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6 Lessons On-Screen Mothers Have Taught us About Acting

6 Lessons On-Screen Mothers Have Taught us About Acting

Angelina Jolie, Susan Sarandon, Mo’Nique, Essie Davis, Jodie Foster, and Meryl Streep — all mothers — teach us all a little something about acting.

Mothers: we salute you.

You’ve cooked us countless meals. You’ve put up with our laundry-strewn bedroom floors. You’ve been a shoulder to cry on when we got snubbed by that crush we were infatuated with in high school. But, ultimately, you’ve helped nurture and encourage the next generation of filmmaking talent and for that you deserve unending praise.

And so, in tribute to mothers everywhere, today we’re paying homage to six cinematic mothers who have taught us all a little something about acting over the years.


1. Angelina Jolie – The Changeling

What We Learned: Motherhood isn’t a character trait

With stunning cinematography and a tight script reminiscent of Rosemary’s Baby, The Changeling sees Jolie’s character distraught to find her nine year-old son missing. But on being reunited, things go from bad to worse; when she adamantly declares that the boy isn’t actually her son, authorities conspire to brand her psychotic.

From start to finish, the audience is locked into an emotional rollercoaster and herein lies the key to Angelina’s impressive performance: motherhood isn’t just a line on her character spec sheet. Even though it’s central to her story arc, it’s not the be-all-and-end-all of her character – under the umbrella of motherhood, she runs the gamut of emotion. At times she’s broken and in despair; at others she’s fierce and strong. Depending on the situation the plot finds her in, she’s nurturing, sexy, divisive, hopeful, frustrated, joyful and desperate…

… in short, she acts as a real person would in real situations. The fact that she has a child is purely circumstantial.

Read more: The importance of subtext

2. Susan Sarandon – Stepmom

What we learned: It’s okay to play to type

While keeping Jolie’s lesson in mind for how to play a multi-dimensional mom character, there’s also no shame in playing that character often if it’s something you are terrific at.

Susan Sarandon is proof of this, and despite having played a mother figure in numerous movies, no two of her performances are alike as she ekes out and embellishes the role in different ways as the script demands.

Stepmom is a classic example – just make sure you have a handkerchief at the ready.

Read more: How to find your type as an actor

3. Mo’Nique – Precious

(Caution: NSFW Language)

What we learned: It’s not all sunshine and roses

 When you think of on-screen moms, usually the first image that springs to mind is one of a domestic housewife living in marital bliss.

But of course, art imitates life, warts and all. That means some performances call for a frighteningly abusive relationship between parent and child, and nobody captured the darkness with more authenticity than Mo’Nique and her on-screen daughter Gabourey Sibide in Precious.

Some characters are more monstrous than others, and parents are no exception. As actors, it’s important to give it our all in order to bring that character to life no matter whether it calls for domestic happiness or terrifying dysfunction.

4. Essie Davis – The Babadook

What We Learned: A duty of care

So terrifying and demented was Essie Davis’ performance as a slowly-unraveling mother (and the entire movie in general) that many viewers were left wondering how the crew didn’t mentally scar 6 year-old actor Noah Wiseman for real.

Director Jennifer Kent, however, took great pains to make sure that Wiseman’s welfare was at the forefront of production. The child’s mother was on set at all times in what was described as a ”very protective, loving environment” and Wiseman himself wasn’t present during more traumatic scenes with an adult extra taking his place: “During the reverse shots where Amelia was abusing Sam verbally, we had Essie [Davis] yell at an adult stand-in on his knees. I didn’t want to destroy a childhood to make this film – that wouldn’t be fair.”

Ultimately, no matter whether we’re directing a film, in acting school or performing opposite a very young actor, we all have a duty of care to understand that great cinema doesn’t need to come at the expense of a child’s well-being.

Read more: 5 performances by child actors we can all learn from

5. Jodie Foster – Panic Room

What We Learned: Not all on-screen bonds are purely fictional

David Fincher’s 2002 thriller worked on many levels, but it was arguably the close bond between the mother and daughter characters which propelled the drama and kept the film emotionally grounded.

And the reason it worked so well is that the bond was real – Jodie was deeply nurturing of her 10 year-old costar Kristen Stewart, who in turn looked up to the acting veteran (Foster was also responsible for having the script changed to make her on-screen daughter a tougher character.)

To this day the pair remain close, with Foster calling Stewart “my other daughter” and Stewart having honored Foster while receiving her Walk of Fame star.

And on a similar (if a lot darker) vein…

6. Meryl Streep – Mamma Mia!

What We Learned: We draw from the strong women around us

The ultimate Mother’s Day movie, and one which sees Meryl Streep performing at her finest (though really, when is she not?).

While her filmography is as varied as it is extensive, Streep is no stranger to performing as an on-screen mother and her career is loosely typified as being one that exudes feminine strength, of which Mamma Mia! is a good example.

And perhaps a lot of her acting prowess is rooted in her close bond with her real-life maternal figures – Streep drew extensively from both her mom and grandmother’s experiences to as a career mother and war survivor respectively for her celebrated roles in Kramer vs. Kramer and Sophie’s Choice.

And the inspiration may even run deeper than that. Of her highly encouraging mother, Streep says: “She was a mentor because she said to me, ‘Meryl, you’re capable… If you’re lazy, you’re not going to get it done. But if you put your mind to it, you can do anything.’”

Amen to that.

Happy Mother’s Day to all those that continue to inspire us, as well as those who are sadly no longer with us.

The Up-And-Coming Actors Performing At Coachella 2016

Coachella banner

It’s that time of year again—the days are longer, people’s calendars are filling up with more and more parties, and outdoor festivities are popping up more often than a jack-in-the-box at a preschool. Spring is definitely in the air. And how fitting that the flora is flourishing again as many heads would seem all but bare without the floral accessories accompanying them to the festivals of this season. Namely one, in particular—COACHELLA (ella, ella… a nod to Rihanna’s surprise guest performance with Calvin Harris on Sunday for those of you wondering). It’s not news that this yearly event in the middle of a Palm Springs’ desert gathers big names in entertainment – both on and off the stage. And this year’s artist line up is no different. What may be news to some, however, are the names these musical artists are making for themselves in film and television. So here are a few noteworthy crossover acts in that respect.

A$AP Rocky

A$AP Rocky on stage

Rick Famuyiwa’s coming-of-age Hip Hop film, Dope, debuted at the Sundance Film Festival last year to much fanfare. It was also the acting debut for Rocky (birth name Rakim Mayers) who played the integral part of ‘Dom’—a charismatic drug dealer from the notorious streets of Inglewood, California. Although he only appears in the first half of the film, Rocky really made his time count. Acting as the catalyst for the film’s protagonist, Malcom (Shameik Moore), a 90s hip-hop loving “geek” having to deal with a terrible string of events following their meeting, Dom manages to exude likeability and a surprising amount of humor. That said, you get the feeling this isn’t another episode of stunt-casting to get people in theatre seats; Rocky is actually a good actor. “Rocky is so smart and such an intuitive actor that you sort of know unexpected casting would play into how I wanted Dom to be perceived,” says Dope director and writer, Famuyiwa. Looks like the “L$D” rapper has a bright (and diverse) future in film—“Moving forward, I don’t want to play any more roles playing a drug dealer, or a handsome guy,” he says


Sia and Maddie Ziegler at the Grammys

Photo by Lester Cohen/WireImage

“I was too embarrassed to tell anyone I wanted to make a movie,” said the talented singer-songwriter during a panel last year. “And then last year, after I made the Chandelier video, I realized that I was pretty good at directing, so I felt a little bit braver.” With her frequent partner-in-crime, Maddie Ziegler (the child dancer starring in the singer’s music videos for “Chandelier,”Elastic Heart,” and “Big Girls Cry”) taking the main role, the film, entitled Sister, follows a sober drug dealer and his sister with autism. Based on a story Sia wrote around eight years ago, the singer sought help from numerous industry friends for her first go at screenwriting, including the children’s book author Dallas Clayton, actor Joel Edgerton, and husband and documentary filmmaker, Erik Anders Lang. “What I do enjoy is the creative process,” says the artist when comparing similarities between music and filmmaking.

Bat For Lashes

Natasha Khan of Bat For Lashes

Natasha Khan aka Bat For Lashes has a number of short films under her belt. The British singer-songwriter and clothing designer has produced one of six parts for the MTV World film, Madly. The film series also includes works from Gael Garcia Bernal and Mia Wasikowska and showcases stories of modern love. Khan’s film is called “I Do.” “It’s about a bride, the morning of her wedding, being disturbed by subterranean weird feelings, messages and signs… It’s all about redemption of grief, putting ghosts to bed before you can move into a fully committed relationship,” she says. The multi-talented singer also directed and starred in her own short film, “Under The Indigo Moon”—a film she made for fashion house YMC for whom she created a clothing line. The film also showcases the song of the same name—one on which she collaborated with singer. In addition to these, Khan is also in the process of writing a screenplay for a film commissioned in 2014 called Gotcha, a family drama about a father and son in a dysfunctional family situation playing hide-and-seek.

Ellie Goulding

Ellie Goulding

The “It” girl of British pop managed to showcase some impressive acting skills in a short film, “Tom And Issy,” which premiered on her Vevo channel in late 2013. Written by Dead Car creators, Stefan Georgiou and Sam Bern, and directed by Notting Hill director Roger Hill, the story was shot entirely on a Nokia Lumia 1020 and captures the complex and intricate details of falling in love. Goulding plays the main role of Issy, who gets whisked away by her flatmate, Tom, from an unappreciative boyfriend to explore London at its finest. As successful as her career in music may be, the singer admits she’s always dreamed of becoming an actress and hopes to eventually swap singing for a career in television. “I’d quite like to act at some point. I just think it’d be quite fun. It’d be another one of my experiments… You’ve got to get experience in front of the cameras [in a soap opera]… Or I’d like to do a play,” she says.

