Actors-Directors; Learning To Trust Actions, Not Words – Part 2

Diane Keaton

If you missed it – Here is Part 1 of this article

Last week I gave you Part 1 of an article written by Diane Keaton on acting, directing, and expressing the human experience.  This is Part 2 of that article.  As actors, I think you’ll have a lot of appreciation for what she says on the above subjects and even find it freeing as you apply it to your work.

“I remember a few directors who tried to stampede my impulses. As much as I tried to fit their cookie-cutter mold, it didn’t work. They weren’t happy, and neither was I. Their demands struck me as completely unrealistic, because they didn’t include what I could actually give. Their ”concept” had been written in stone long before I entered the picture. I find this kind of directing lacking in humanity. It excludes a kind of graceful appreciation of the fact that life doesn’t rigidly conform to one’s desires.

When these ”a film by” types rattled on about motivation, or talked endlessly about how they wanted me to interpret a scene or read a line, I swear, it was as if they were talking to themselves — stuck in some totally controlling, almost religious mind-set about what they wanted. Who could live up to that? Who would want to? Trying to force actors into some prepackaged notion of perfection necessary for one’s creation is awful. Needless to say, I didn’t respond well to that sort of pushing. On the other hand, I have appreciated directors who are genuinely interested in me — including my flaws; directors who looked forward to witnessing whatever spontaneity I had to offer, while guiding me gently.

I BELIEVE my job as the director is to listen, to laugh, to empathize, to encourage and to be deeply moved by what I hope will be deeply moving performances. My job is to know when the actors are telling the truth, feeling the truth, living the truth — their truth. My job is to make it clear how much I am rooting for them in their effort to find a way, a process, a skill, that unlocks and frees them into giving the audience all their accumulated experiences and insights and feelings in the service of the screenplay.

Diane Keaton

I believe all actors want to go further in the exploration of what it is to be a human being. That’s what makes them so irresistible. I believe it’s amazing to have the courage to try to explore the mystery of putting yourself in someone else’s shoes. I have respect for actors. I am grateful when they unexpectedly sweep me away from the horror of trying to make a movie. I am thrilled when they transport me out of reality. I am excited by their possibilities. I love actors.

Meisner wasn’t wrong when he talked about the necessity of experience. Maybe age and the sad discovery of a diminished audience is disappointing. But if wisdom isn’t a performance art, it sure does include the profound pleasure of learning to appreciate. From where I stand, after all this time, Acting — watching it, directing it, and still doing it — is the reason I’m now more passionately in love with the art of human expression, in all its forms, than ever before.”

I hope you’ve enjoyed this article.  Her understanding of art and the actor’s journey brings with it a perspective of what’s really important — bringing ourselves, our curiosity, our imagination, and our own first hand experience of the human condition to the work.


By Lynette McNeill
Acting Coach & Director

Lynette McNeill - Acting Coach

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