee to performers to post their headshots, and many in the end do little to nothing with these resumes.
To fend off online fraud, performers should only use well-known, legitimate websites, and keep away from services asking them to pay unnecessary fees!
Another type of fraud very popular with shady agents can happen to new actors and seasoned ones alike. For all performers, it is important to be alert when signing off on any official documents. Therefore, they should ask a legal counsel to read the fine print before agreeing to the contract terms–no matter how legitimate their prospective talent agent or manager seems.
There are many impostors tending to include outrageous terms on these contracts, which green performers may be willing to accede to. It can often be worth paying extra money for legal counsel; otherwise, these actors take the risk of signing away their rights to scam artists.
No honest professional will be insulted by performers asking for a few days to familiarize themselves with a document and show it to a legal counsel. Legitimate professionals also know about these frauds and thus are flexible with the actors’ requests. If someone insists on a contract being signed right away, then this is definitely a red flag.
The longer acting school graduates pursue their profession, the better their gut instinct will get at identifying and avoiding various types of acting frauds. Since fresh grads are just starting their career, they should take every offer with an abundance caution–better safe than sorry!
Self-tapes are what many actors and casting directors refer to when an audition is done through digital casting–rather than trying out in person, performers submit video of their audition. For some actors, this can be more daunting than an in-person audition while for others, it can be less stressful. In either case, it’s important to remember some tried and true tips, including the following:
Read everything you’re given
Depending on the production and the script, specific details can be including in a casting notice to help the actor, including information related to text analysis questions: who, what, where, when, and why?
Highlight the parts you will be trying out for and circle any important verbs or words to stress or overplay. Throughout your sides, focus all attention on any physical details put in by the writer. If none are present, make bold choices and be a risk-taker.
Find a reader
Teamwork can be key to success for self-tapes. Ask a fellow classmate or friend for help, feeding you lines and handling the camera while you focus on performance. Acting with a partner can help you disappear more into the scene.
But it’s okay if you can’t
However, if no friend, classmate, or teacher can be found, rehearse the scene a few times on your own before you turn the camera on, and then record at least three different takes, including different acting choices if possible. This will give you options to choose from when sending out the tape. Even if you can’t get feedback in the moment, feel free to send the footage to a trusted friend or colleague for notes before sending out the final version to casting.
Don’t forget to slate
In the process of recording a self-tape audition, it is expected to slate, which means introduce yourself. Be natural when giving your name and contact information, and be clear so if your performance goes well, you will already have made a memorable impression. Shift down your head at the end of your slate for a small pause to transition from your introduction to the scene itself.
Act for film
Unlike an in person audition, you will need to do a little self-directing for the camera. Find your mark on the floor (use tape if necessary) to make sure you are standing where you need to be in frame. You can put tape on the wall or a piece of paper behind the camera as well to provide yourself an eyeline.
Make sure the most important thing we see in the video is you, ideally in front of a plain wall to avoid visual distraction.
This doesn’t mean renting out a Victorian corset if it’s a period piece, but make sure what you are wearing isn’t distracting from the performance, in the same vein as the background behind you. Avoid any flashy colors, patterns, logos of any sorts or any shapes of forms. Less is more like when walking in for a live audition. Make up as well should be a minimum except if the role demands more. The less external distractions there are, the more casting will focus on you and your performance.
Finally, the follow up on these auditions is just as important as any other job interview. Be clear and concise in your emails or voicemails, following up a few days after submitting your tape. You won’t come off as needy or desperate–following up is standard procedure and will make sure you weren’t forgotten or lost in the shuffle.
Even with all the connections in the world, and the most expensive camera money can buy, you probably won’t go too far in the film industry without a great body of work. Your portfolio is arguably the most important asset you have, and in order to gain the attention of the people you want to meet and work with, your portfolio must be relevant and meaningful.
How do you build this portfolio? If you’re struggling on how to get your portfolio in motion, here’s six useful tips for getting started:
Stay Active in School
As a film student, it can be easy to get caught up in exciting plans for the future (or even the weekend), but you should keep in mind that the school projects you’re currently working on aren’t just for a grade – they are your time to build a portfolio.
Your time in film school, while it can sometimes seem neverending, is perhaps one of the few times in your entire career where you sit down and entirely focus on YOU. Not your clients, your boss, your producer – no, you are focusing entirely on self-improvement during film school. Taking advantage of this time and taking it seriously will be the biggest way to get a jumpstart on your portfolio.
Get ahead in school and make the most of it by:
Quit procrastinating and get started early. Act like you’re getting paid to work on every project.
Stay humble and assume your work needs improvement whenever possible.
Ask instructors lots of questions and don’t be afraid to bug them.
Volunteer to assist other classmates with shoots and edits.
Ask for feedback on your work from classmates and instructors.
Attend extracurricular workshops and events whenever possible.
Search the closest job boards and attend school functions to connect with your most experienced teachers or fellow students. Initiating relationships with these people will provide you with a valuable network of directors, editors, and actors. Your network will follow you when you graduate.
When you’re competing for gigs in the film industry, it’s highly advantageous to showcase a multifaceted skill set. Soon after graduation, challenge yourself to write, produce, and direct an original series. Execute the entire process from inception to final product to marketing it.
Regardless of the success, completing this project will give you real world experience creating and producing a project from end to end. It will also send the message to potential hiring producers that you have the work ethic and diligence to finish what you started. Many people coming out of film school have never put together their own project or have what it takes to see something through outside of film school. Don’t get too caught up in view counts or trying to launch the next Stranger Things, the key is that having the ability to show that you can produce a whole series will speak volumes.
IMDb pro is a useful resource for obtaining the contact information of nearly anyone in the film industry. There is a monthly membership fee, but you will benefit greatly from being able to reach thousands of producers, directors, editors, and crew. The service provides filmographies and credits for millions of titles along with access to in-development projects not listed on IMDb. Many of these features will gain importance as you progress in your career and must evaluate track records, cast relationships, and search for casting alternatives.
When you’re first developing your portfolio, you should use this tool to contact people you’re interested in working with. Get creative on how you can become a part of their network and give them a call. Rather than spam the entire catalogue, do your homework on the person you’re contacting and know the right time to make your move. Lead with your strengths and learn to project confidence rather than desperation. If you are genuine and effective, doors will open.
Start In Commercial Work
Every artist would like full-time film work, but sometimes things don’t line up immediately. Commercial & corporate video work can help keep you active in the general video production industry. Apply for corporate video jobs or offer services to business owners in your personal network to make web videos, commercials, marketing content, and other videos they might need. Even if you make a few thousand dollars, it’s money that can be used to refine your portfolio even further. You can pull shots from these videos that look more film-like to build your overall demo reel and they’ll never know it was a small business video.
48 Hour Film Project
The 48 Hour Film Project is a multi-city contest in which teams of participants draw a genre from a hat and then write, shoot, and edit a movie in 48 hours. Teams have full control over plots except for a character, a prop, and a line of dialogue that must appear in their film. The award for Best Film and a cash prize is awarded to entries that demonstrate artistic merit, technical merit, and adherence to the assignment. Films are then premiered at a local theatre for friends and family.
An event like this is a fun way to add a completed project to your portfolio. Additionally, if you produce a good piece, there’s always a chance you could win. Contestants have gone on to have success in other film festivals and others used recognition of their film to get paying work. Film Festivals are also great vehicles for making connections with people in your craft, particularly those who have an interest in your preferred genre. Make the most of the platform these organizations provide in order to get new people talking about your work.
Produce Music Videos
Music videos are one of the more fun ways to bring good work to your portfolio. There is constant demand for this service from young people who are rappers, singers, or in bands. Building a network of music artists is considerably easy to do via Twitter or Instagram. As you acquire more paying clients, shooting music videos can turn into a solid source of money for new equipment. It is actually much easier to get funding for these videos than a short film.
Creating videos for music artists allows you to explore creatively and will add things to your portfolio that commercial work won’t. Try to find artists who are looking to incorporate elements of film to their videos. While music videos are generally 2-3 minutes long, they usually welcome obscure or artistic concepts. It’s the perfect chance to showcase precise visual storytelling, and to capture a few extra shots for your demo reel.
Article by Mike Clum.
Mike Clum is the founder of Clum Creative, a corporate video production company that employs 16 full-time video production professionals.
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences have announced the nominees for the 91st annual Academy Awards, to be given out during ABC’s televised ceremony on Sunday, February 24. The Oscars will cap off a months-long awards season featuring industry veterans, newcomers, and as always, endless debates about who deserves to go home with the golden statue.
Mahershala Ali appeared as a regular on the television series Crossing Jordan, Threat Matrix, and The 4400 before pivoting to films with The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Predators, and The Place Beyond the Pines. He has still acted in many high profile television series roles since, including House of Cards, Luke Cage, Treme, Alphas, and True Detective. This is his second nomination; he previously won in this category for Moonlight in 2017.
Adam Driver, BlacKkKlansman
Adam Driver came to fame for his supporting role in HBO’s Girls, around the same time he appeared in Clint Eastwood’s J. Edgar and Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln. The NYFA guest speaker became a Hollywood superstar after being cast as Kylo Ren in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Additional credits with high-profile directors include Paterson, Inside Llewyn Davis, Midnight Special, Logan Lucky, Frances Ha, The Man Who Killed Don Quixote, and Silence. This is his first Oscar nomination.