Ice Cube

Ice Cube and Kevin Hart in Ride Along

This hip-hop veteran has accumulated a long list of accolades for his role in films that easily matches his successes in music over the past few decades. By the ripe, young age of twenty, he had already assisted in founding—and later departed—what some would consider the most influential rap groups of all time, N.W.A. With no time to waste, he went on to start an acclaimed solo career in both music as well as the big screen, starring in 1991’s Boyz n the Hood—a role that would instantly establish himself as a force to be reckoned with in film. Since then, the rapper has amassed an extensive filmography that covers everything from family-friendly fare and dramas to action and goofy comedy. While appearing in John Singleton’s Higher Learning in 1992, the multi-talented rapper took on the director’s advice to start writing his own films.

Three years later, he starred in the cult comedy classic, Friday, which he co-wrote with DJ Pooh. He then went on to write, direct, and act in The Players Club in 1998 as well as writing, producing, and starring in Next Friday in 2000. With a string of acting gigs in critically acclaimed films over the past decade, his most recent film career highlight came about yet again just last year, with the N.W.A biopic Straight Outta Compton. The Oscar-nominated film, which he produced, has made a definitive mark, boasting the highest domestic box office tally for a film that’s directed by a black filmmaker, F. Gary Gray. In the same year, it was also picked by the Screen Actors Guild for a nomination in the “best performance by a cast in a motion picture” category. All in all, the film’s success was truly “Dream come true stuff, man,” as Cube explains.

Learn more about the Film School at the New York Film Academy by clicking here.

Top 5 Famous Acting Quotes From Actors And Why They Matter

philip seymour hoffman quote on acting

People love to pick the brains of experts in hope of uncovering some secret recipe for success in a given field. Have a political question? Ask a former President. Want to know how to manage your money? Warren Buffet knows a thing or two. Need to know what acting really is? Ask a successful actor.

Why Do We Care What Actors Say?

There is an obsession with famous actors largely because they have defied the odds and made a career out of acting. All aspiring actors dream about breaking through and all aspiring actors are searching for the secret recipe to success. What better way to learn how to do something than by listening to someone who has done it?

Take a look at these quotes from actors you may recognize and learn what makes an actor tick.

Quotes From Famous Actors About Acting

“Acting is behaving truthfully under imaginary circumstances.”

-Sanford Meisner

Meisner is most famous for his teachings on acting but he himself was also an accomplished actor. He used revolutionary techniques to get realistic performances from his students, and this quote is the spine of his acting theory. Although simple, his quote is powerful. Mr. Meisner is hinting at the fact that acting should never be forced. Instead, all actions should arise from some impetus, or, more basically, “acting is reacting” to something that happened to you.

“If you get a chance to act in a room that somebody else has paid rent for, then you’re given a free chance to practice your craft.”

Phillip Seymour Hoffman

Auditioning is time of great stress for actors. Oftentimes this anxiety is created by expectations the actor puts on him/herself before the performance. The late Phillip Seymour Hoffman was a master actor of stage and screen and this quote offers his perspective on auditioning. Rather than expecting to get a role and worrying about what the auditors think of you, use auditions as a practice session to improve as an actor.

“The gratification comes in the doing, not in the results.”

-James Dean

James Dean was certainly wise beyond his years and a highly-skilled actor for such a young man. Although he died when he was only 24, his monumental influence on modern actors is still present today. Similar to Hoffman, Dean presents a process-driven view of acting as opposed to a results-driven view. Focusing on and enjoying the process of acting should be the actor’s purpose, not focusing on achieving a certain “result.” In other words, control what you can control and let your work speak for itself.

“For me, our job as artists is to serve the story, serve the director, and serve the fellow actors. And if you do that, by osmosis you’re serving yourself because you’ll get the best out of yourself.”

-David Oyelowo

This is an elegant quote from a talented actor who is thankfully still living and working today. Oyelowo wowed audiences as Martin Luther King, Jr. in 2014’s Selma and the actor is just as selfless as the character he portrayed. The idea of selflessness should be central to an actor’s performance because by giving to others through performance the entirety of the production is strengthened. The quote is also a reminder that in the entertainment industry, being a good person with a wholesome reputation is a good thing. Overall, the message reads like a Bible verse: Give what thou shall receive onstage.

“Remember: there are no small parts, only small actors.”

Constantin Stanislavski

This is perhaps the favorite quote of acting students the world around and is meant to remind all of us that acting is bigger than any one person. Allowing ego to creep into the acting process is to doom it to failure. No matter where the actor is and what role they are performing, acting is the same and the actor must take the job seriously.

Now, go forth and discover quotes from your favorite actors that inspire you to continue on the journey. Read them, analyze them, and apply the lessons to your life so that you too may someday be asked your thoughts on the craft of acting.

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Learn more about the Film School at the New York Film Academy by clicking here.

6 Outstanding Performances That Could Have Been Nominated For An Oscar in 2016

Oscar Trophies

Every year there are only five nominees in each of the four acting categories at the Academy Awards. As such, there is always disagreement among film fans and critics alike. Unfortunately, while not everyone can be nominated, that doesn’t mean there aren’t other performances that are worthy of the award. Here are some standout performances from 2015 that could have easily been nominated for an Oscar.

Michael B. Jordan (Creed), Lead Actor

Michael B. Jordan in Creed

Mr. Jordan burst onto the big screen a few years back with his headline-grabbing performance in Fruitvale Station. It was a wonderful film; brilliantly acted while generating the kind of buzz that leads to future nominations. In Creed, Jordan plays boxer Adonis Johnson, son of Apollo Creed. The actor stacked on muscle like it was going out of style for the part and his character faces enough internal and external obstacles to have warranted a nomination. Maybe the planned sequel to Creed will generate some bigger Oscars buzz for him next time.

Charlize Theron (Mad Max: Fury Road), Lead Actress

Charlize Theron in Mad Max Fury Road

Another sequel, another overlooked performance. Charlize is almost unrecognizable as the tough, one-armed warrior Furiosa, but her rough exterior belies a tender heart. Furiosa is the protagonist of the Fury Road. She hatches a plan that jumpstarts the plot, shows her integrity, and artfully demonstrates her ultimate willingness to sacrifice herself for others. This isn’t the first time Theron has chopped her hair and gotten dirty (literally) for a role but the last time she did, she won for Monster.

Idris Elba (Beasts of No Nation), Supporting Actor

 Idris Elba in Beasts of No Nation

If you haven’t seen the debut feature film from Netflix, it’s well worth the watch and Elba steals the show. It’s a story about the tragic life of a child soldier who is taken in by a group of guerilla fighters led by the Comandant (Elba). Commandant is a charismatic (if not delusional) man of questionable moral fortitude and Elba embodies him with power and grace. Look out for that accent too; it is scary good. Curiously, Elba won this year’s SAG Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor. At least that’s a bit of a consolation.

Johnny Depp (Black Mass), Lead Actor

 Johnny Depp Black Mass

The brown-eyed, dark haired star donned blue contacts and blonde hair to portray legendary Boston gangster Whitey Bulger in Black Mass. His turn as the evil protagonist is chilling and detailed and is a testament to Depp’s skill at playing believably real people. Indeed, he is the most nominated actor on this list (3 nominations and counting) who is always in conversation for awards at year’s end. But Depp doesn’t seem to care much about the Oscars, which probably hurts his chances.

“I don’t want to win one of those things ever, you know… The idea of winning means that you’re in competition with someone and I’m not in competition with anybody.”

-Johnny Depp, Vanity Fair

Mya Taylor (Tangerine), Supporting Actress


Mya Taylor in Tangerine

Tangerine was a game-changing film to be sure, not only shining the light on a day in the life of a transgender sex worker, but also displaying the incredible cinematography that can be achieved with a mere iPhone. But, that doesn’t mean there is no humor to be found on the streets of LA. The film shows a hectic day in the life of two prostitutes, one of which, played by Taylor, is a musician on the side. Taylor is hard as nails and sweet as sugar in her performance. Tangerine is a landmark film for several reasons, largely because it is the first time transgender actresses—Taylor’s co-star Kitana Kiki Rodriguez also got quite a bit of critical attention for her stellar performance—have had their Oscar campaign backed by a major studio.

Jason Mitchell (Straight Outta Compton), Supporting Actor

Jason Mitchell from Straight Out of Compton

Although any of the five young actors in Straight Outta Compton could stake a claim to awards nominations, Mitchell’s turn as the charismatic mastermind Eazy-E is especially moving. He starts as an arrogant dope-slinging gangster and becomes a worldwide phenomenon before his ultimate downfall. The breadth of the man and his complicated personal relationships are brought to life by Mitchell in a way that makes you equally respect and despise his character throughout the film.

Awards are always subjective things. Nominations depend on a number of factors, popularity, past work, and politicking not least among them. But take it from Johnny Depp, awards are not the end-all be-all in acting. Truth, passion, and technical skill will always shine through in the visual telling of a story through film.

Learn more about the School of Acting at the New York Film Academy by clicking here.

Five Must-See Movies For President’s Day

The presidents of past and present have afforded screenwriters with a lot of solid writing material, both in terms of their political careers and personal lives.

With President’s Day upon us, today we’re looking back on five different presidents given the biopic treatment, as well as taking a look at how closely each drama mirrored real-life events.

