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The Way of the Actor: a path to knowledge and power by Brian Bates

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Can Actors Teach Us?

Charlton Heston's Major Dundee

Scholar Brian Bates likes to write about his associations with actors and actors’ associations with us. Moving past his fixations on stars, Bates recounts memorable stories actors told him.

Transcending Time and Experience

Charlton Heston, for whom Bates has great admiration, describes the end of a day’s shoot on the remote Mexican desert site of Sam Peckinpah’s Major Dundee. Heston and his fellow actors in full battle dress galloped through a desolate village on the way home for the evening. He saw people peering out from the windows of their homes at his troopers and realized their presence and dress transported the villagers back into the mind of their ancestors.

Christ, here they come again,” Heston imagined them thinking.

Actors and acting can transcend time and personal experience.

Two Interpretations of Acting with Authenticity

Jack Nicholson explains the actor’s method to Bates. Does the actor learn the lines, study the emotions, and then deliver both in a professional performance? Or, does the actor “drop in” character to express the emotions from personal experience?  Nicholson says neither and gives Bates an example.

His character should be sad. So, does Nicholson draw on his understanding of and experience with being sad. No! He translates the lines and situation into action.

I think about what he wants, what’s the environment. Think about the problem facing the character and from that comes feeling and action necessary to achieve the ends, the emotions the audience sees.

An excellent description of acting that mimics authenticity.

Simon Callow follows the British acting methods, which arrives at authenticity by another approach. 

Show what you want and you will show the vulnerability that audiences see as authenticity.

If you’d like to read a review of Bate’s Way of the Actor, you can begin by reading this review by An Opinionated Heathen.

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