Sam Elliott, A Star Is Born
This is the first Oscar nomination for Sam Elliott, despite the actor having appeared in countless roles since his film debut in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Just a few of his credits include Road House, Mask, Gettysburg, Tombstone, The Golden Compass, Hulk, Thank You for Smoking, and his iconic role as The Stranger in The Big Lebowski. His television credits are not sparse, either—he’s appeared as a regular or recurring character on Justified, Mission: Impossible, Grace and Frankie, and currently stars on Netflix’s The Ranch.
Richard E. Grant, Can You Ever Forgive Me?
Richard E. Grant has been appearing in films for over three decades with credits including L.A. Story, Henry & June, The Player, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, The Age of Innocence, Spice World, Gosford Park, and Corpse Bride. He has been taking on more high-profile roles of late, including roles in Logan, Doctor Who, The Nutcracker and the Four Realms, Game of Thrones, Downton Abbey, and the upcoming Star Wars: Episode IX. This is his first Oscar nomination.
Sam Rockwell, Vice
Sam Rockwell has been acting since the late 1980s, slowly gaining recognition and prominence through a series of roles in films including Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Lawn Dogs, The Green Mile, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. His supporting role in Galaxy Quest and starring role in George Clooney’s Confessions of a Dangerous Mind helped certify Rockwell as a household name, and he’s since appeared in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Matchstick Men, Iron Man 2, Seven Psychopaths, and The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. This is his second Oscar nomination; he won in the same category last year for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.
Amy Adams, Vice
This is the sixth Oscar nomination for Amy Adams, though she hasn’t yet won the award. The Academy first recognized Adams for her supporting role in 2005’s Junebug. She received nominations in the same category for Doubt, The Fighter, and The Master. Her sole nomination for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role came in 2014 for American Hustle.
Marina de Tavira, Roma
Roma has brought international recognition to Mexican actress Marina de Tavira, whose credits include Efectos secundarios, Los árboles mueren de pie, and Sexo y otros secretos. This is her first Oscar nomination; she was previously nominated by Mexican Cinema Journalists for Efectos secundarios and Los árboles mueren de pie, as well as for Roma at the Latino Entertainment Journalists Association Awards.
Regina King, If Beale Street Could Talk
Regina King first got her start as a teenager on the hit sitcom 227. Since then she’s appeared regularly on television series such as 24, The Leftovers, Southland, American Crime, and The Boondocks, and will be starring in the new HBO adaptation of Watchmen. Her film credits include Friday, Jerry Maguire, How Stella Got Her Groove Back, Ray, and the sequels to Miss Congeniality and Legally Blonde. This is Regina King’s first Oscar nomination.
Emma Stone, The Favourite
The three leads of Best Picture nominee The Favourite are all nominated for acting Oscars, including Emma Stone. Stone’s credits include Easy A, Superbad, Zombieland, The Help, The Amazing Spider-Man, Battle of the Sexes, and the Netflix series Maniac. She was previously nominated in this category for Birdman, and in 2017 Stone won the Academy Award for Actress in a Leading Role for La La Land.
Rachel Weisz, The Favourite
Rachel Weisz previously appeared in The Favourite director Yorgos Lanthimos’s The Lobster. The English actress broke into Hollywood in 1999’s The Mummy; her credits since include Enemy at the Gates, About a Boy, Runaway Jury, The Fountain, The Lovely Bones, The Brothers Bloom, My Blueberry Nights, and Disobedience. Weisz was previously nominated and won the Academy Award for her supporting role in 2005’s The Constant Gardener.
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences have announced the nominees for the 91st annual Academy Awards, to be given out during ABC’s televised ceremony on Sunday, February 24. The Oscars will cap off a months-long awards season featuring industry veterans, newcomers, and as always, endless debates about who deserves to go home with the golden statue.
This is not only the first Oscar nomination for Yalitza Aparicio — it’s her first role as an actress, period. Previously, she has pursued a career in early childhood education. The 24-year-old lead in Alfonso Cuarón’s Roma is the first Indigenous woman (her parents are Mixtec and Triqui) and second Mexican woman ever to receive a nomination in the category. While her father is Mixtec, Aparicio had to learn the language for her role in Roma.
Glenn Close, The Wife
Glenn Close has never won an Academy Award to date, despite being nominated six previous times, including three years in a row in the early 1980s. The NYFA guest speaker has been recognized by the Academy for her roles in The World According to Garp, The Big Chill, The Natural, Fatal Attraction, Dangerous Liaisons, and Albert Nobbs. Close has already won the Golden Globe and SAG Award for her role in The Wife.
Olivia Colman, The Favourite
English actress Olivia Colman started her career in comedy, including roles in Peep Show, Look Around You, and Hot Fuzz. She began receiving critical acclaim for her dramatic acting after numerous nominations and awards for her role in Tyrannosaur in 2011, followed by the smash television series Broadchurch in 2014. This is Colman’s first Academy Award nomination.
Lady Gaga, A Star Is Born
Lady Gaga was already one of the world’s biggest pop stars when she started acting in films like Machete Kills and Sin City: A Dame to Kill For and the television series American Horror Story. She was still somewhat of a surprise casting choice by director Bradley Cooper for the lead role in A Star is Born, however. Gaga, born Stefani Germanotta, was previously nominated by the Academy for Best Song for the 2015 film The Hunting Ground and is additionally nominated in that category again this year for “Shallow.”
Melissa McCarthy, Can You Ever Forgive Me?
Melissa McCarthy’s first Oscar nomination for acting came in 2011 for her star-making turn in Bridesmaids, a rare honor for a purely comedic role. This year, her lead role in Can You Ever Forgive Me? as real-life writer Lee Israel is a more traditionally dramatic one, and has earned McCarthy an abundance of praise. Other credits for McCarthy include Spy, Identity Thief, Ghostbusters (2016), and the television series Mike & Molly.
Christian Bale, Vice
Method actor Christian Bale is barely recognizable in his prosthetic-assisted role as former Vice President Dick Cheney. Bale previously won the Oscar for his first nomination — Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role for David O. Russell’s The Fighter. He was nominated in the category again for 2015’s The Big Short, by Vice writer/director Adam McKay. Bale was also nominated in this category for his lead role in Russell’s 2013 film, American Hustle.
Bradley Cooper, A Star Is Born
Bradley Cooper wears many hats for the latest remake of Hollywood classic A Star is Born — and he’s been nominated for several of these roles. Cooper has previously been nominated for his leading performance in David O. Russell’s Silver Linings Playbook and supporting performance in Russell’s American Hustle, as well as for his lead role in Clint Eastwood’s American Sniper. Cooper also has a Best Picture nomination for American Sniper for his role as producer, and is additionally nominated this year for Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Picture.
Willem Dafoe, At Eternity’s Gate
Veteran actor Willem Dafoe has been nominated three previous times by the Academy, including last year for his supporting role in indie hit The Florida Project. He was also nominated in the Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role category for his roles in 2001’s Shadow of the Vampire and 1987’s Platoon. His portrayal of Vincent Van Gogh is his first Oscar nomination for a leading role.
Rami Malek, Bohemian Rhapsody
This is the first Oscar nomination for Rami Malek, who plays rock legend Freddie Mercury in biopic and Best Picture nominee Bohemian Rhapsody. His breakout role came in 2015 for the USA series Mr. Robot, though he’d earned several high-profile roles before then. His credits include Night at the Museum, 24, The Pacific, Battleship, The Legend of Korra, The Master, and The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2.
Viggo Mortensen, Green Book
Viggo Mortensen has been nominated twice before, both in the Leading Role category just as this year, for starring in Captain Fantastic and Eastern Promises. He famously played Aragorn in Peter Jackson’s groundbreaking The Lord of the Rings trilogy. His Green Book co-star, Mahershala Ali, is nominated this year for Best Supporting Actor.
With over 137 million global subscriptions as of the third quarter of 2018 – adding nearly as many subscribers within a single year as HBO did in its first 40 years – Netflix has become an undeniable force within the film and television industry. It transformed the way in which audiences consume their media and consequently conquered the industry to the point where it earned the most nominations at last year’s Emmys. Netflix knows what audiences want and their exponential growth has not only resulted in a healthy sum of revenue for the streaming giant, but also in a healthy amount of talent.
As its CEO Reed Hastings stated in this year’s shareholder report, “we’re the new star factory.” And he’s not wrong. Hollywood is now heavily influenced by social media, to the point where follower counts on Instagram are becoming the new Nielsen ratings for executives, and actors are launching successful careers from their mobile phones.
So let’s delve in and take a look at some of those who have Netflix to thank for their current level of success – be it significantly large social media followings, endorsement deals, new roles, awards, etc. It’s worth noting that Netflix wasn’t necessarily the first gig for many of these performers, but it certainly gave them their big breaks:
Millie Bobby Brown The 14-year-old breakout star of Stranger Things had multiple gigs since her acting debut in 2013, guest starring in ABC’s fantasy drama series Once Upon a Time in Wonderland. However, it was her role as escaped telepath Eleven in Netflix’s 2016 science fiction phenomenon that skyrocketed her career straight from unknown into superstardom.
Brown’s meteoric rise saw her receiving in the low $20,000 range per episode in the first season to an estimated $300-$350,000 per episode for its upcoming third season. She was also the youngest recipient in history to be honored on Time magazine’s Time 100 list and has 23 total nominations in multiple award categories including two Emmys. She’s won nine awards in total, which include a SAG – awarded to the entire cast of Stranger Things, and two MTV awards.
In addition to this, she currently has 18.2 million Instagram followers* – gaining her first million in a single day shortly after the launch of Stranger Things, has a modelling deal with IMG, multiple brand endorsements including Calvin Klein, Converse, and Moncler, and is the youngest person ever appointed as a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador.