Five Must-Watch Portrayals of U.S. Presidents

White House and front yard

Frost/Nixon (2008)

President: Richard Nixon
Played by: Frank Langella

An electrifying series of power play interviews centered around the Watergate scandal game of cat and mouse between British journalist David Frost (played by Michael Sheen) and Richard Nixon (Frank Langella) as the former tries to ensnare the well-prepared latter in a lie.

The film features incredible performances from both leads, and has the screenplay equivalent of an unstoppable force meeting an immovable object.

How Accurate is Frost/Nixon?

Some fairly crucial liberties were taken with the line in which Nixon admits his participation in Watergate—in the script, it reads, “[I] was involved in a cover-up, as you call it.” In reality, it omits an important prefix to the line: “You’re wanting me to say that I participated in an illegal cover-up. No!”

Historians have also queried the impact the interview series had on both politics and the media, with some feeling it overstated the significance of the event and the effects it had on those involved.

Lincoln (2012)

President: Abraham Lincoln
Played by: Daniel Day-Lewis

A strongly performance-driven movie covering the span of Lincoln’s life between the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863 and his assassination. Although dialogue heavy in places, you’re left with the overwhelming impression that you’ve just seen history in action, exactly as it happened, with Honest Abe himself on screen.

How Accurate is Lincoln?

Very. Daniel Day-Lewis is famed for his method acting and extensive research before a role (he shut himself away for a year to read every book he could on the president) and both critics and historians praised his uncanny resemblance to what we know about the real article.

Script-wise, a few lines were put into Lincoln’s mouth under artistic license, but on the whole it’s as close as a biopic can get while still being watchable.

Southside With You (2016)

President: Barack Obama
Played by: Parker Sawyers

Very few fictionalized accounts of Obama’s life and/or presidency exist to date, which is hardly surprising given he is still in office at the time of writing.

However, one gem comes in the form of Southside With You, a light-hearted romantic docudrama focusing on Obama’s first date with the future First Lady (played by Tika Sumpter.) A disarmingly sweet movie and one that was received well by critics when released earlier this year at Sundance.

How Accurate is Southside With You?

According to director Richard Tanne, the “trajectory of the date is about 90% accurate” while freely admitting that a couple of elements may have happened later into the courtship.

Primary Colors (1998)

President: Bill Clinton (kinda)

Played by: John Travolta

More of a political satire than a Clinton biopic, but with plenty of parallels to reality that hit home on a mainstream level (and with some critics declaring it to so closely mirror reality that it seems indistinguishable with a factual account.)

How Accurate is Primary Colors?

Although Emma Thompson stated that she didn’t base her performance on Hillary Clinton and Travolta drew from a number of different presidents, the movie is a fairly accurate depiction of life on the campaign trail. Not all that surprising, given that the screenplay was based on the writings of Joe Klein (who had been closely following Clinton’s presidential campaign for Newsweek). The real-life Bill Clinton is reportedly a big fan of the movie.

Warm Springs (2005)

President: Franklin D. Roosevelt
Played by: Kenneth Branagh

An HBO television film covering Roosevelt’s battle against polio and subsequent work to change the titular Georgia spa resort into a safe haven for fellow victims. The biopic went on to receive universal praise (aimed primarily at Branagh’s performance as FDR), as well as numerous award nominations and an Emmy win for screenwriter Margaret Nagle.

How Accurate is Warm Springs?

Roosevelt’s journey to recovery and return to politics is told here with a fair degree of accuracy, with many FDR consultants working on the film to keep it as close as possible to real events (of which there are many peppered throughout.)

Learn more about the Film School at the New York Film Academy by clicking here.

The Best Places For Actors To Be Seen In LA

Networking event

Paparazzi, autograph hounds, and Hollywood socialites flock to the busy, over-priced clubs and bars on the Sunset Strip in hopes of meeting a famous face but that’s not what this article is about. In the film industry, networking is an important part of advancing one’s career, especially if you are an actor. Now, for the actor, networking means to build relationships with working industry professionals with whom you may work in the future. Simply put, the more people you know, the more friendships you can create, the wider your net becomes, and the more likely you are to land work.

Where to Network in LA

Here are some ideas of places to meet other artists, filmmakers, writers, and maybe even a future studio chief.

Acting Classes and Workshops

At an acting class, actors have the chance to meet and work with other actors while improving at the craft of acting. Many agents, casting directors and acting teachers offer classes workshops regularly. Enrolling in a good acting class is one of the first things that all LA actors should do. Be sure to do your research before committing to any course because scams abound in Hollywood. Reputable institutions like the New York Film Academy and teachers with proven track records are good places to start in your search for the right arena of study.

Auditions and Casting Calls

What better place to network than in the casting room with a director or CD? It seems so obvious, but many actors forget that one of the best places to be seen is at film and theater auditions because you have the opportunity to converse and show what you can do. Attending auditions regularly keeps the skills fresh, gets your name and face out into the industry, and is the only proven way to get more acting jobs.

Agents do some of the work for more established actors, but part of the responsibility still falls on the actor. Scour audition callboards like LA Actors Circle Facebook page and Backstage to find applicable roles, apply, and audition. You never know who you might meet in the room!

Networking Events

You aren’t the only LA actor looking for networking opportunities, and that hasn’t gone unnoticed. There are tons of pre-scheduled networking events put on by various organizations that are meant to connect industry professionals with others who work in entertainment. The trick is to find the events that suit your needs.

Ideas of places to learn about networking events are local Facebook groups, alumni groups, and union web pages including SAG and AEA. These are more formal events and everyone goes for the purposes of meeting people, but act professionally and seek friendships rather than being a rapid-fire resume-handing machine.

The Theater

“I regard the theater as the greatest of all the art forms.” – Oscar Wilde

Mr. Wilde was perhaps the most prolific English writer of his time and his plays are still produced the world around and his quotes are famous for their quips of wisdom. In terms of networking, the theater is an excellent place to meet actors and directors because there is so many crossovers between the theater and film communities. Additionally, the theater can be more accessible to aspiring actors because of the many ways to get involved.

Most theaters have volunteer ushers who receive free tickets in exchange for help with seating patrons. As mentioned above, acting and auditioning in the theater is a great way to meet new artists, but just attending and talking with other audience members can lead to new industry relationships.

Los Angeles is a big city but don’t let the daunting size and stop you from networking as an actor. Start small, build a core group of friends and co-workers, and expand from there. Eventually, as you advance in your career, networking will become much easier and a natural part of life as an actor.

Learn more about the School of Acting at the New York Film Academy by clicking here.

The Best Film Monologues Ever And Why You Have To See Them

NYFA student gives monologue

All great characters don’t have monologues; but all great monologues come from the mouths of great characters. Some of the most famous lines of dialogue ever uttered in the movies come from monologues. In various film monologues, De Niro asked, “You talkin’ to me?” Brando said he “coulda been a contender.” And Eastwood questioned if you feel lucky.

To deliver a block of speech in a memorable, entertaining way is one of the most difficult tasks for an actor, especially on film. There is less freedom of movement of film than on stage, and thus the actor is more limited in actions during a monologue. Training, technique, thought, and talent are all needed to make a monologue great—alone with nailing that audition—and these fine thespians have a surplus of all those qualities. Of course, it helps to have a good scriptwriter as well.

Here are four of the best film monologues ever and reasons why every actor should see them.

Alec Baldwin, Glengarry Glen Ross

Let’s start the list off with a bang shall we? Near the beginning of the movie, a group of slacker, suburban salesmen get a visit from Mr. Blake, a company executive from “downtown.” He lays into them from the beginning, famously demanding “Put that coffee down. Coffee is for closers.” In about seven minutes of screen time Baldwin owns the story with his profanity laced tirade on sales, greed, money, and capitalism. Interestingly, David Mamet, who wrote the screenplay based on his play of the same name, added Baldwin’s character specifically for the film. Blake isn’t exactly a likeable character, but Baldwin expertly shows how to act while holding all the power in a scene.

Jack Nicholson, A Few Good Men

“You can’t handle the truth!” In one moment, Col. Jessep makes a decision, a decision that blows his cover and sentences him to jail. His pent up rage and monologue of backwards logic is the dénouement of a tense and thrilling film and Nicholson unties the knot with complete commitment. He is wrong but he truly believes he is right, and it makes his monologue almost sympathetic. It’s the kind of snappy, intelligent dialogue that has made Aaron Sorkin the A-list scripter that he is. He also wrote The Social Network, The Newsroom, The West Wing, Moneyball, and the list goes on.

Samuel L. Jackson, Pulp Fiction

Most anything that Samuel L. Jackson says on screen is entertaining, but his monologue as contract killer Jules Winnfield in Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction might be his best work. Before committing murder, Winnfield first questions and then lectures his victim on life, specifically the mistakes that led his victim to this point. Jules caps his monologue by quoting a bible verse, Ezekiel 25:17. Jackson’s delivery is so unique, even when quoting the bible, and is a tactic that all actors can learn from, even if the script doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. We imagine he had a fun time memorizing this speech.

Matt Damon, Good Will Hunting

This movie has several awesome monologues. Damon has two and Robin Williams has at least one beautiful monologue on the park bench but the one that really sticks is Damon’s disarmament of the man in the bar. The monologue establishes the depth and intelligence that Will Hunting has, even if he is just a poor janitor from Boston. In one fell swoop he shows his loyalty to friends, bravery, and quick-wittedness. These are the qualities that make him an amazingly gifted person, but also mask his internal damage. It’s as if the writer knew exactly the actor he had to portray the character. (Damon shared the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay with Ben Affleck that year)

There are four of the best, but there are so many more that could’ve been included. Each monologue is different and offers a different insight into acting for people who study them. Do you have a favorite monologue that teaches you something about acting? “Well, do ya, punk?”

