Sunday, August 3, 2008

Quote of the Day

When I first began to work in the theatre, I worked with a very young Alec Guinness. Alec Guinness, who had already done a lot of work, said to me, "I must warn you, if you interrupt me while I am rehearsing something emotional, if in the middle of a scene you just interrupt me because you just want to tell me something, I'll yell at you". "But", he said, "don't take this as showing any bad faith, any bad intentions on my part. I can't bear to lose the thread, the unity of my character, so I will shout so as to stay within what I am doing". This is the only occasion I have ever heard an actor say such a thing and to me it is the exception that underlines an astonishing rule. Normally, an actor can be deeply inside an extraordinary, complex character, inter-relating with great passion with another character and you can say, "Just a moment, could you just step two inches to the right because otherwise you would be out of the light" and he says in his normal voice "Oh yes, certainly", immediately picking up again not only the thread of the scene, but the entire human being who is, as it were, put on and taken off as easily as a coat. But the mystery is that this coat goes on and off inside and the actor can slip into the entire fibre and structure of a human being in a flash, without using any mental devices or tricks.

From a lecture by Peter Brook.

11 comments:

willow said...

Ooooo...and I like this new coat that your blog is wearing! ;) Very classy...the soft mauve is so nice with the black. Ahhh.

Pamela Terry and Edward said...

Great acting is the most amazing gift. To conjure up a complete human being out of thin air...such a mystery to me.

Lavinia said...

Love the new banner and the background colour!

The Caked Crusader said...

I just finished reading a biography of Alec Guiness recently. Fascinating chap

phil said...

I would never picture Sir Alec yelling at anyone.

His demeanor in films like 'Last Holiday,' and 'The Man In The White Suit' are so Stan Laurel-like.

Of course, the stage may be different.

Blog Princess G said...

It's very interesting how different an actor can be in person, when all you know is their screen or stage persona.

I think one of the most interesting "Actors' Studio" interviews was the one with Hugh Laurie, who described himself as horrible to work with and is suspicious of pleasure, as it is tinged with guilt. I don't remember his words exactly, but he seemed to have suffered and it still affected him badly. I believe he suffers or has suffered depression badly. Hard to reconcile with his funnier roles, but there you go.

CC: Have you ever read Alec Guinness's autobiography? It's an interesting read.

Stevyn Colgan said...

My favourite story about Alec Guinness is that he used to have a very similar phone number to a local butcher and often got wrong numbers from people ordering meat. After a while, he gave up trying to tell people that they'd misdialled and, instead, took their orders and passed them on. He even scolded them occasionally for their poor choices and advised tem to buy better cuts! I wonder how many of those people ever realised that their orders for sausages, black puddings and minted lamb chops had been taken by one of the greatest British actors ever to exit stage left?

Marie said...

I liked Alec Guiness' autobiography...

Lawrence Olivier, raising an eyebrow at Method actor Dustin Hoffman's stressed and haggard appearance on the set of Marathon Man after getting into character for days, said to him, and I misquote, But my dear fellow, that's why it's called Acting.

willow said...

I'm just popping over to say "hi". I see that your current state is giggly, so that's good! :)

david mcmahon said...

I enjoyed theatre and I learnt a great deal from it too.

Blog Princess G said...

Stevyn and Marie: Great stories!! Thanks for visiting everyone...