Finn Wolfhard Brown’s fellow Stranger Things cast member who plays Mike Wheeler, the de facto leader of the Demogorgon-fighting kids and Eleven’s romantic interest, has also seen a significant rise in fame since his Netflix debut. Like his co-star, Wolfhard also earned a whopping pay raise for the upcoming season almost 12 times his original earnings per episode in season one.
Wolfhard’s band, Calpurnia, released their first EP in April this year after being signed by Royal Mountain Records in 2017, the same year he appeared as fast-talking Richie Tozier in the latest adaptation of Stephen King’s It. He’s already signed on for the 2019 sequel to the horror hit, as well as snagging a coveted role in the upcoming movie The Goldfinch alongside Nicole Kidman. His Instagram following is currently at 11.2 million from a 100,000 pre-Netflix debut.
Katherine Langford After her breakout role as Hannah Baker in Netflix’s controversial, albeit ground-breaking series 13 Reasons Why — for which she earned a Golden Globe nomination –, Langford has since appeared in comedy/drama films The Misguided and Love, Simon.
Langford is also set to star in the lead role of Arthurian Netflix series Cursed, due for release in 2019, as well as a role in the highly-anticipated follow-up to Marvel blockbuster Avengers: Infinity War, expected to hit theatres in May. Her Instagram follower count is currently at 12.9 million; before her Netflix debut, it was around the 100,000 mark.
Claire Foy The seasoned British actress was a household name in the UK with gigs on multiple BBC miniseries, but it was her portrayal of a young Queen Elizabeth in Netflix’s The Crown that shot her to international fame seemingly overnight. The critically-acclaimed series is reported to be Netflix’s most expensive production yet, which has certainly paid off after winning the Golden Globe for Best Television Series, Drama, as well as a Best Actress win for Foy.
Since her Netflix debut, she’s starred alongside Andrew Garfield in Breathe (2017), Steven Soderbergh’s horror/thriller Unsane (2018), Damien Chazelle’s Neil Armstrong biopic First Man (2018), as well as playing iconic, tattooed protagonist Lisbeth Salander in The Girl in the Spider’s Web (2018). Her Instagram follower count may not be nearly as large as the slightly younger and social media-savvy generation above (she’s currently with 30,767), but with the amount of coveted roles she’s garnered since her Netflix debut, there’s no question she belongs on this list.
Noah Centineo After his role as sensitive jock Peter Kavinsky in the hugely successful teen rom-com To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before (TATBILB), the 22-year-old Florida native saw his Instagram followers increase from 95,000 to 2.4 million within just a few days of the film being streamed. And that number is currently at 16.1 million only a mere four months later – and counting. The film has proven a boon to the careers of both Centineo and lead actress of TATBILB and New York Film Academy (NYFA) alum Lana Condor.
Centineo’s role as the leading man in another teen rom-com, Sierra Burgess Is a Loser, released just three weeks after his Netflix debut, only exacerbated the dizzying speed at which his rise to fame transpired. Famously referred to as the “Internet’s Boyfriend”, Centineo is booked for the much anticipated sequel to TATBILB (release date unknown) and has three projects in the works for 2019, including a key role in the new reboot of Charlie’s Angels,which will be directed by Elizabeth Banks.
The screenwriter/actor/producer, named one of The Hollywood Reporter’s “TV Breakouts,” made history when she became the first African American woman to win an Emmy for Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series in 2017 (and then blew everyone away with her speech).
Waithe was awarded the award for writing the “Thanksgiving” episode on Netflix’s Master of None in which she also plays Denise — the queer black woman at the center of the story who comes out to her family during Thanksgiving – a hilarious rendition of her personal experience.
She’d been writing for Fox series Bones for 12 years, but her level of success skyrocketed since comedian and creator of Master of None Aziz Ansari rewrote the character of his best friend from a straight, white male to a character specifically tailored for Waithe. Since her time in the role, she’s gone on to create critically-acclaimed Showtime drama The Chi, wrote a pilot — Twenties — for TBS, starred in Steven Spielberg’s new blockbuster Ready Player One, been named on this year’s Time 100 list, and has graced the cover of Vanity Fair. [*Note – Instagram numbers are reported as of December 2018]
Happy New Year! Though 2019 isn’t that new anymore, as the days are already turning into weeks and soon into months! So, have you managed to keep your New Year’s resolutions so far?
It’s never too late to start — whether it’s January 1 or any other day, and a good resolution to make is one devoted to improving something you’re passionate about. For actors, there’s plenty of things and habits you can change to improve your craft, and what better time to begin than the New Year.
Here are some New Year’s Resolutions to make you a better actor, ones you can start implementing even today:
Watch more foreign films
The beauty of New York Film Academy (NYFA) is how international this school is. Make the most of that! Be curious and ask them about celebrated artists and movie stars from home countries, and what the entertainment industry is like there.
American cinema has been inspired by foreign films, and vice versa. You can learn from them, too. On a lazy Saturday afternoon, watch more than the latest Netflix shows when countless productions from overseas are being offered. There are beautiful stories told from every corner of this world. If you don’t know where to start, go to the “International” section of your preferred streaming service, or select any countries that fascinate you and go from there!
Have a physical routine Voice and movement are keys to a great performance, both on stage and screen. Working on your breathing and practicing a new physical theatre technique can only make you a stronger performer. Rather than prep before each audition, you should incorporate a physical routine into your daily lifestyle.
Attending workshops or programs from acting schools like New York Film Academy can give you the tools you need to learn the basics of a physical routine and help you customize the perfect one for your own needs. Adding simple stretches before getting up, or warming up a cup of tea and taking a moment to relax and meditate before dealing with your morning commute can make all the difference. Little details can change the rest of your day.
Get out of your surroundings for at least a day
If you’re trying to break into acting, chances are you live in a big city, and big cities can become overwhelming and exhausting. New scenery can literally be a breath of fresh air, even if it’s just for a weekend, even if it’s just for a Sunday afternoon. If this isn’t possible, even cities like New York still have quiet, hidden corners. Changing your surroundings can do wonders for internalizing your own thoughts and feelings.
Stay in touch with your family and friends
As a foreigner myself, I know what it is to be driven and determined in order to succeed in New York. You quickly stop realizing that there’s a larger world out there. Be careful not to dissociate from your roots. Your focus and dedication are indeed vital to your craft, but calling your peers by sharing the steps of your journey will help open your horizons to get some solid advice from people who know you and want you to succeed. And it feels good.
Staying connected to your social network of loved ones can help you stay emotionally grounded and keep you from becoming lost in the challenges and complexities of an artist’s life. Many illustrious actors will tell you that the support of their friends and family was key to their success.
Connect to the larger world around you
While internalizing your own thoughts and staying connected to your close network of friends and family are very important, so is looking outward to the world around you, a world which is increasingly complicated and troubling these days. Being aware of social and political issues dominating the news cycle, as well as concerns of climate change and other current events that affect the world will conversely keep you connected to humanity as a whole.
This is important when becoming a character — one who doesn’t just exist on the page but one who exists in a larger world. By connecting your humanity to a larger context, you can find it easier to connect to the humanity of your audience.
Take care of yourself
Socializing can often involve going out and partying, and while having fun with friends is valuable, you must take care not to overdo it. Physically, your voice, body, and mind are the tools you work with as a performer, and wearing them out has obvious consequences. But it’s important to take care of yourself mentally as well — inhabiting another character on stage or screen will be incredibly more difficult if you’re own sense of self is struggling.
Don’t forget that by being very respectful to your needs and listen to your body. Make sure to sleep and eat well while you’re at it, even if you’ve got that 5am call time!
Learn something new about yourself
As both an artist and a person, you’ll be learning and evolving until your last breath. But go out of your way this year and see if you can find one thing about yourself — whether it’s related to your personality, your habits, what motivates you, etc. — that you never realized or put into words before.
Maybe you’ll find this out from your close social network, or while getting away from it all outside the city, or while you’re in the middle of a deep work out. That’s the great thing about having multiple New Year’s resolutions — they can all affect one another and help you keep all of them, all the way to 2020. Have a Happy New 2019 and best of luck on your journey as an actor!
Gender equality in Hollywood (as well as everything else) has been an important issue for 2018, and while the results haven’t been as clear-cut as many would like, there have been some notable changes.
For one, more and more movies are not shying away from having a female lead, finally no longer afraid of the myth that the majority of moviegoing audiences are men who want to see men lead a film.
But just as important as the quantity of female-driven films is the types of films women are starring in. More and more action films, as well as comedy, horror, thriller, and other genre movies, are starring women when typically they would star men. Having broader, more diverse types of films and protagonists is incredibly important for providing audiences, especially girls and young women looking for cinematic role models, and the following films have been shown woman can be just as successful in typically male-driven movies, if not more.
The new Star Wars trilogy has put Daisy Ridley’s Rey front and center, the first prominent female Jedi in the 40+ year old live action franchise. The filmmakers of The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi have also avoided sexualizing the character in a way many women leads tend to be in Hollywood films, which is fine — after all the series is foremost made for younger audiences.
Rey isn’t the only female Star Wars protagonist to hit theatres since Disney took over the series in 2012. Rogue One, the first one-off “Star WarsStory” to get a theatrical release, stars Felicity Jones as Jyn Erso, an outlaw loner who eventually devotes herself to a larger Rebellion.
Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman was a smash success from the start, winning over audiences of all genders and ages when she was given her own starring vehicle in 2017. The Amazonian princess wasn’t a damsel in distress but the hero of her own film, and performed the same mind-bending acts and explosive stunts as any male action hero would be expected to.