Learn more about the School of Acting at the New York Film Academy by clicking here.

10 Alan Rickman Characters We’ll Always Treasure

Alan Rickman outside of BAM

January 2016 will be remembered primarily as a month in which we lost too many treasured artists. David Bowie and Lemmy Kilmister were among the most prominent, alongside a string of other lesser-known (but no less loved) actors and musicians.

On January 14, the world awoke to the sad news that Alan Rickman, maestro of both stage and screen, has joined the list. With a heavy heart but eternal gratitude to a British legend, today we look back fondly on his incredible body of work.

Hans Gruber – Die Hard (1988)

Die Hard could have fallen squarely into the mire of ludicrous 80s action movies, but stood out from the crowd thanks to a great performance from the then-unknown Bruce Willis (originally, Frank Sinatra was offered the lead role.)

But for many, it was Rickman’s breakout performance as terrorist Hans Gruber, which stole the show and set him on a trajectory as one of the world’s most popular villain actors.

Jamie – Truly, Madly, Deeply (1991)

Although Rickman would become known for a number of bad guy-type roles over the course of his career, he was also to become known for his great versatility as evidenced here with his a performance that tugged on the heartstrings of critics and audiences alike.

The Sheriff of Nottingham – Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991)

And back to villainy, cut with a dash of Rickman’s trademark wit. Incidentally, he had previously turned down the role of the Sheriff on two different occasions before being promised he could perform the character any way he wished for the 1991 movie. Luckily for us, he accepted.

Colonel Brandon – Sense and Sensibility (1995)

There are poor adaptations of Austen, there are great adaptations of Austen…

… and then there are adaptations which feature Alan Rickman. This is the bar for acting in a period drama, and has not been matched in the subsequent twenty years, let alone surpassed.

Rasputin – Rasputin: Dark Servant of Destiny (1996)

Given that it was released as a TV movie, Rickman’s portrayal of the titular mad monk is an often-overlooked performance in his filmography.

It’s also a shame, too, given that it was so good it earned him an Emmy and a Golden Globe (the film also features a typically brilliant Sir Ian McKellen.)

Alexander Dane – Galaxy Quest (1999)

One of the funniest characters in the Rickman catalog, and to say it stood out in a movie full of great performances is testament to his acting prowess.

It’s safe to say that Galaxy Quest is a movie which will be heavily re-watched around the globe in the coming weeks and months.

Metatron – Dogma (1999)

Another exceptional turn at comedy came in the form of Metatron, The Voice of God.

After all, if an all-powerful being was going to select a human voice, why wouldn’t they choose Alan Rickman’s?

Harry – Love, Actually (2003)

We cannot think of a single actor who could have played the multi-layered character of Harry any better. Only an actor as beloved as Rickman could portray a man who is cheating on his long-standing wife and still command the sympathies of the audience.

Marvin – Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (2005)

There were many grievances Hitchhiker fans had with the 2005 movie adaptation, but Alan Rickman’s portrayal as the depressed android Marvin was rarely one of them.

Although performing in a voice-acting capacity only, it still ranks amongst the best characters of his filmography.

Severus Snape – Harry Potter Series (2001-2011)

In decades to come, an entire generation will look back on Alan Rickman and fondly remember growing up with him as Severus Snape, a character so morally ambiguous that only someone with truly immense acting talent could have portrayed his depth of character effectively.

That man was Alan Rickman, and we will miss him always.

Learn more about the School of Acting at the New York Film Academy by clicking here.

Actors We Lost In 2015

The end of the year is an exciting time in the entertainment industry. There are holiday parties, major film releases, and a buzz of anticipation surrounding the upcoming Awards season. However, on a more somber note, the end of the year is also a time to reflect on the artists who were lost in the last twelve months.

It is always sad to see a fine actor go, no matter the age. There is a special bond between audience and actor, and an even stronger bond between fellow actors that makes the passing of a beloved thespian all the more heartbreaking. But, it is always fun to remember the wonderful contributions that people made during their lives in Hollywood. Here’s to remembering and honoring the work of these four actors who passed in 2015.

1. Christopher Lee

Christopher Lee

He starred as villains in such film franchises as James Bond (Scaramanga), The Lord of the Rings (Saruman), and Star Wars (Count Dooku) yet, amazingly, his real life may have been even more impressive. Off screen, Christopher Lee was a cousin of Ian Fleming and a friend of J.R.R. Tolkien; he fought in World War II, spoke English, French and German and was knighted by the Queen in 2001. That’s right; it’s Sir Christopher Lee to you. He lived an interesting life both on and off the screen but it his work as an actor for which he will forever be remembered. His career started back in the 1940s and lasted until he died earlier this year at the age of 93.

“You can never be a proper actor without good instincts.” – Christopher Lee

2. Robert Loggia

Robert Loggia and Tom Hanks in Big

A reliable yet versatile actor known for playing a variation on the tough guy type, Loggia is perhaps most recognizable to modern viewers for his roles in Scarface and Big—after all, who could honestly forget his life-sized piano duet with Tom Hanks? First coming to notoriety on the stages of NYC, he starred in numerous TV series from the 50s through the 00s that include Columbo, Hawaii Five-0, The Bionic Woman, and Monk amongst many others. He earned an Oscar nomination for best supporting actor for his role as Sam Ransom in Jagged Edge and also was nominated for an Emmy for his character of FBI agent Nick Mancuso in Mancuso FBI. Having passed away in early December following a five-year battle with Alzheimer’s Disease, he is survived by his wife Audrey.

“Nevertheless, I tend to get offensive easily.” – Robert Loggia

3. Anne Meara

Anne Meara

To modern fans, Anne Meara might be most famous as the mother of actor-comedian Ben Stiller and the wife of Jerry Stiller of Seinfeld and King of Queens fame. But, Anne Meara had a long, illustrious career in entertainment herself. It all started back in the 1960’s with the comedy troupe Stiller and Meara. She was a prolific actor and writer during her time, appearing in dozens of films and television shows and winning a Writer’s Guild Award for her work on The Other Woman. Unfortunately, Meara passed away in 2015 at the age of 85, but her influence will certainly live on in the work of her family members.

“I would never presume to give anyone advice.” – Anne Meara

4. Leonard Nimoy

Leonard Nimoy

Few characters in the history of television have captured the adoration of fans in the way of Star Trek’s Spock. Besides playing Spock, Nimoy was an accomplished filmmaker, voiceover artist, and author. Although he had other supporting roles, interests, and achievements, Nimoy is without a doubt remembered as the original Mr. Spock. For nearly 40 years, Nimoy portrayed Spock, starting in the original Star Trek TV series, and ending with a small role in the recent film remakes. He died in February 2015 at the age of 82, but his legacy as Spock lives on.

“The miracle is this: the more we share, the more we have.” – Leonard Nimoy

5. Uggie the Dog

Uggie the Dog on the red carpet

He was a canine performer but he was no less an actor than his human counterparts. In fact, his list of film credits, which include Water for Elephants and The Artist, would make 99% of working human actors jealous. Uggie was a specially trained Jack Russell Terrier that rose from humble beginnings to co-star in major motion pictures. He won the Palm Dog Award at the 2011 Cannes International Film Festival and was a key cast member of the Academy Award-winning film The Artist, but Uggie’s greatest legacy will be as the dog that started the conversation about a special award category for animal actors. Uggie lived an honorable life, but was put down in August 2015 due to health problems. He was 13 (or 91 in dog years).

“It was actually quite easy to work with Uggie…Especially because of the sausages I had in my pocket. – Jean Dujardin (Lead Actor in The Artist)

Other Notable Actors Who Passed in 2015

James Best

Catherine Coulson

Donna Douglas

Ellen Albertini Dow

Louis Jourdan

Geoffrey Lewis

Taylor Negron

Maureen O’Hara

Ben Powers

Rod Taylor

Dick Van Patten

Alberta Watson

Ben Woolf

Learn more about the School of Acting at the New York Film Academy by clicking here.

4 Indie Film Actors On The Rise

Not all actors are lucky enough to be discovered by a talent scout and launched to instant stardom. Some actors have to put in years of toil in low-budget indie films after graduating acting school, hoping that they will gain the admiration of audiences at a film festival or industry screening. The indie route isn’t easy, but it is a tried and true method that has launched the careers of heavyweight film actors like Matthew McConaughey (Dazed and Confused), Vince Vaughn (Swingers), and, more recently, Jennifer Lawrence (Winter’s Bone). Here are four actors that made a splash as indie film actors in 2015.

1. Shameik Moore, Dope

Shameik Moore in Dope

This fresh dramedy debuted at Sundance and features a bevy of young talent that was headlined by lead actor Shameik Moore who plays the geeky Malcolm Adekanbi. The story follows Malcolm as he navigates a sticky situation, pursues a girl, and ultimately tries to accomplish his dream of attending Harvard. Moore is a sturdy young man who handles comedic and dramatic moments with aplomb, not unlike a certain Fresh Prince. He has the ingredients of a star in the making, not to mention some big time Hollywood connections. Dope was produced by Forrest Whitaker, Pharrell Williams, and Sean Combs.

