I think we need an entirely new definition of acting because of the motion picture. It has taken a
Century for it to happen, but what was acting a hundred years ago, even fifty
years ago, is not what acting is today. Looking at a list about screen acting
that I was sent, one item is "be yourself, that's who they
hired." This completely eliminates
the business of characterization, doesn't it?
I have been writing that I
don't think there is any such thing as the Academy Awards "Best
Actor". Screen acting is mostly
the technology of filmmaking and has very little to do with what the actor
does. Film acting is doing nothing
except feeling emotion that is expressed naturally in the eyes. The actor does not try to show anything with
his uyes, he just does it naturally.
Returning to what Don
Richardson says acting is in “Acting Without Agony: “Acting is being other
people,” I think we have a basis for defining acting and what an actor does
when he ‘acts.’ Acting is assuming
that you are someone else (the character in the film or play) and behaving as
though you were that person. You enter the imaginary world of the screenplay
and you respond emotionally to the stimuli in the world of the film. Do you have to go through a rigorous
preparation of creating a character? No. The screen writer has done that. Only if you are portraying a historical
personage whose mannerisms and speech are well documented do you need to
research and practice those things. Other wise, in fictional roles, the actor’s job is much easier. He assumes being the character the
playwright or screenwriter has created in the script: and, using the dialog and
blocking given him, he behaves as though he were the role. He needs no information that is not in the
script, no backstory, imaginary biography, or character analysis. The actor and the character are one and the same when the actor is acting.
David Mamet also gives
insight into what acting is in “True and False.” He says that the actor stands in lieu of the character. Since the character is not a real person and
cannot be on the set, the actor must represent the character by taking his
place. Thus, Acting is taking the character’s place on stage or in front of the
camera, When he does that he is being
someone other than himself. And yet the
actor is still himself. It is his
emotions that must be expressed in the dramatic situations he finds himself.
What Stanislavsky originally
wanted as well was for the actor to be himself on stage. Mamet, Richardson, and
I agree, as do many, many other acting teachers and directors.