Notably, the film was also directed by a woman, Patty Jenkins, another unfortunate rarity for blockbuster films that will hopefully be remedied soon. Both Jenkins and Gadot will return for the film’s sequel, Wonder Woman 1994, out next year.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe has released twenty films in the last ten years, and not a single one of them have a female superhero as its lead. That will finally change next year, with the 21st installment of the MCU — Captain Marvel. Academy Award Winner Brie Larson has been tapped to play the space-faring superhero, who has been said by Marvel to be the most powerful character in the fictional universe.
Shortly after the release of Captain Marvel, which will take place in the 1990s and co-star Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury, Larson will return as the character in a key role for Avengers 4.
Untitled Terminator Reboot
Another Terminator in the film is in the works, following 2015’s Terminator: Genisys. Like some of the previous films, this new iteration will once again star female action icon Sarah Connor, played for the first time since 1991’s Terminator 2 by Linda Hamilton.
Just as exciting is the casting of Mackenzie Davis as co-lead, rumored to possibly be playing the newest iteration of a Terminator robot. Davis has previously starred in Tully, Halt and Catch Fire, and Black Mirror episode San Junipero.
Dora the Explorer
Dora the Explorer, a live-action feature based on the popular Nickelodeon animated series, is currently filming, and will starring Isabela Moner in the title role. Moner previously starred in Instant Family and Transformers: The Last Knight.
The film was very important for younger girls as well as girls of color looking for a positive role model in Hollywood films. Unlike most of the other films on this list, Dora the Explorer will be appropriate viewing for all ages.
The latest sequel/version of the classic Michael Myers slasher film had a very successful theatrical run this October, and was notable for having three generations of women as its leads. Myers faced off against original lead Jamie Lee Curtis, as well as her character Laurie Strode’s daughter and granddaughter.
The film wasn’t just a success for female-driven films but also women of a certain age — another issue Hollywood has struggled mightily with — with this version of the spooky story now the highest-grossing debut for a horror movie with a female lead over 55 in history.
Disney has been making live action remakes of their most popular animated films for a few years now, but Mulan will be the first with an action-oriented female lead. Even more importantly, the studio searched far and wide for the perfect casting, and avoided any controversial “white-washing” of the role of Mulan, a Chinese folk hero. The part eventually went to Yifei Liu, a Chinese star surely soon to be an international movie star.
Among many other duties and responsibilities, talent agents have the important function to book and connect their clients to roles and auditions. While being proactive comes with the territory, there’s a wide variety of personalities and strategies in the field. Ideally, you’ll find the agent that best suits your needs and own personality as an actor, but at the end of the day you’ll at the very least want anyone who can get you in the room.
So how do you find an agent? The major talent agencies have their largest offices in Los Angeles and New York, so if you’re aiming for the top, these cities might be the best place for you to start out.
If you are registered on IMDbPro, you will be able to find names of agencies, as well as their client lists. From there, you can figure out which agency best fits you and prioritze your first, second, and third choices, all down the line. You should make a long list – settling for your tenth choice isn’t rare at all.
Many international actors prefer bicoastal agencies or already work alongside an agent from their home country.Even if this doesn’t apply to you, being open to expanding your network can prove advantageous.
Don’t be afraid to ask around! If you’re acting, you’ll be working with other actors who might have experience or even some connections with agencies you are interested in. If you’re just starting out and attending acting school you can ask your fellow students. Some may already be signed with agents. Others may already be elbow-deep in their own research and you can compare your notes.
Be prepared! Know exactly how you will present yourself if you do get a meeting with an agent, because there’s a chance they might book one with you immediately after receiving your submission. So don’t reach out to an agency until you know you’re ready to meet with them!
Get your headshots in order — not just the right poses and looks, but also a proper resume of your credits to go along with it. You will want to look professional — most agencies won’t want to bother with people they feel are too inexperienced in the industry or don’t know what they’re doing. If you’re on a tight budget, try finding an eager photography student from photography school and let them practice their craft for a discount or pro bono rate!
Even better than a list of credits would be your demo reel. Make a highlight video of your work so far. Agents will want to know what your presence is on camera. While NYFA teaches acting students the importance and basics of putting together a demo reel, you can also enlist the help of amateur editors or editing school students at low cost — or more professional editors, if you’re willing to spend the money. At the very least, try to use three scenes that best showcase your range and abilities. If you haven’t garnered much screen time yet, talk to filmmaking school students and audition for as many student films and short films as you can!
Follow up! Agents and their offices are often very busy and may not even address every submission they receive. If you haven’t heard back after a couple weeks, follow up and send a quick reminder, asking if they received your submission yet or if they have any other questions or need more information from you. Don’t be afraid to invite agents to a show, screening, or event of yours. They may be impressed with your confidence and who knows — might even show up.
Keep your chin up! It’s perfectly normal for most actors just starting out to be without an agent. Don’t feel dejected if you’ve been ignored or rejected numerous times. Stay active and most importantly, build your career by meeting people and networking as much you can. Keep adding to your resume to build experience, credits, and better footage for your demo reel. Sooner or later, you may just find the agent perfect for you.
Every actor needs headshots, and often it’s a good idea to have more than one look or pose. But which poses?
When getting your headshots done, it is very important to be aware of your everyday look, your “types” for future auditions, and the goal behind getting these photos taken in the first place. Headshots can be expensive, but they’re worth every penny if you get them done right.
First and foremost, make sure you sleep well the night before your photo shoot, and make sure you arrive early enough to be fully relaxed and ready to shine!
Poses will vary depending on what you want to play and the career you are targeting. But the following essentials are some go-to poses that may help you get more auditions:
A smiling pose: It is key that you genuinely smile for at least one of your poses. If smiling doesn’t come naturally to you, make yourself as comfortable and relaxed as possible. If it helps you to lean casually against a wall, or stand on your toes, do it! And remember: smile with your entire body!
An everyday pose: Usually when someone tells you to “act casual” you struggle to do anything but. However your casual, everyday pose — the look you might have if someone saw you lost in thought or reading your phone — says a lot about you and your screen presence.
An emotional pose: Explore what you know is your most challenging emotion. Treat your photo session as it’s an audition, or even a scene, and don’t hold back. Feel free to be vulnerable, loud, and truthful. Even if you don’t think this will play well for photo stills, there’s a very good chance a talented photographer will capture a few perfect moments for you. Get intimate with the lens.
A neutral pose: A neutral pose is what it sounds like — a resting, unemotional look. You might think this is the same as your everyday look, but for most people, the two poses can be very different. Unlike your everyday pose, which is you out of your own head and acting naturally, a neutral pose usually means you’ll need to actively contort your muscles and cancel any emotions on your face. Become a blank slate that casting directors can fill with their own ideas for the role. Remember: neutral doesn’t mean natural!
There are countless expressions that fall on the spectrum between these poses (and many that are completely out-of-the-box.) Explore them all, practice in the mirror until your face is numb and you’re sick of looking at your face. The work will pay off and soon acting for your headshot photographer may just turn into acting for a film or stage director!
If you’re interested in taking classes at NYFA’s acting school you can find more information here.
The entertainment industry continues to grow at a rapid pace — according to Stephen Follows, a data researcher in the film industry, more than 700 films were released across the U.S. in 2016 alone. What is even more surprising is that the number that Follows reported doesn’t even include film festivals, private screenings, and other types of showcases such as broadcasts of opera or theatre productions.
And even while the number of films keeps growing, the amount of original television content continues to peak. In an article published by Variety, writer Maureen Ryan wrote that there were more than 450 scripted original programs released in 2016.
Don’t expect the expansion of movies and television shows to slow down any time soon. The entertainment industry continues to dominate a complicated, turbulent world. But when it comes to creating these stories, what are the differences between filming for a movie and television show?
Most television series are created with the idea that the show will be around for an extended amount of time. Typically, writers intend for each episode to have a small story arc that often ties in with a larger story arc told over the course of a season or more.
This added amount of time allows writers to develop characters that are more in-depth and have greater dimension. Additionally, there can be a much larger cast over the course of a series because of the time afforded for an audience to get to know them. Tension can be ratched up between characters and other story elements much more slowly than in a feature film as well.
A budget for a movie is usually bigger than a budget for a television series. In Hollywood, more money can mean more and stronger special effects, more high-profile talent in front of and behind the camera, and more diverse and exciting locations to film on.
Besides a few notable exceptions, television series don’t normally have the same type of budgets that movies do. This forces directors, producers, and screenwriters to be more creative with the storyline and character development, as well as scale back the effects and scope of their projects. This is a good reason why Wonder Woman and Spider-Man may have giant CGI supervillains while Daredevil and Luke Cage will fight mostly fairly straightforward stunt actors.
Viewing a film in a theater can be a very different experience than watching one from your couch at home. Television series, outside of events like Comic Con, are almost never seen in such a way. Scaling your story so that it can work on a screen as tiny as the smallest smartphone then is an important thing to consider when producing a television series as opposed to a movie.
Additionally, when it comes theatrical releases, viewers don’t have the same time commitment they may give to a television series. Shows give the audience flexibility in a way a movie can’t — you can pause the television show whenever you want, and or resume it at another time. Viewers may binge watch an entire series in one weekend, or take months or even years to get through the entire story. In a theater, an audience is more-or-less committed to sitting through and experiencing the whole thing in one sitting.