2. Brie Larson, Short Term 12, Room

Brie Larson

At only 26, Brie Larson has already tackled serious subjects such as abduction and mental illness in her films and her penchant for powerful stories has shot her to the top of the indie film game. After having bit parts in studio films like 21 Jump Street and 13 Going on 30, Larson turned her attention to indies to get better roles. Soon after that, she landed the lead in Short Term 12 as the supervisor of a group home for troubled children. She then followed that up with the lead role in the film Room about an abducted young mother raising a five-year old, which has been generating serious Oscar buzz for the young actress. Larson has already started to gain the attention of studios and its only a matter of time until she is starring in a large budget picture.

3. Tye Sheridan, Mud, Joe, Tree of Life

Tye Sheridan

He’s only been acting since 2011, but in that time he has amassed a list of credits that would make any Hollywood veteran jealous. By the age of 18, he had starred opposite Matthew McConaughey, Brad Pitt, and Nicolas Cage. His characters are often troubled youth in search of an older male role model, and Sheridan has a knack for balancing a sympathetic vulnerability with a tough exterior that is always interesting to watch. Come this time next year, he will be far better known than he is at the moment as he is slated to play the young version of Cyclops in the upcoming action film X-Men: Apocalypse.

4. Bel Powley, The Diary of a Teenage Girl

Bel Powley

Diary also debuted at Sundance this year and Bel Powley was immediately dubbed the “Jennifer Lawrence of 2015.” That is high praise that has propelled the 23-year-old Powley up the independent film ladder and the praise wasn’t handed out lightly. Powley steals the show with her portrayal of a 15-year old girl who engages in an intimate relationship with her mother’s boyfriend. It sounds uncomfortable, and it is, but the fact that Powley brings life to a character in a situation that is at times tragic and at times hilariously awkward is a testament to her skill. Coming up soon, she will share the screen with Tye Sheridan in Detour and Equals with Kristen Stewart. I guess the moral of the story her is, if you want to break out in an indie film, get the film into Sundance.

Is the next Hollywood star amongst this new crop of independent film actors on the rise? Only time will tell, but for now they can rest easy knowing they are some of the hottest names currently on the indie circuit.

Learn more about the School of Acting at the New York Film Academy by clicking here.

5 Movies That Feature Game of Thrones Stars

Game of Thrones logo

Game of Thrones fans know that Sean Bean was a Hollywood star before he portrayed Ned Stark in the first season of the HBO series but what about the rest of the cast? Lord of the Rings, Goldeneye, and Troy are all great movies but there are plenty of other films featuring Game of Thrones stars that are worth a look. Here are five of them.

1. Lena Headey in 300 (2007)

Lena Headey in 300

Many audiences got their first look at Headey in the role of Gorgo, the strong and noble Queen of Sparta. She plays opposite Gerard Butler’s King Leonidas in the highly stylized film that is full of half-naked men. Ever the skilled thespian, Headey rises to the challenge as the female lead and delivers an intense performance that showcases her loyalty and love toward her husband and city-state. In many ways, Gorgo is a foil to Headey’s role as Cersei in Game of Thrones, but the similarities of the genre still shine through.

2. Peter Dinklage in Death at a Funeral (2007 and 2010)

Peter Dinklage in Death at a Funeral

His role in this British (then later American) comedy film couldn’t be further from his hard drinking, womanizing role as Tyrion Lannister in Game of Thrones. Dinklage plays an American dwarf named Peter (yes, really) who mysteriously shows up at the funeral of a recently deceased man and declares himself the gay lover of the dead man. The family is shocked and don’t believe the little person, but Peter brought proof. Hilarity ensues in this raucous comedy about a family trying to put their patriarch to rest. It was remade in 2010 as an American film, and Dinklage reprised his role as Peter.

3. Emilia Clarke in Terminator Genisys (2015)

Emilia Clarke in Terminator Genisys

Emilia Clarke’s Daenerys Targaryen has become the poster character for the Game of Thrones franchise, and for good reason. Clarke seems to steal every scene she appears in and Hollywood has taken notice of her talents. Last summer she starred in the fifth installment in the Terminator franchise as Sarah Connor, mother of Human Resistance leader John Connor. Sarah Connor is every bit as tough as Daenerys (she was raised by a Terminator after all) but she trades her sword in for an assault rifle. Interestingly, Clarke isn’t the only GoT star to have portrayed the character Sarah Connor. Lena Headey played her in the Fox television show Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles.

4. Natalie Dormer in The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 (2014)

Natalie Dormer in The Hunger Games: Mockingjay

Margaery Tyrell is a calculating, manipulative character who plays the politics of Westeros with a skill beyond her age. Dormer takes the character to the next level, and even though she is a supporting character, her actions reverberate throughout the show. Similarly, Dormer plays an influential supporting role in the Hunger Games series as Cressida, a rogue filmmaker with a political agenda. She joins the rebellion against the evil government and uses her video skills to rally support for the cause. Her performance is attention-worthy but what really got audiences talking was Dormer’s semi-shaved haircut in the film.

5. Gwendoline Christie in Star Wars: Episode VII (2015)

Gwendoline Christie

No other 2015 film is as hotly anticipated as Star Wars: The Force Awakens and the Game of Thrones cast will be represented in the new Star Wars by Gwendoline Christie. Christie plays the chivalrous knight Brienne of Tarth on the HBO show and has gained wide acclaim for her intimidating, deadly presence. In Star Wars, Christie will play the role of Captain Phasma who is described as an “officer in the first order.” Not sure exactly what that means, but she is sure to rock it. Also, Christie is rumored to be joining Dormer in the final movie in the Hunger Games series, Mockinjay – Part 2.

Learn more about the School of Acting at the New York Film Academy by clicking here.

5 Stars Of Hollywood’s Golden Age

Hollywood sign

Ah, the glitzy Golden Age. The Golden Age of Hollywood lasted from the late 1920s to the 1960s and was a time when technology in film began to emerge amongst the Hollywood glamour. The release of the movie The Jazz Singer in 1927 started the new era and marked the end of the silent film era. Although the golden era started off slow due to the great depression, the films provided an outlet for audiences. This era produced many talented and memorable performers. Here are 5 musical stars of the Golden Age that every actor and musical theatre performer should know and be sure to check out our essential list of the top method actors and child actors to better familiarize yourself with the acting canon.

1. Fred Astaire

Talk about a triple threat! This talented man was an actor, dancer, singer and choreographer. His successful film and television career spanned over many years. Astaire is known for dancing with his on screen partner Ginger Rogers, who he starred in many Hollywood musicals with, including the popular Top Hat featuring the sweet song Cheek to Cheek, which Astaire sings to Rogers as they dance. Through his career he made thirty-one musical films including the memorable and popular Ziegfeld Follies, Funny Face, and Swing Time. In 1981 he was awarded the Lifetime Achievement award from the American Film Institute.

2. Doris Day

The actress and singer began her career in the late 1930’s as a big band singer. She became a sensation after her recording of “Sentimental Journey,” a song about weary troops who were homeward bound. Day’s wholesome look and talent shot her into the spotlight. The Pajama Game, Lullaby of Broadway and Calamity Jane were among the musicals that she stared in. In Lullaby of Broadway, Day plays Malinda Howard who is an entertainer traveling to NYC to visit her mother who is also a performer. However Malinda learns that her mother is not doing as well as she thought. Doris Day was not only passionate about singing and acting, but was also passionate about the welfare of animals. As a lifelong advocate she started the Doris Day Foundation to help animals in need.

3. Danny Kaye

Mr. Kaye was a comedian, singer, actor and dancer. His first break came when he was cast in a Vaudeville act and two years later he made his film debut in Moon over Manhattan. He made his Broadway debut in the show The Straw Hat Review in 1939. Kaye later starred in a radio program called The Danny Kaye Show. The popular Kaye went on to star in the films including White ChristmasThe Kid from Brooklyn, and Wonder Man. Kaye said “I became an entertainer not because I wanted to but because I was meant to.”

4. Judy Garland

She was the star of many musical films and captured the hearts of her audience. Garland started singing at a very young age. She studied dancing and acting and performed gigs with her sisters calling themselves The Gumm Sisters. Garland continued on to film, first starring in Pigskin Parade. She starred in many popular musical films including A Star is Born, Meet me in St.Louis, Easter Parade, and as Dorothy Gale singing the memorable song “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” in The Wizard of Oz. Although Garland’s personal life was not as successful as her professional career she will always be remembered as one of the brightest and talented stars.

5. Bing Crosby

Known for his bass baritone voice and laid back style, Crosby started off in a Vaudeville act which led to him launching a popular radio program. From there he began acting in numerous comedies which helped his career to flourish. Crosby became the best selling recording artist of the 20th century staring in popular films like The Bells of St.Mary’sRoad to Singapore, and Holiday Inn, featuring his biggest hit, “White Christmas,” which you are guaranteed to hear during December every year.

Are there any stars of the Golden Age that we missed? Then be sure to chime in below in the comments!

Learn more about the School of Acting at the New York Film Academy by clicking here.

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5 Performances By Child Actors That Every Actor Can Learn From

Child actor

Sometimes good things come in small packages, both in terms of gifts and art. In the case of these five examples, a great performance came from a young actor. There is something special about a child acting. They have such active imaginations that they are able to live naturally under imaginary circumstances with far less effort than their adult counterparts. In the performances that follow, these kids were acting alongside established Hollywood stars and Academy Award-winners and holding their own on the screen. Here are five child actors who turned in performances that every actor can learn from.

1. Jodie Foster – Taxi Driver

Jodie Foster has had a long and successful career in Hollywood and it all started back in 1976 with her breakout role in Taxi Driver. Foster was only 14 years old when she played a child prostitute opposite Robert De Niro but she definitely holds her own. The vulnerability and disconnect that the young Jodie Foster brought to the character of Iris is tragic and uncomfortable to watch at times. She was recognized with an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress for her efforts.

