Acting : Oldman & Mirren Are On To Something


photo credit : Robert Maxwell for Esquire Magazine

Mr. Oldman is out flogging his new film, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, so he's showing up in the press a lot. Mostly little puff pieces. (By the way, why is Alec Guinness never mentioned in any of these pieces?)

From this "quotes" item in the December 2011 Esquire I enjoy the following bits:

What other people think of me is none of my business.

Acting is living truthfully under imaginary circumstances. An acting teacher told me that.

The phone call is often the best part of it. Your agent says, "They want you to play Hamlet at the Old Vic." And you go, "Holy shit! Hamlet at the Old Vic! Wow! God! Fantastic!" Then you hang up and it's "Fuck, I'm playing Hamlet."

Downtown L. A. looks like they started to build Chicago and then gave up ... and let it become a sprawling suburb.

A director expects you to come in, open your suitcase, and say, "Okay, here's my stuff, guv'nah."

There's only one authentic version of Gary, and I've got to really know who that is.

That first quote reminds me of something Helen Miren said in an interview (with Tim Adams, published in The Guardian this past fall - find it here) that has been bugging me since I read it.

photo credit : Phil Fisk for the UK Guardian

The idea doesn't bug me. The idea thrills me. It's the fact that Mr. Adams either misses the boat or thinks it's not a voyage his readers want to take. But I think it's a central tenet of a healthy and creative life as an actor.

Here's the lead paragraph:

"I learned quite early on in life," Helen Mirren is telling me over tea at the Dorchester hotel, "that we are all two people. And one of those people none of us will ever know. You, Tim, for example, will never know how I perceive you. What my ideas are about the way you are sitting and your hair or your cheeks or whatever. You will never know."

[paragraph in which Mr. Adams swings away from what I believe is Ms. Mirren's point and towards what it's like to be sitting opposite Helen Miren]

"Acting," she goes on, "is a great deal to do with accepting that other person and coming to terms with her. You can't control how other people see you or think of you. But you have to be comfortable with that."

Which is fascinating. You would think that acting is all to do with having brilliant control of how others—the audience, the director, the casting directors—see you or think of you.

Now go back and read Oldman's first quote.

Now—and here's the rub—read his last one.

Yep. I think they're on to something.


PS - The second Oldman quote; I don't know if Sanford Meisner himself said that Mr. Oldman, but I'm pretty sure it's Meisner's definition of acting. And my favorite.

PPS - for a fun compare and contrast, here's a Helen Mirren Esquire "quotes" piece from July 2011

Christopher GurrComment