This is important when considering certain plot and narrative elements. If you’re worried certain story choices may scare off your viewers, you might want to make sure you pace these moves in a smart way in a television series. If it’s in a film, you may get away with it for the whole two hours!
These are just a few key differences between longform and shortform cinematic storytelling. And, of course, movies and television series (especially these days) also share many similarities. If you’re interested in learning the craft of filmmaking for either, or both, of these mediums, check out the programs offered by the New York Film Academy today!
In theatre, we have what we call: a swing, an understudy and a standby. Three distinct, respected functions. There can a handful of these actors in the same shows for the lead roles, depending on the budget and the roles’ physical demand. Knowing that Broadway shows run eight times a week, it is very important that someone will be able to rock that stage no matter what.
In major Broadway productions, you can usually find performers hired to learn the track (the choreography and lines of a particular role) and ready to jump in at any point during the show if needed.
A swing wears at least two hats. They can “swing” between two parts in the same show. Lots of ensemble members right now on Broadway are swings to one of the lead roles and perform an ensemble track on a regular basis. Some are ensemble members and can be noted as swing to one of the major lead parts.
An understudy learns the track for when the primary performer is absent. Usually, if the said name is famous, another big name can be called as an understudy for that specific replacement. They are then aware in advance when they will perform.
A standby, literally, is always ready to go on at any time. For example, in the first act, you may applaud one lead but applaud a different performer for the same role in the second act. If a standby isn’t there for such an occasion, the production can ask a swing. A standby has to be backstage at all time, warmed up, made up, and costume-ready so that the show can move on smoothly if the original actor cannot perform their role.
It is important to know that after the previews, all shows are “frozen,” which means that the blocking and choreography are locked. Therefore, each performer who learn each track must be very thorough and respect the writer, director and creator’s visions, not deviating from what has been locked.
Each of these jobs are crucial to the theatre industry — just as crucial as the primary leads and no swing, understudy, or standby is less talented whatsoever. Many will go through months of long auditions and are cast on the same criteria as the leads.
The beauty of a company is that initially, everyone knows the track of one another. There are of course official swings, understudies, and standbys though. The quality on stage is delivered to its best no matter who performs.
Cue the haunting piano music: Michael Myers is back in theaters this October with a brand new Halloween sequel. In true 21st century filmmaking fashion, this sequel is also somewhat of a soft reboot – a sequel that is technically in the same timeline, but retains many of the classic beats (and the title) of the original.
But which timeline? The Halloween franchise first began in 1978 as an independent horror film written and directed by John Carpenter (and produced and co-created by Debra Hill) and was an instant classic. The silent, hulking serial killer Michael Myers became a Hollywood icon as he murdered babysitters and their boyfriends in a painted William Shatner mask. Halloween quickly spawned a series of sequels, spin-offs, and remakes — all of which interweave with distinct continuities.
Here then, are five different timelines of the Halloween franchise in its first 40 years — who knows how many more retcons will come about in the next four decades!
Timeline #1 Halloween, Halloween II, Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers, Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers, Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers
This could be considered the original timeline, as it incorporates the first six films of the franchise (with one exception, which we’ll get to.) The first two films are very closely linked, filmed close together, with the same leads, taking place all in the same night (October 31, natch.)
After a brief departure from Halloween III, the real star of the franchise — Michael Myers — came back due to popular demand. He wasn’t joined by lead actress Jamie Lee Curtis, however, who had gone onto movie stardom in the 80s with smash hits like Trading Places and A Fish Called Wanda. Fortunately for the producers, veteran actor Donald Pleasance, a big get for the first two films, stayed and helmed the series as Michael’s psychiatrist Dr. Loomis for the next three films.
Jamie Lee Curtis’s character, Laurie Strode, was killed off-screen in a car accident and the fourth film shifted focus to Laurie’s niece, Jamie Lloyd. Halloween4 was released ten years after the original, in 1988, and quickly followed up with Halloween5 in 1989.
The timeline finally came to an end in 1995, with Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers. The movie expanded the franchise’s mythology and dove deep into the supernatural, dark mystical side of Michael Myers. One of its stars was a very young Paul Rudd playing Tommy Doyle, a character from the first two films. The movie ends with the death of series constant Dr. Loomis, and was dedicated to the memory of Donald Pleasance, who died just a few months before its release.
Timeline #2 Halloween III: Season of the Witch
The reason the franchise is called Halloween and not Michael Myers is because John Carpenter envisioned the series as an anthology of distinct horror stories, each set in their own universe with nothing to do with each other — much like Twilight Zone, Black Mirror, and the Cloverfield films.
However, the huge success of the first film led to a direct sequel, Halloween II, which came out in 1981. This film started the notion that Michael Myers was superhuman, which was continued and explored in the rest of Timeline #1 (see above.)
But by the third film, Carpenter finally wished to move away from Michael Myers and the town of Haddonfield, Illinois. Halloween III: Season of the Witch, produced by John Carpenter and Debra Hill, came out in 1982, and had none of the cast or characters from the first two films. It was also a completely different story — about evil Celtic magic from Stonehenge and androids that wish to kill the trick-or-treating children of a Northern California suburb.
Halloween III most certainly doesn’t take place in the same universe as Michael Myers. In fact, one of the characters in the movie is watching a commercial for the original Halloween, meaning the Jamie Lee Curtis films are just as fictional in the world of Season of the Witch as it is in ours.
Timeline #3 Halloween, Halloween II, H20: 20 Years Later, Halloween: Resurrection
It was only three years in between Halloween 6 and H20, but filmmaking was already evolving and Wes Craven’s Scream had upped the horror genre for moviegoers everywhere. In 1998, to celebrate two decades since the dawn of Michael Myers, the franchise released another sequel, with Jamie Lee Curtis returning to the role of Laurie Strode for the first time since 1981.
With the return of Jamie Lee Curtis, the series had to retcon her character’s death, and so this film takes place after Halloween and Halloween II — but NOT Halloweens 4, 5, and 6. While this brings Laurie Strode (and presumably, Dr. Loomis) back to life, this change in the continuity did not bode well for Nurse Chambers, a character played by Nancy Stephens in the first two films. She appears again as the character in the opening scene of H20, where she is quickly dispatched by a middle-aged Michael Myers.
By the end of the film, Myers has attacked Laurie Strode and her family, but is decapitated by her to make sure he never comes back. He does come back, however, in the film’s sequel, Halloween: Resurrection.
Halloween: Resurrection, released in 2002, is very much of its time, with a story revolving around webcams and the Internet, and the then-brand-new medium of Reality TV. It also stars Tyra Banks and Busta Rhymes, who might play the only character in any of the timelines to karate kick Michael Myers through a window.
The film opens with a cameo by Jamie Lee Curtis, once again portraying Laurie Strode, who dies for a second time in the franchise — this time on screen as she falls from the roof of a psychiatric hospital.
Timeline #4 Halloween (2007), Halloween II (2009)
Sound familiar? These two films take the exact same titles as the original two, but they are 100% remakes in the truest sense of the word, and which was very much in fashion at the time. Fresh off his critical gorefests House of 1000 Corpses and The Devil’s Rejects, Rob Zombie decided to tackle the Michael Myers franchise next, remaking Halloween in 2007.
Dr. Loomis is back, this time played by yet another British veteran actor, Malcolm McDowell. Zombie’s Halloween has much more focus on Michael Myers before his breakout and All Hallow’s Eve killing spree. It’s also more of a tension-builder and slower horror film, very much in style then and even still now.
The film received mixed reviews but made a decent amount of money at the box office, enough to warrant a direct sequel and the tenth film overall in the franchise. This new Halloween II harkens closer to the convoluted plotlines of Halloweens 4-6 than it does the original sequel though, dealing with hallucinations and flashbacks and revealing, like Timeline #1 eventually does, that Laurie Strode is actually the sister of Michael Myers. It ends with the death of Dr. Loomis (that makes two for him) and with Laurie now committed to a psychiatric hospital (that’s twice for her.)
Timeline #5 Halloween, Halloween (2018), ???
After considering a sequel to Zombie’s films or yet another reboot, the rights holders and producers of the franchise decided to do a sequel to the original Halloween. This film, once titled Halloween Returns, would have followed the first two, just as 4-6 did in Timeline #1. Soon indie director David Gordon Green and frequent collaborator Danny McBride (yes, that Danny McBride) came on board to work on the film.
In the writing process, Halloween II was taken out of the continuity, so that this sequel, which takes place forty years after the original (and twenty since the release of H20) is a direct sequel to only the original Halloween, and ignores the events of every other Halloween film that follows it.
The film will harken back to the original in plot and tone as well, as Myers will slowly make his way around town on Halloween night, picking off babysitters and anyone else who gets in his way.
It also brings back, once again, Jamie Lee Curtis as character Laurie Strode, who, as far as we know, isn’t the sister of Michael Myers. Whether Laurie Strode will die for the third time in the series or live for yet another sequel remains to be seen.
It’s doubtful Busta Rhymes will be back to karate kick Michael Myers through a window.
It’s the story we just can’t seem to get enough of [SPOILERS AHEAD for those who’ve never seen any version of the A Star is Born!!!!!!!] – an alcoholic male star discovers a talented yet unsuccessful woman, they fall in love, he boosts her career, her stardom eclipses his own, his demons get the better of him, and just as his decline carries the risk of taking her down with him, he commits suicide. But the tragic love story has always been about more than just about the romance – A Star is Born has also been a deeper exploration of the Faustian bargain of fame and the balancing scale on which success sits on the opposing end of loss.