2. MacCauley Culkin – Home Alone

Home Alone is both a holiday classic and a hilariously campy film, but underneath the charm, MacCauley Culkin delivers a devilishly good performance. Culkin plays Kevin, a young boy who is accidently left behind by his family, with gusto. He is at once funny, cute, and wildly intelligent for his age. There is a great montage of Kevin enjoying his newfound independence but the real comedy and drama is saved for the closing thirty minutes in which Kevin evades would be thieves.

3. Haley Joel Osment – The Sixth Sense

This movie is famous for bringing audiences the most quotable quote of the last few decades: “I see dead people.” Not coincidently, the quote was delivered by Haley Joel Osment, whose honesty and fear made the moment memorable. As a troubled boy with supernatural powers, Osment is eerie and chilling, yet sympathetic, a hard balance to strike for any performer. Watch to the end for an all-time twist.

4. Dakota Fanning – I Am Sam

At only seven years old, Fanning starred opposite Sean Penn in the heartbreaking film I Am Sam. Penn is a mentally challenged man struggling to raise his daughter and Fanning is just beginning to realize her situation. Despite her growing intelligence and her father’s inability to manage both of their lives, Fanning’s character is loyal and loving toward her father to the end. Fanning herself is bright and cheerful with an emotional depth that earned her a SAG nod. No small feat for a seven-year old.

5. Quvenzhané Wallis — Beasts of the Southern Wild

At NYFA, we always recommend that actors study the craft of acting before embarking on a professional career, but Wallis didn’t take our advice. At 6 years of age, Quvenzhané made her screen debut as Hushpuppy in the magical fantasy Beasts of the Southern Wild. Wallis is composed and commanding in her performance as the lost girl in search of her mother and acting didn’t go unnoticed. At the 2013 Academy Awards, Quvenzhané Wallis became the youngest Best Actress nominee in history. She was nine years old at the time of her nomination.

Actors old and young can learn from each other. Technique develops with experience but there is something to be said for an active imagination and intuitiveness of camera. Next time you tackle a role, bring out your inner kid for a natural and inspiring performance.

Deeper Into The Method: 5 Contemporary Actors That Took Method Acting To The Limit

“My dear boy, why don’t you just try acting?”

A famous quip from Lawrence Olivier regarding Dustin Hoffman’s dedication to method acting on Marathon Man, the merits of adamantly sticking to character even when the cameras aren’t rolling are hotly debated in acting school.

Actors getting into method acting

Somewhat disappointingly, the exchange between the two great actors was revealed by Hoffman himself to be not quite accurate, but it doesn’t detract from the fact that sometimes, a performance requires a little something extra from the acting talent.

Here’s five notable examples of roles that took a lot out of the people behind them, whether on a voluntary basis or otherwise. And be sure to check out our piece on the history and legacy of method acting as well as our preceding article on how actors like Marlon Brando used method acting.

Heath Ledger – The Dark Knight

Ledger’s penultimate performance before his untimely death is as enigmatic as the character he played.

In preparation for his turn as The Joker in the 2008 film The Dark Knight, Ledger is widely known to have put himself through the wringer to bring something original to the role…and the hard work paid off.

It’s well known that the Oscar-winning actor locked himself in a hotel room for an entire month, rambling and laughing to himself as he developed the character (it’s easy to imagine hotel staff avoiding that particular corridor in the small hours of the morning.)

It’s also widely reported that during this time he kept a scrapbook diary, also put together while in character. What isn’t fully known, however, are the exact contents of the diarythe closest the public have ever gotten to seeing what the troubled actor put into it can be seen only in this clip:

It’s clear to anyone who has seen the resulting movie that Heath gave his all to the character and performance. To what extent that contributed to the factors surrounding his tragic passing is up for debate, and probably always will be.

Robert De Niro – Cape Fear

Putting yourself in isolation for weeks to develop a character is one thing, but having extreme dental work performed is another thing altogether…

… and that’s exactly what Robert De Niro did for his terrifying role as Max Cadyln in the 1991 Cape Fear remake. Not only did he undergo extensive training to build muscle and get his body fat down to only four percent, but he also paid $20,000 out of his own pocket to have his teeth ground down to bring a more ominous look to his character.

Christian Bale – The Machinist

As well as putting on a huge amount of mass to play Batman in the aforementioned Nolan franchise, Christian Bale had also been to the other extreme less than two weeks prior to donning the cape and cowl.

For The Machinist, Bale dropped 63 pounds to achieve the worryingly skeletal figure that can be seen in the film. Interestingly, this was almost an unnecessary devotion on Bale’s part—the weights mentioned in the movie (and written on the bathroom wall) were based on screenwriter Scott Kosar’s own weight, which were comparatively tiny given Kosar is only 5’6”. When it came time to change them after casting was complete, the 6’0” Bale insisted the figures were to be kept as written in an attempt to match them.

In reference to the above scene, 121 pounds at 6’0” is so underweight it only just appears at the bottom of the BMI scale.

Bale gorged on pizza and ice-cream to get up to Batman proportions just six weeks later.

Joaquin Phoenix – I’m Still Here

It takes a special kind of actor to put their own sanity and health on the line for the sake of character immersion, but it’s on another level still to purposefully put your entire career in jeopardy solely to fulfill a prank.

In 2009, Phoenix publicly announced a surprise retirement from his exceptionally successful acting career…to focus on becoming a rapper.

As many suspected, it was all an elaborate ploy feeding into a mockumentary centered around the idea, but one which he kept up in his real life much to the confusion of everyone not in on the joke who were beginning to believe he was genuinely attempting a woeful career change.

The project very nearly killed his credibility and the acting career he pretended to give up, but after taking a genuine break following the big reveal, he came back swinging with 2012’s The Master.

Daniel Day-Lewis – Everything He’s Ever Been In

Possibly the most famous method actor of them all, we could fill an entire post full of examples where Day-Lewis delved so far into his character that the reclusive actor himself practically stopped existing for the duration of the shoot. Essentially, on any of his carefully chosen projects, there is only the character.

And not only does he never break character under any circumstance while on set, but he even follows through this devotion long before the cameras start rolling; in preparation for Lincoln, he demanded a full year of preparation to shut himself away, read every book written about Honest Abe and become the former President.

For The Last of the Mohicans, he learned to live off the land and did so for lengthy spells in the run up to filming. For My Left Foot, he insisted on retaining his character’s severe paralysis and needed to be moved in his wheelchair between takes (much to the chagrin of the crew.)

But perhaps the biggest example of this is the one scenario in which Day-Lewis was finally forced to break his devotion to the role. In preparation for his role as Bill the Butcher in Gangs of New York, he spent some time before filming training as an actual butcher and then proceeded to stay in character as usual while filming during a particularly brutal New York winter.

Refusing to wear a warm coat unbefitting of the movie’s era, he developed pneumonia. Naturally, he refused modern medication to treat this right up until practically arriving at death’s door.

If that isn’t dedication to a role, we don’t know what is.

Learn more about the School of Acting at the New York Film Academy, with campuses in New York, Los Angeles, and Miami.

Top 5 Action Movies Every Actor Should Watch

Action films are the bread and butter of Hollywood, grossing billions of dollars and spurning franchises that last decades. For actors, action movies present an interesting challenge. Plots that are unrealistic, stunts that push the limits of safety, and high public expectations are only the beginning of the pressure. To truly nail a role as an action hero, an actor must be cool, confident, and committed. Take it from these guys and gals who crushed their performances in some of the best action movies ever made.

1. James Bond, 1962-Present

Even the most interesting man in the world has a keen interest in James Bond. He is quite possibly the greatest and most successful action hero ever created by a mortal man and he doesn’t even wear a cape. From Sean Connery to Pierce Brosnan to Daniel Craig, the role of James Bond has made careers since the first film, Dr. No, was released in the early 60’s. Pay particular attention to the blonde Bond’s gritty performances in Casino Royale and Skyfall for a real lesson on how to shake (not stir) an action performance. And amongst the many actresses that filled the requisite “Bond girl” role, there are countless performances that perfectly marry strength and sensuality, although Grace Jones as the villain May Day in A View to a Kill is a favorite.

2. The Matrix, 1999-2003 

The Matrix single handedly changed the way people watch movies and how Hollywood produces them. With a plot so complex and ridiculous, it was up to the actors to ground their characters in reality to give the audience something to connect with. And the above clip is a perfect example of this grounding in reality as Keanu Reeves is tasked with delivering a breathtaking performance as his mundane “reality” is invaded by agents of The Matrix. Of course, everyone is great, but Laurence Fishburne is otherworldly as Morpheus. If you can only see one of the films, go with the first, simply titled The Matrix.

3. Indiana Jones, 1981-1989

Forget the 2008 franchise entry for a minute. The truly golden Indy films were released in the 80’s, back when Harrison Ford’s stubble ruled the film world. Ford had a lot on his shoulders and completely delivers across the first three films: Raiders of the Lost Ark, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. At once comical, exciting, campy, and thrilling, the Indiana Jones franchise of action films is a testament to the power of film. Again, the first is the best but all three are worth a look for any aspiring action film actor.

4. The Dark Knight, 2008

Every once in a while a movie comes along that changes the landscape of the art of filmmaking. The Dark Knight was one such film. Before Christopher Nolan’s masterpiece, the Oscar’s only nominated five films for Best Picture. Since the snub of Nolan’s second Batman installment, the Academy nominates 10 movies for Best Picture each year. Dark Knight is special both cinematically and performance-wise. Heath Ledger’s Joker is a villain that redefined the art of acting evil, and was recognized with a Best Supporting Actor statue.