In short, it’s a story that’s been irresistible for Hollywood’s storytellers and thus never dies. It’s no surprise then that A Star Is Born has undergone yet another rebirth – now its fourth official version – under the hands of Bradley Cooper in his directorial debut. George Cukor’s 1932 film What Price Hollywood? is largely considered to be the original prototype of A Star Is Born (Cukor went on to direct the 1954 remake) but it’s different enough to warrant its exclusion from the franchise. Throughout its number of versions over the span of eight decades, the basic plot remains quite consistent to where the exact line “I just wanted to take another look at you” occurs in each film.
But with each remake, the current generation making the film molds the skeleton of the plot to its own culture and style, and reflects an adapting perspective of stardom and the entertainment industry. So, let’s dive in and take a look at the first three films and how they evolved through each iteration:
A Star is Born (1937)
Directed by William Wellman and starring Janet Gaynor and Fredric March, the “original” A Star is Born came at a time where Hollywood had room to be hopeful and self-reflective; it both acknowledged the industry’s veneer and endorsed it. Gaynor’s character, North Dakotan farm girl and aspiring actress Esther Blodgett, has a distinct origin story – an important characteristic of movie stars of that era.
Esther’s stage name is changed to Vicky Lester and she’s given a makeover to boost her star quality. The film largely focuses on a relatively young film industry during a time where it became a beacon of light for Americans amidst the Great Depression, promoting a message of “anyone can become a movie star” despite (and because of) the way in which it could completely manufacture such adored Hollywood personas.
A Star is Born (1954)
Directed by What Price Hollywood?’s George Cukor, this adaptation starred Hollywood legend Judy Garland as Esther Blodgett, alongside James Mason, who plays leading man Norman Maine. Among other key changes in detail from its predecessor in order to suit the time, the most obvious difference is that it’s a musical. Moreover, as opposed to Esther in 1937 whose aspirations lay specifically in becoming an actress, Garland’s character has more of a vague goal of becoming a successful singer.
Cukor’s remake also takes some tonal shifts, focusing more on character development and the relationship between the two protagonists. Unlike the 1937 film where Norman is quite aggressive and lacks introspection, the Norman of 1954 is a much more sympathetic character who is refined and self-aware. His sincerity makes Esther’s love for him more tragic, thus creating a more effective climax.
This adaptation also garnered more interest in the real life stories behind the scenes than other versions, namely due to Judy Garland’s tumultuous career at the time. Four years after her contract suspension with MGM following a suicide attempt, A Star is Born was intended to be her big comeback. Interestingly, Garland saw herself as both the talented, ingenuous star Esther and the older, fading star Norman, which propelled her powerful performance.
Despite the immense popularity and critical acclaim of the movie, her status as a film star never fully recovered after losing the Oscar to Grace Kelly – a controversial topic to this day.
This remake was directed by Frank Pierson and stars Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson as Esther Hoffman and Norman Howard. The changing of the protagonists’ surnames was a subtle, yet necessary adjustment to feel more relevant to the 70s, much like the strategic move to supplement alcoholism with cocaine addiction. But what became the most significant change in this film was changing the leads from Hollywood celebrities to rock stars, as this new type of fame during that era bred its own legend of success and failure with the likes of Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix, and Janis Joplin.
Additionally, with the UN declaring 1975 as International Women’s Year during a decade that revolutionised the women’s movement, Streisand’s Esther reflected more of a freedom and confidence that her previous iterations may never have imagined. She’s the most self-assured of the protagonists and also proposes to Norman, whilst hyphenating her last name in the final tribute scene as opposed to announcing herself as “Mrs. Norman Maine.”
Despite some mixed reviews – most negative ones attributing Streisand’s actual fame to the overshadowing of Kristofferson’s performance and subsequently, his character – she is the only actress to have won the Oscar for her portrayal of Esther. Unless, of course, Lady Gaga follows her next winter with a win for her lead role in the newest A Star is Born remake. The buzz is already undeniable.
Method acting — the art of turning completely into your character while playing a scene — is a tried and true, well, method, for acting in a scene. But it’s not the only way an actor can choose to perform their role. Many actors will stay consciously in their own head for the bulk of a performance, reciting their lines in a careful manner or incorporating their own personality into the character on the page.
None of these philosophies are wrong — they are merely different approaches for a complex, artistic craft. There is a famous anecdote from the set of Marathon Man, the 70s thriller starring Sir Laurence Olivier and Dustin Hoffman. Hoffman, a method actor, had told his co-star that he had stayed up for three days straight so that he could inhabit the role his character, who had also been up for three days.
“My dear boy,” Olivier said to Hoffman, “why don’t you just try acting?” The film and theatre giant was making light of the method process — one in which an actor “becomes” their character on an emotional, and often physical, level.
In the end, it comes down to your training and your preferences on how you want to perform a role. But playing yourself can be a productive practice for many actors. Of course, like any great art, it’s easier said than done.
How can you play yourself, then? By always learning everyday who you are, what you like and dislike, and bringing it to your work instinctively. Playing yourself with total control and being able to enter and exit the part quickly may take years to fully master. You should never forget that your craft is work but also fun. The desire to tell a story truly and faithfully is a worthy goal but one that should leave lasting harm on your own well-being. Here are three techniques that can help you play yourself, as opposed to method acting:
Learn Who You Are
Many roles on screen or on stage often represent the everyday person. Their truth on stage is waited by an audience that can relate very specifically to these characters. Many examples of actors we know have gotten stronger over their careers from simply living their personal lives and then bringing that experience to their work.
Paul Newman is a great example. After struggling to play certain parts, he realized that by just being himself he would get more attention. Speaking in his regular voice and bringing his own qualities to each part, his career soared. Along the way, he gained confidence in the craft and a true mastery of using his emotional life in each role he played.
We know all too well of tragic endings to some of our favorite stars, many of them occurring very early in their lives and careers. Often, these actors had troubles stemming from many reasons, some of which related to the emotional intensity of their craft.
That is why it is so important for actors to learn control of themselves. Being able to leave the character at work and not bring it home with you is vitally important. Actors can learn practices that help them “drop in then drop out” of their roles. They can condition themselves and learn to look out for triggers, and understand how to deal with them properly in a way that is safe.
Acting is hard work, but that doesn’t it can’t be enjoyable — fun, even. By learning to appreciate your gifts, you’ll become more relaxed and more comfortable in a role. You’ll be more you. Your instruments (body and voice) should be your best buddies.
A fine understanding of them both will make you more grounded and therefore present.
Find a routine that works best for you, and step by step you will learn to react instinctively to specific situations. Breathing is an amazing tool one should master as they learn to perform. Even if your character is going through a very intense moment, you don’t have to be.
Method acting is just that — one method to performing a scene in a particular way. There are always methods, and learning as many as you can make you a well-rounded performer. Playing yourself isn’t as easy as it sounds. But by learning to detach yourself from the circumstances of the scene and then live your life fully is healthy for the body, mind, and soul. Make Sir Olivier proud!
To the untrained eye, acting is acting, regardless of where it takes place or who is present; which is to say that one might assume an incredibly successful and talented screen actor would be just as good on stage as they are on film. For those of us whom have either trained in acting or have firsthand industry experience, however – especially those who’ve attempted to make the transition from screen to stage – know this is definitely not the case. There are quite a few notable differences in both arenas, so if you’re thinking of transitioning from screen to stage, you’ll want to consider the following:
When it comes to acting on screen, an actor needs to focus a significant amount of energy on the camera than the average person might think. Unlike an audience full of theatre-goers, the camera will focus on the most microscopic and intricate expressions, including something as minute as an eyebrow twitch or a slightly clenched jaw. For this reason, the actor must always be conscious of where the camera is positioned and perform in accordance to how it will look on screen, paying particular attention to their own face and eyes.
When you communicate emotion on stage, however, you use your entire body and voice. Vocal projection and inflection is of utmost importance, so that even the audience members sitting all the way in the back row can not only hear but understand everything you’re saying.
Similarly, using your entire body to translate even the smallest emotion is a critical element of every stage actor’s repertoire. Physical movement needs to practically be exaggerated – even something as simple as standing needs some attention to detail. The actor needs to be conscious of every physical detail to project the most obvious import.
For example, if a character is meek and timid, in a scene that requires dialogue, a stage actor might hunch, twiddle their thumbs, or perhaps turn their toes inward for a slight pigeon-toed stance — common idiosyncrasies observed in those with similar personality traits. And yet they still need to speak loudly enough for the audience to hear them! Seeing as a loud voice may not coincide with those personality traits, this is essentially why body language is so critical in conveying the right message.
In contrast, a screen actor doesn’t need to focus as much on larger gestures (unless required in a particular shot) but instead relay as much of those character quirks in more subtle expressions and verbal delivery. As such, if the screen actor’s power of emotional expression lies more in the face and eyes, the stage actor’s is in the body and voice.
Teamwork Vs Me-work
The emphasis on teamwork and trust among the actor and the director is somewhat multiplied on film, as film is primarily the territory of the director. So unless the actor is also a producer or a huge box-office name with enough pull in the industry to call the shots, the director is generally the one who decides how a scene is played. That’s not to say the actor doesn’t have any control over their own performance, but the director may choose to shoot a single scene several times, directing the actor to perform each take with slight changes, later choosing which take best belies their vision.
Because of this to-and-fro for each scene, screen actors need to be as adaptable and cooperative as they are talented in their own craft. In addition, film actors need the ability to work quickly to put together a scene that will then exist forever, whereas stage actors may rehearse for months to nail a performance that lasts only as long as the show’s running, for a much smaller audience.
Add to this the fact that this theatre audience is a live one, so that stage actors can rarely make mistakes. A poor performance on screen can be mitigated by editing, film score, etc. – a luxury stage actors don’t really have. As prominent director of The Actors, Conor McPherson tells The Guardian, “in the theatre, there is nowhere to hide. If your performance is bad or lazy, you stick out like a sore thumb.”
Because of this, McPherson also points out the accountability stage actors have on delivering a good or bad performance and inversely, the flexibility they have in character exploration. Screen actors are required to always deliver their developed character from moment to moment through scenes shot in random order with minimal rehearsal time, while stage actors have a lot more freedom to explore their character as the show plays out through its run.
It may seem obvious, but the importance of rehearsal for a stage actorit cannot be emphasized enough. If you’ve only ever been trained to act on camera, the first thing to do when transitioning into stage acting is to prepare to rehearse.
Unlike acting on screen, where forgetting your lines can be a minor hiccup that’s rectified in seconds with multiple copies of the script at arm’s length, forgetting your lines on stage can be disastrous. Stage actors are required to memorize an enormous amount of dialogue spanning the entirety of the play, which is a feat in itself. But then to have to perform it in front of an audience, night after night with the same amount of emotion and energy throughout can be exhausting.
Not to mention a live audience will inevitably cause unexpected interruptions that can easily disrupt an actor’s flow. So as the trusty old adage goes, the best defense is a solid offense: preparation is key. Being quick on your feet will come in handy (excuse the pun!) when those unexpected interruptions occur, so stage actors will commonly partake in improv classes or similar activities to build tools that can deal with such unpredictabilities. Additionally, investing in a vocal coach is an absolute must for theatre.
In the end, it comes down to personal preference for an actor. Some thrive on stage, others on screen – some can bounce between the two without blinking an eye. But you won’t know what’s best for you or what you have a passion unless you try both — and hopefully the advice above will help you navigate between screen and stage. Break a leg! Interested in attending acting school programs? Check out more information on the New York Film Academy here!
In our fast-paced world, actors have to find new ways of marketing themselves to agents, casting directors, their audience, and everyone in between. It used to be that actors were discovered on stages, on the street, or in cafes — but these days, more and more talented actors are being found on YouTube. Using this platform has a lot of great benefits for aspiring actors, giving them a chance to garner positive attention from influencers while minimizing their expenses. Here are some reasons why you should consider using YouTube to promote yourself:
A YouTube Channel Means Exposure
Actors dream of being discovered by a major producer or director, because this means having a chance to leap onto the big screen. You can increase your chances of being discovered by having a YouTube channel because this platform gives you high levels of exposure to the entire world, all at once. Additionally, all sorts of people use YouTube, giving you not just a huge audience, but a diverse one. Your options are endless as an actor on YouTube. You can create a vlog, comedy sketches, dramatic monologues, or anything else that you find interest. Just remember that the content of your channel has to be of a certain quality, in one way or another, if you really want to get noticed.
YouTube is free!
Many people have a misconception of actors being wealthy divas or rich playboys; however, most actors are living hand-to-mouth in expensive cities such as Los Angeles and New York, working hard to get auditions and callbacks. YouTube is completely free; you do not have to pay this company to upload your videos onto their platform. And whenever a working actor can find something for free, they should take advantage of it!
YouTube is the perfect place to exercise your creativity and bring your most ambitious projects to life. And the best thing about it is that you are in charge every step of the way. YouTube gives you total control over the creative process, and you choose to shoot and edit your videos any way you see fit. And if you want someone to create content for you, you can go here and create a custom writing login.
So, if you are seeking to express yourself on a free and open platform, and bring to life your best artistic agents, YouTube is the place for you! Take advantage of the creative freedom the internet offers!
Another way YouTube can help actors is by serving as a type of casting agency where you can upload your demo reels for all to see. This is very practical, because casting agents search for new talent everywhere, including YouTube. Due to the site’s high traffic, it makes for an excellent tool for you to market yourself to producers and directors.
Interact with Other Actors
Obviously, you won’t be the only actor on YouTube. Like you, thousands of other actors are looking to be noticed and land gigs as a result. YouTube presents you with an opportunity to work with these other actors by making videos and promoting one another’s work, thereby increasing your chances of making it to the big show. Turn your rivals into collaborators!
You Can Monetize Your Channel
If your channel becomes popular with a YouTube audience, it’s possible to generate income from all the views, likes, and shares your video gets. While advertising isn’t a reliable way to make money unless you’re one of the biggest, most viral stars on the net, you can also end up getting influencer deals or start a Patreon and earn support from your most ardent fans.
YouTube is your gateway to success!
If all of this still seems implausible, just think about celebrities like Justin Bieber, Kate Upton, and Alex Tanney. They uploaded their work to YouTube, got exposure, went viral, and now they are industry titans. You’ve got to start somewhere!
Every year, Time magazine releases a list of the 100 most influential people in the world. This list is not a measure of power or a collection of milestones completed by those individuals. Instead, Time’s staff examines the lifetime achievements of the candidates on the TIME 100 list.
In an article on how and why Time chose these 100 most influential people, editorial director Dan Macsai asked, “Was this their year?”
The list aims to be a reflection of a moment, and cannot be compared to previous years. Let’s look at five actors who have been honored as Time’s “100 Most Influential People” in 2018:
Sterling K. Brown
Over the course of the last few years, Sterling K. Brown has become a well-known actor in households across the globe. He won an Emmy for portraying Christopher Darden in Ryan Murphy’s The People vs. O.J. Simpson, and another for portraying Randall Pearson in the NBC drama This Is Us, and acted in Marvel’s smash hit, Black Panther, as N’Jobu.
In 2017, Brown was the first African American man to win the Best Actor in a Drama Emmy in 19 years — and only one of four to win an award in the Emmy’s 70 year history.
Hugh Jackman isn’t just an actor — the Australian actor is an entertainer, through and through. He can act, sing, and dance. If you have ever questioned his ability to entertain, watch him command the stage in his latest blockbuster, The Greatest Showman. The movie has pulled in nearly a half billion dollars at the box office since its release in December.
Anne Hathaway, Jackman’s co-star in Les Miserables, wrote in Time’s article, “I’ve never stopped and analyzed why I love Hugh Jackman. For me, it’s like loving chocolate or puppies or rainbows: effortless.”
The Bollywood star Deepika Padukone made a splash with American audiences in Vin Diesel’s xXx: Return of Xander Cage. It isn’t just her prominent role that got her on Time’s list though.During the TIME 100 Gala in April, Padukone acknowledged her struggles with depression:
“Four years on, I stand here in front of all of you with a slightly better understanding, I think, of life and my feelings and the person that I am.”
You can read her full remark from the TIME 100 Gala here.
While Chadwick Boseman had prominent lead roles in the biopics for James Brown (Get on Up) and Jackie Robinson (42), it was Marvel’s Black Panther that made him an A-list name and international role model. The movie has brought in $1.3 billion worldwide to date and was a significant step forward for diversity in Hollywood blockbusters.
Sean “Diddy” Combs wrote , “…As the ‘Black Panther,’ he’s inspiring everyone, but especially black youth, who deserve to see superheroes like them, to show them that truly anyone can be a superhero.” He continued, “This matters, because it has been a long time coming to see our own superheroes and the power that they can have on all of us in society.”
Who is your favorite icon on this year’s TIME 100? Let us know below!
Lynda Carter, the original Wonder Woman, wrote that Gal Gadot embodies everything that Wonder Woman represents: “fierce strength, a kind heart, and incredible valor.” Gadot brought Wonder Woman to the bring screen with the help of director Patty Jenkins in 2017, and she will reprise her role in Wonder Woman 2, due out in 2019.
Gadot was also five months pregnant during the intense, action-oriented filming of Wonder Woman. And her work isn’t limited to acting — Gadot is an honorary U.N. Ambassador for the Empowerment of Women and Girls.
It sounds like Gadot really may be Wonder Woman after all.
Props, costumes, production sets, and CGI can only do so much to transport audiences to a different time and place; the rest of the work lies in the actor’s ability to truly inhabit a narrative, and invite the audience to believe their character and their milieu. Adopting a specific accent is one of those abilities that allows an actor to create a believable character, and while it may seem like a common enough challenge for an actor, excelling accents can be tough. Given the underestimated skill it takes to convincingly pull it off, it’s only fair to give credit where it’s due, so here’s a list of actors with the best fake accents in films:
Throughout her illustrious career, Streep has taken up more accents than the average person could recognize. However, her Polish accent in Sophie’s Choice was one of perfection. Being Meryl Streep, practicing lines with a dialect coach was not enough, so she took it upon herself to learn Polish (and German in the last few weeks before shooting!) for the role.
Not only did Streep manage to speak Polish in the film, she also flipped between English and German with a Polish accent.
“I thought if I learned to speak Polish, then the diphthongs and the sounds of that language would be in my mouth,” she said in an interview with Entertainment Tonight.
Another noteworthy Streep accent we just couldn’t leave out of the discussion was her Australian dialect for Lindy Chamberlain in A Cry in the Dark, the true story of a mother who lost her baby to a dingo (yep, the line “a dingo ate my baby” is, in fact, about a tragic true story).
The general consensus when it comes to mimicking the Australian accent is that it’s bloody hard (see what we did there?), and non-Australian actors who’ve tried it are almost always criticized for it. Streep, however, managed to take it up a notch. Not only did she study the Australian accent with a fine-toothed comb, but she also mimicked the New Zealand-born Chamberlain’s idiosyncratic enunciations -– a result she admits she “sweat bullets” trying to achieve.