5. Ironman, 2008

The eighth year of this millennium was a good year for action film performances and for Robert Downey Jr. He took a bit of a hiatus from acting to get himself right but returned with a vengeance as the quick-witted genius Tony Stark. Downey’s unapologetic arrogance and soft heart as the titular character are constantly at odds, making everything that Stark does on screen moving. Many superhero films have followed, but no one quite hits the mark like Downey does with Tony.

And once you’ve devoured the action films above, delve into our guides on the top comedic performances, TV shows, films, and plays every actor should see.

Learn more about the School of Acting at the New York Film Academy, with campuses in New York, Los Angeles, and Miami.

Recent Comedic Performances All Comedy Actors Should See

If acting is hard, comedic acting is in a league of its own. There is a delicate balance when acting comedy; too much and the character comes off as unbelievable, too little and the character isn’t funny. However, when the proper equilibrium is achieved, comedic performances sparkle on screen. What follows is a list of five actors that turned in comedic performances that every aspiring actor should see.

Jeff Bridges in The Big Lebowski

In this 1998 publicity image released by Gramercy Pictures, Jeff Bridges appears in a scene from the motion picture “The Big Lebowski,” directed by brothers Ethan and Joel Coen. (AP Photo/Gramercy Pictures, file)

Jeff Bridges, The Big Lebowski

The role precedes the actor. He is a cinematic icon. He is the Dude. Jeff Bridges has been acting since he learned to speak, but no role has captured his skill as an actor more than his portrayal of Jeffery Lebowski in the Cohen Brothers’ cult hit The Big Lebowski. Bridges plays a low-energy stoner with a penchant for White Russians and bowling. The plot is nearly as unintelligible as the Dude which only complicates the already complicated task of making the character real, likable, and entertaining. In the skilled hands of Bridges, the Dude became a Dude. It’s time for a White Russian.

Johnny Depp in Pirates of the Caribbean

Johnny Depp, Pirates of the Caribbean

Wait a second; Jack Sparrow isn’t a comedic role! Yes, yes it is. In fact, the screenwriters based the role on both Bugs Bunny and Groucho Marx and Depp himself notoriously “sponged” off of Keith Richards for further quirky inspiration. Despite his past as a dashing “leading man” type, Depp meshes a lovable sensibility with aloofness and spot on facial expressions to produce a quirky pirate that audiences love. Captain Jack Sparrow seems a simple character on the surface as all he wants is his ship back. But Depp is able to infuse the character with physical detail, inner conflict, and a soul that makes him not only hilarious but sympathetic. Watch Sparrow walk down the dock, arms wagging in effeminate fashion and try not to smile.

Melissa McCarthy in Bridesmaids

Melissa McCarthy, Bridesmaids

This is a film that dispelled any notions that female-led comedies do not sell tickets and McCarthy headlines the raucous cast as the oddball misfit of the wedding party. Every time she is on screen, she steals the show. Every time she is off screen, you eagerly anticipate her next appearance. Standout scenes include “going to the bathroom in the sink” and “outing an air marshal.” If you haven’t seen it, you need to. McCarthy rightly earned an Oscar nomination (rare for comedic actors) for the role.

Bill Murray in Groundhog Day

Bill Murray, Groundhog Day

Of course, Bill Murray has to appear on the list, but which role is his best? He is an incredibly versatile actor, able to play dramatic and comedic characters with ease. In Caddy Shack, he plays a nutcase; in Lost in Translation he plays a depressed, aging actor; and in Groundhog Day he plays a thoroughly terrible human being. Yet, even though he is rude, arrogant, and selfish, Murray’s portrayal of the tormented news reporter Phil Connors is highlighted by his humanity. Though the film consists of the same day on repeat, it never becomes boring. Murray infuses each day with comedic energy and original choices that keeps the amazingly simple film turning.

It takes a special actor to be both realistic and funny. Comedic acting on screen has to be one of the most difficult skills to master, but these four actors do it with ease. Any actor who wants to improve can learn from the above performances. What’s your favorite comedic performance?

Learn more about the School of Acting at the New York Film Academy by clicking here.

Method To The Madness: 3 Actors That Took Method Acting To The Next Level

Method acting is a much-revered practice that has received its fair share of attention for producing naturalistic, award-winning acting performances. Not coincidentally, some of the greatest actors of the last century have been ruthlessly committed method actors. In some cases, they are a pain to work with, in other cases their erratic behavior becomes downright unsafe, but one thing is for sure; their performances are something to behold. Check out this list of five actors who took method acting to the next level.

Marlon Brando

1. Marlon Brando

“Simply put, in film acting, there is before Brando, and there is after Brando. And they are like different worlds.” – The New York Times

Widely regarded as the greatest film actor of all-time, Brando studied acting under Stella Adler and Elia Kazan in New York City. During his Broadway debut in 1946, Brando played a psychopathic murderer in the play Truckline Café. For his climactic scene, he needed to appear as if he had just emerged from an icy lake, so every night, before he went on stage for that scene, Brando would run up and down the stairs until he was out of breath and then he’d have a stagehand dump a bucket of ice water on his head. Audiences were thrilled by his performance. Of the young Brando, Kazan said, “It’s like he’s carrying his own spotlight.” From there, Marlon Brando went on to perfect his craft, ultimately winning two Best Actor Oscars for On the Waterfront and The Godfather.

Dustin Hoffman

2. Dustin Hoffman

Think it’s hard to follow Marlon Brando on this list? Then you aren’t two-time Academy Award winner Dustin Hoffman (Kramer vs. Kramer and Rain Man) whose devotion to The Method made him a star. Hoffman studied at the Actor’s Studio in New York during the early 1960’s and made his breakout in the 1967 film The Graduate. But, it’s Hoffman’s performance opposite Laurence Olivier in Marathon Man that illustrates his madness for method acting. As legend has it, Olivier (a classically trained stage actor) and Hoffman had the following exchange during the shoot.

“How did your week go, dear boy,” Olivier said.

Hoffman told him that he had filmed a scene in which his character was supposed to have been up for three days straight.

“So what did you do?” Olivier asked.

“Well, I stayed up for three days and three nights.”

Laurence Olivier then uttered this famous line, “Why don’t you just try acting?”

The exchange is oft-quoted to show the difference in thinking between classical actors and modern film actors. In essence, Hoffman’s method became acting legend.

Robert De Niro in The Last Tycoon

3. Robert De Niro

Actors who manipulate their body for roles have always been regarded as the most committed and daring. Think Christian Bale who slashed dozens of pounds for The Fighter and gained nearly 100 lbs. for his role as Batman in Batman Begins. Where did this trend come from and why is it all the rage with awards nominators? The answer is Bob De Niro, who got shredded to play the role of young boxer Jake La Motta, only to gain 60 lbs. to portray La Motta later in life. Not surprisingly, De Niro is an alumnus of Stella Adler’s Conservatory and the Actor’s Studio, where he learned to commit himself fully to his roles.

While shooting Raging Bull, De Niro filmed all his boxing and flashback scenes at a weight of 145 lbs. Then, production was shut down for four months while De Niro ate his way through Italy and France, gaining over 60 lbs. in the process. When he returned to the States, production commenced and the remaining scenes were shot at a rapid pace because the extra weight was taking a toll on De Niro’s health.

Still interested in amazingly mad method actors? Try researching Charlize Theron’s transformation for her role in Monster and Daniel Day-Lewis’ unrelenting devotion to his role in My Left Foot. Perhaps the most interesting thing about this list; they are all Academy Award winners. There must be a method to the madness.

Whether you consider The Method madness or genius, there’s no denying it gets results!

Learn more about the School of Acting at the New York Film Academy by clicking here.

The Top TV Shows That Every Actor Should Watch


It’s called the small screen, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t big performances on television. Recently, we entered the Golden Age of TV, where Hollywood stars and big budget producers are shunning film in favor of episodic series. From an actor’s perspective, much can be learned from fellow thespians who act on television and attention should be given to the best of TV performances. Here are five of the top TV shows for actors.

1. Inside the Actor’s Studio, Bravo (1994-present)

This long-running talk show, hosted by James Lipton offers a unique insight into the life of the professional actor. Lipton invites the most successful of actors onto his show and discusses their history, career, and motivations for pursuing the craft of acting. Through his keen questioning, Lipton is able to unearth gems of wisdom from whoever sits next to him on stage. As a bonus, near the end of each episode, acting students in the studio audience have the opportunity to ask the guests pertinent questions about embarking upon a career in theatre and film. All the episodes and guests are great but browse through the history of the show to find your favorite actors to learn from.

2. The Office, NBC (2005-2013)

There is stiff competition at the top of the sitcom game but The Office is special because of a strong ensemble and a legendary comedic lead character, Michael Scott. Based on an English television series of the same name, the American Office was a trendsetter in broadcast TV. It introduced mainstream American audiences to the mockumentary style of comedy that has since become hugely popular with such TV shows as Parks and Recreation and Modern Family using a similar model. Aside from the influence on the industry, The Office features a strong ensemble cast led by the illustrious Steve Carell. Mr. Carell’s turn as the dubious boss Michael Scott is a teaching lesson in comedic timing and facial expression. Simply watch to be awed by the skill and enlightened by the humor.