Philip Seymour Hoffman
In the biographical film Capote, based on the life of Truman Capote, the late, great Philip Seymour Hoffman shined in his portrayal of the famous journalist, winning him the Oscar for Best Actor.
Capote’s unique vocal inflection was incredibly difficult to impersonate without it becoming a parody, and according to dialect coach Erik Singer, Hoffman pulled it off exquisitely: “The accent is dead-on perfect, and it’s totally integrated. It’s integral to the character and what the actor is doing as the character.”
Not one to shy away from adopting accents in films, the Los Angeles native has adopted accents from all over the United States through several eras for his films, from a Brooklyn native in The Wolf of Wall Street or a mid-19th century Irish-Catholic in Gangs of New York.
What really impressed a vast majority of audiences, however, was DiCaprio’s flawless accent in Blood Diamond, where he portrayed a man from Rhodesia, or modern-day Zimbabwe.
As a South African critic put it for Vanity Fair, “Leo is unbelievable … I could believe that he was a South African (as Zimbabwe borders South Africa, the accents can be very similar). Leo gets every word right.”
If you were shocked that Hugh Laurie is actually an Oxford-born Englishman, you can join the estimated 81 million viewers of House who watched him play a gifted, foul-mouthed American doctor for eight seasons and were none the wiser. Moreover, prior to being informed on Hugh Laurie’s nationality, House’s executive producer Bryan Singer was incredibly relieved to have finally found what he believed was an American actor, after auditioning so many foreigners who just didn’t sound right.
“When you’ve got this volume of dialogue and this kind of complexity of writing, you really want to find an American actor,” he told The Paley Center for Media before admitting his shock when told by the casting directors that Laurie was, in fact, British.
Laurie’s American accent was so flawless, Google manages to churn out an overwhelming amount of blog posts and discussion forums dedicated to variations of the words “Hugh Laurie,” “accents,” “American,” and “British.”
The London-born actor, who in real life has a distinctive Hackney accent, has wowed critics and audiences with two particular accents worthy of a mention; first, when playing drug kingpin Stringer Bell from Baltimore in The Wire, and second, as Nelson Mandela in Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom.
To perfect his Baltimore accent, Elba admits to spending lots of time in a barbershop to familiarize himself with the slang and particular nuances exclusive to Baltimoreans. The result was virtually spot-on.
Perfecting the accent for Mandela, however, came with a little more intense, technical training, as Elba had to embody the specific vocal qualities of Mandela along with a South African accent.
His dialogue coach on the set of the film told The Telegraph that his accent “is one of the closest to the original I have heard. This, coupled with his great technical acting skill and considerable emotional resource, makes for a compelling and brilliant performance.”
Though an Australian herself, Blanchett is renowned for her chameleon-like performances, accruing such a long list of accents you’d be forgiven for not knowing her true national origin without double-checking an interview. Even then some may be confused, as her own Australian accent has morphed; Her ability to instinctively pick up the accents she’s surrounded by in real life has become so habitual for the actress that she admits it’s “politically incorrect” and embarrasses her children much of the time.
Blanchett’s many memorable character accents range from 16th century British to Brooklyn-American, Southern-American, Irish, French, German, Ukrainian, and even Elvish — but from her long list of impressive vocal accomplishments, her remarkable impersonation of Katherine Hepburn in The Aviator deserves an honorable mention.
Director Martin Scorsese had been impressed by Blanchett’s precision and boldness since Elizabeth, and knew if anyone could take on such an iconic character it’d be her. As the New York Times described, “Hepburn’s distinctive voice, loud, clipped and with a pronounced upper-class New England accent … became crucial to her performance.”
Blanchett pulled it off so well, it won her the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress.
What are your favorite performances where an actor pulled off an impressive accent? Let us know in the comments below! Learn more about Acting for Film at the New York Film Academy.
Preparation is as much of an actor’s job as a performance itself, particularly when a character’s physicality, speech, or persona are vastly different from your own. Whether an actor’s challenge is primarily physical, mental, emotional, or even vocal, truly embodying a character’s traits in all their nuance produces the most memorable and admirable performances (not to mention benefits come Award season!).
Consequently, great transformations require great dedication, with some actors taking it upon themselves to go to famous extremes to prepare for their roles. Here are some of the most noteworthy examples:
Ben Platt – Dear Evan Hansen
The Tony-winning lead actor of Dear Evan Hansen delivers a gut-wrenching performance, displaying an incredible amount of anguish through the anxiety-ridden teenager, Evan, eight times a week. This kind of repetitive emotional and physical exertion can prove exhausting for the best of us, and among the many differences between acting for camera and acting on stage is the exaggerated movement and vocal projection required for stage actors.
In this New York Times article, Platt talks of the “monkish existence” he has in order to prepare for each show. In addition to losing 30 pounds for the role, Platt gives precedence to solitude and silence in order to rest and recover, notoriously turning down every opportunity for social gatherings. He also refrains from gluten and dairy, takes supplements, and attends physical therapy sessions twice a week that regularly involves the practice of cupping. Much to his chagrin, he’s also developed a habit of nail-biting and obsessively cracking his knuckles — habits he picked up from his character, Evan.
Charlize Theron – Monster
A former model, Theron had become typecast as the “sexy blonde” before landing the 2003 role of real-life-prostitute-turned-serial-killer Aileen Wuornos.
The statuesque actress famously transformed her physical appearance to such an extent that audiences found her unrecognizable; she gained 30 pounds; dyed and thinned her hair; partially shaved and bleached her eyebrows; layered tattoo ink on her face for the weathered pallor of Wuornos’ skin; and donned unflattering dentures and contact lenses.
Theron devoted five whole months to researching Wuornos’ life in order to truly become her, resulting in a win for the Best Actress category at the Oscars (there’s a theme here). Fifteen years on, Theron continues to make drastic physical transformations, recently gaining 50 pounds for her role as Marlo, the overwhelmed mother of three in Tully. Admittedly, Theron says she struggles a lot more to shed the weight at 42 than she did at 27.
Jamie Foxx – Ray
Foxx went from Booty Call to winning an Oscar for his portrayal of the legendary blind musician, Ray Charles. To transform into the iconic musician, Foxx shed 30 pounds through a weeklong fast, followed by a painfully strict diet and daily workouts — though in this New York Times article, Foxx said that the weight loss was the easy part.
In addition to eyelid prosthetics and sunglasses modelled on Charles, Foxx had his eyes glued shut for 14 hours a day, calling it “a jail sentence.” He also suffered panic attacks for the first two weeks, and crew members would sometimes forget and leave him behind at restaurants or around the set.
Leonardo Dicaprio – The Revenant
The seasoned actor was nominated for an Oscar six times before winning his first in 2016 for his portrayal of Hugh Glass in The Revenant — and rightfully so. Shooting on location for nine months in Canada and Argentina in freezing wilderness was “a living hell” for cast and crew members alike. Director Alejandro González Iñárritu and cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki were intent on creating the most realistic aesthetic for the film, using minimal CGI and only shooting with natural daylight.
As such, an incredible amount of rehearsal went into schedule, to maximize the one hour of optimal light they had per day whilst subjecting DiCaprio to “agonizing” feats against mother nature.
In an interview with Yahoo, DiCaprio refers to some 30-40 sequences involving going in and out of freezing rivers, sleeping in an animal carcass, and, of course, that bear scene, as “some of the most difficult things I’ve ever had to do.”
Although the horse carcass was a prop and the bear a product of CGI, eating a raw bison liver was 100 percent real. The vegetarian actor volunteered to make the edible sacrifice to serve Iñárritu’s immersive vision, concerned the faux liver provided wasn’t authentic enough.
“When you see the movie, you’ll see my reaction to it,” he says. “It says it all. It was an instinctive reaction.”
Jared Leto – Suicide Squad
No list about method acting and extreme transformations is complete without including the controversial antics of Jared Leto. Known for his over-the-top commitment to roles, the naturally slender actor seems to be constantly starving or gorging, having lost 25 pounds for Requiem for a Dream, gained 67 pounds for Chapter 27, and most recently lost 40 pounds for his 2013 Oscar-winning role as Rayon, a transgender HIV-positive woman in Dallas Buyers Club.
Besides his physical appearance, however, Leto truly immerses himself in his characters by never breaking off-camera. His Suicide Squad co-star Will Smith famously said, “I’ve never actually met Jared Leto. We worked together for six months and I’ve only ever spoken to him as The Joker.”
Leto also sent Smith bullets with a love letter — similar to what fellow castmate Margot Robbie received, only instead of bullets, there was a live rat. All Suicide Squad castmates received dubious gifts from “The Joker,” and these details served to renew a public debate about the nature of authentic method acting and its value in contemporary film.
Hilary Swank – Boys Don’t Cry
In 1999, Swank played a groundbreaking role of a real-life transgender youth who was born female but lived as a male, until he was killed in 1993 for that reason. The tragic true story prompted Swank to commit everything she had to the role. She took on the persona of Hilary Swank’s brother, James, for four weeks prior to shooting. Roaming around Santa Monica in disguise, with stuffed her pants, flattened breasts, and a lowered voice, the actress said she was treated differently in public and felt like she lost every ounce of her femininity.
She told EW, “It put me in a state of real hopelessness. I cried a lot for days.” The tears didn’t last long though: she won the Best Actress Oscar that year for her work.
What are your favorite stories of famous actor preparation? Let us know in the comments below! Learn more about Acting for Film at the New York Film Academy.