3. Game of Thrones, HBO (2011-present)

One of the best written and thoroughly enveloping series on TV right now, Game of Thrones is an actor’s dream. The series, based on the books by George R.R. Martin is set in a land of dragons, the living dead, espionage, and war. For actors, especially classically trained actors, the heightened language and fantastical setting are a luscious combination. The cast of the show is highly skilled and the plots are unpredictable which challenges actors to stay grounded and in the moment. Although Game of Thrones may not offer much job security, even a brief appearance could make a career.

4. Arrested Development, FOX (2003-2006)

Like all good comedies, Arrested Development has a tragic side. The groundbreaking series was cancelled by FOX after only three seasons but in its short run, the story of the wealthy Bluth family split sides and won many fans. An all-star cast headlines the show, led by Jason Bateman, Jeffery Tambor, Portia de Rossi, Michael Cera, and Will Arnett. Each character is perfectly cast, and exquisitely acted. Besides the aforementioned folk, David Cross’ performance as Tobias Funke is a hilarious, if not a cringe-worthy comedic accomplishment. The verdict is still out on the Netflix revival, but the original seasons on FOX are comedic television acting at its best.

5. Mad Men, AMC (2007-2015)

AMC came of nowhere to the forefront of television programming with the release of this original drama series. Set in the 1960’s, Mad Men follows the lives of several employees of a New York advertising agency. The clever dialogue and well-developed characters are just two of the characteristics that make this period piece an acting powerhouse. Jon Hamm, Elizabeth Moss, John Slattery and the rest of the cast display incredible restraint in their portrayals of mid-century Americans. If Game of Thrones is for the classical actor, Mad Men is for the modern thespian. Each scene shows how less can be more when acting on camera, and when the stakes are high, great emotion can be conveyed with thoughts rather than action.

Curious what other productions every actor should see? Check out our list on the Top 5 Plays and Top Films Every Actor Should See.

Learn more about the School of Acting at the New York Film Academy by clicking here.

One And Done: Notable Actors With Only One Film To Their Name

Peter Ostrum as Charlie with a Willy Wonka bar

© 1971 Warner Bros. Ent. All Rights Reserved

Everyone loves a good ‘Where are they now?’ story, and nothing is more intriguing than an actor who seemingly disappeared from the face of the planet.

In many cases, having spent time going through acting school and honing their craft, lending their talents to just one iconic role, and then diving headlong into obscurity… sometimes on purpose.

Here’s six notable examples of actors who only have one feature-length film on their IMDB profiles, and what we know about where they are now…

Dr. Peter Ostrum (Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, 1971)

Through a mixture of luck and talent, Dr. Peter Ostrum landed what was to be an iconic role as Charlie Bucket in the classic Roald Dahl adaptation of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.

So praised was his work as a child actor, and so successful was the movie, that he was offered a contract for three more films…which he declined.

Dr. Ostrum failed to land a few theatre roles later on in his 20s before hanging up the hat for good. For a long stretch afterward Ostrum put considerable effort into distancing himself from his one-time stardom, to such an extent even his wife didn’t know that he played Charlie Bucket—though has since done a few speaking engagements and reunion events.

Oh, and why the ‘Doctor?’ He became a qualified veterinarian in 1984, and has happily worked with horses and cows ever since.

Anne Sellors (Threads, 1984)

anne sellors imdb profile

Anne Sellors has, quite possibly, one of the most heartbreaking IMDB profiles in the acting industry. As a result, her life and career has garnered a small amount of intrigue.

On her filmography is a single listing—a 1984 British movie entitled Threads. Nothing hugely out of the ordinary—everyone on this page shares the one-film accolade—but Sellors has literally no other listings for TV work or the like, and her only big screen appearance as an extra lists her character as “Woman Who Urinates On Herself (uncredited).”

We can’t even find a clip of her 3-second appearance in its original form.

Where she came from and what she went on to do—or even if Sellors is still alive—is unknown, though in one Reddit thread a supposed relation angrily claims that she’s still with us. More bizarre still, her IMDB profile inexplicably peaked for one week in 2010 and hers became the 6th most popularly viewed profile.

Carrie Henn (Aliens, 1986)

When it comes to the one-and-done club, nobody quite left a mark like Carrie Henn.

Carrie will, in most likelihood, be forever remembered as Newt from Aliens, the little girl who memorably held her own alongside Sigourney Weaver and the other superb performances that had cemented the franchise at this point.

With no acting experience, Henn competed against 500 other girls for what was considered by the casting director to be the hardest role to fill.

She then went on to become a teacher, though has just recently had an addition to her IMDB profile—a sci-fi movie dubbed Triborn, coming next year if the crowdfunding campaign is successful.

Katie Jarvis (Fish Tank, 2009)

A rather strange origin story for an actress who has, to date, only got one feature under her belt—she was spotted by a talent agent while having a blazing row with her boyfriend on a train station platform. Initially, Jarvis refused to hand out her number to the agent, believing it to be some kind of ruse.

But luckily for us the agent persisted, because Katie was very well cast in 2009’s Fish Tank opposite Michael Fassbender.

Unlike the others on this list, it may be too premature to condemn the accidental actress to the one-and-done list as she has appeared in a few TV shows (and was once rumored to be in the next Star Wars), but time will tell if she’s to have another big screen outing.

Sarah Pickering (Little Dorrit, 1987)

Surrounded by a huge roster of big names (including Alec Guinness and Derek Jacobi), this two-part Charles Dickens adaptation saw an as-then unknown actress playing the title role. It was her first and only appearance on screen.

It’s unknown why her success here was not followed up with further titles, though an anonymous commenter at claimed she is now nearing 50 and happily working as a theatrical agent in Leicestershire in the English midlands.

Britney Spears (Crossroads, 2001) 

We’ll close off with arguably the most popular—and somewhat surprising—entries into the one-and-done club.

That’s right, Britney only has one feature length movie to her name from an acting perspective… though technically also has a musical cameo in Austin Powers in Goldmember.

But we’ll overlook that. We really just wanted to get Britney Spears onto this list.

Know of any we’ve missed? We’d really like to hear of more, and definitely leave a comment if you know any extra info on the whereabouts and wellbeing of the first five entries in the above list.

Learn more about the School of Acting at the New York Film Academy by clicking here.

7 Books Every Actor Needs To Read

acting books books reading

Some actors are born great, some actors achieve greatness, and some actors have greatness thrust upon them. No matter which of the three categories you fall into, reading books about acting is an excellent way to nurture your abilities. Importantly, acting books can help with a myriad of skills including acting technique, auditioning, and self-marketing, all things that are important to any actor. Here are the top five books that every actor should read.

1. An Actor Prepares By Constantin Stanislavski

This is the oldest book on the list and the first of the three acting books written by Mr. Stanislavski. In these pages, Stanislavski takes the reader on a trip through his system by following the experiences of a group of actors as they learn with their teacher. The result is an in-depth theory of acting that includes exercises and techniques meant to encourage imaginative and true performances. There is not a book on this list or an actor in the world who is not directly influenced by the teachings of An Actor Prepares.

2. Audition By Michael Shurtleff

One irony of acting is that before you can act, you have to audition. This book by Michael Shurtleff addresses the art of auditioning from the perspective of an experienced casting director. The book is simple and informative and uses a 12-step guide with corresponding questions to help actors prep for auditions and callbacks. Some favorite techniques that emerge are “playing opposites,” “finding humor and love,” and “the moment before.”

3. Respect for Acting By Uta Hagen

Legendary actress Uta Hagen wrote a book that been a lifesaver for both theatre and film thespians. Along with practical advice like how to combat stage fright and how to avoid complacency when playing the same role for too long, Hagen also distills the core of acting into nine specific questions. You’ll have to read the book to see all nine and truly learn how to investigate them, but perhaps the most important question Hagen tells actors to ask when it comes to their characters is “Who am I?”

4. Acting as a Business By Brian O’Neil

After you book a role and become a working actor, the best thing you can do is promote yourself. This book is written by a former talent agent and walks aspiring actors through the process of self-marketing as well as finding an agent to represent you. O’Neil writes updates to his book every few years and the most recent edition includes tips for how to use the internet as a tool and also details recent trends in the entertainment industry.

5. Sanford Meisner on Acting By Sanford Meisner

Sanford Meisner is considered by many to be the best acting teacher ever and his technique is up there with the Method as the most practiced technique among actors. Regardless of the technique you prefer, this book offers insights and exercises as the reader follows a group of actors studying under Meisner. His famous quote pretty much encapsulates the tone of his writing: “Acting is behaving truthfully under imaginary circumstances”

6. Improvisation for the Theatre By Viola Spolin

Improvisation has become a core tenet for modern acting (and the modern comedy scene) and can find its roots in the innovative theatre work developed by actress Viola Spolin. The acting exercises she called “Theatre Games” later became the basis for modern improvisation in acting, and Spolin explains the process in her seminal book, Improvisation for the Theatre. Learn how to act in the moment without a safety net with Spolin’s lessons as well as exercises she lays out in the book.

7. The Intent to Live By Larry Moss

“I call this book The Intent to Live because great actors don’t seem to be acting, they seem to be actually living,” Larry Moss said. He is a highly-regarded acting teacher of recent times, having instructed hundreds including Hillary Swank, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Justin Timberlake. He is a sort of contemporary master of acting instruction, like Stanislavski and Meisner in their times, making his book especially vital to the modern actor. He stresses preparation and script work and offers insights into developing characters and tackling difficult roles.

Acting is a skill that can be learned through education. For the actor that is interested in achieving greatness, any of the above titles is an ideal place to start. Once an actor masters their technique on camera and in auditions and realizes the power of marketing, greatness will eventually be thrust upon them.