Alum Annette Bening returns to Little Theatre for talk with students

Alum Annette Bening returns to Little Theatre for talk with students


>>We’ve been talking a lot
I know — oop, there I am — in my classes, anyway,
about craft processes, and about different
craft processes. So I guess most of my
questions for you are really, I just want to know how you work
because I’m fascinated by it. When you first get a
script, what do you?>>So many things are running through my mind right
now [laughter], honest. I’m kind of emotional to
tell you the truth, but –>>Yeah.>>Because when I — Yeah,
I spend a lot of time in this theater and — [ Applause ] [ Applause ]>>I think it’s okay.>>[Laughter] That
was a good vibration. [ Laughter ] So, no, quite frankly, it
is kind of emotional for me. I want to talk about
that question if I may. I just won’t sit — by the
way, if anybody needs to get up and leave because of —
I know you have a lot, you’re very busy, you have
your schedules to meet, I totally understand and
will not be offended. But I wanted to first say
that the reason I feel kind of emotional coming in
here is because I was you. You know, I sat where you’re
sitting, and one of the people that came and spoke when I
was a student was Bill Ball. And Bill Ball was the
creator, one of the creators of the American Conservatory
Theater which is Downtown San Francisco
which I was sort of barely aware of when I was a student
here because I was too busy to do anything else and — plus,
I couldn’t afford to go to ACT to see a play, although
I, you know, maybe if I had been more
organized I could have figured something [laughter]. I don’t know. But, you know, you get kind
of insular in your life when you’re a student,
and that’s, at least I was, and that’s okay. But Bill Ball came [inaudible],
and I remember, you know, you guys probably don’t
know who this gentleman was. But he was one of those
people that started a theater, like maybe some of
you think about doing. Well, he did that, and he was
a student at Carnegie Tech in Pittsburgh which still has
a great Theater Department. And he and a group of his friends got a theater
going there and then they came to San Francisco and
created their theater which is still the
first [inaudible]. But Bill was kind of
crazy but he was my hero and he was really good to me. And when he came and spoke I had
my notepad with me, my journal. I started writing
journals when I was here. I was 20 when I came here
to the Community College. And he talked a lot — he
was a very inspiring speaker, and he talked a lot about
the creative process. So it’s interesting you
start with that question. And he talked about how ACT they
had a philosophy of creativity which is that you always say yes to whatever anybody
is suggesting, and that by always saying yes, you go through what are
sometimes not the best ideas to get to the best idea. But unless you say yes to the
not so good idea, you don’t get to the good idea or the right
choice or whatever that is. So he had a wonderful way of illustrating this point using
working on a play as an example of you’re working on a play
and somebody says, well, what if I had a roll
of toilet paper? You know, wait a minute, what
if I had a roll of toilet paper and I was sort of flinging it around as I was doing
this speech? You know, part of you
is thinking, oh, my god, a roll of toilet paper. That is really —
that’s a terrible idea. But it’s that idea of having
the roll of toilet paper so that then the guy’s doing
it with a roll of toilet paper and then the actors of plays the
maid comes in and picks it up and creates something with
it that actually is beautiful and original and exactly right. Then they keep that idea but they don’t have
the guy flinging it around during the speech. Sort of a lame example of — I’m sure you know what
I’m talking about. So, Bill very much
believed in this idea of being positive basically and
also working with what’s there in front of you and
working with the suggestions that you’re being given and
trying to turn off that part of your brain that
is intellectualizing. So when Bill died, which is
some time ago now, I went to one of his funerals, one of his
memorials and I got my notebook out because I thought, well,
wait, didn’t I write something down from the first
time I saw him? I eventually went to
ACT and worked there and he was my mentor and
my teacher and my director. So I got to know him. I was very close to him and he
was, as I said, very good to me, very generous to me,
and so when I spoke at his memorial I
got my notebook out. And it’s like, I think I wrote
down some things, and I did. I wrote down, actually,
a series of words. I don’t know why but
that’s just what I ended up doing that particular day. And the word that kept coming
up that Bill used was “belief.” You know, it’s a business of — it’s an art and business
of belief, believing in the imaginative
story that you’re telling, belief in yourself,
belief in the value of doing what you’re doing. In this case, here,
trying to make theater. And that takes a lot. It takes a lot to have that
belief and to maintain it. Speaking from my
age now; I’m 56. To stay invested, to stay
believing in the purpose of it because it’s irrational,
really, when you think about it. It’s sort of irrational. What I’m doing here, you
know, up here on this stage, pretending, doing plays from a
long time ago, writing plays. Why are we doing
what we’re doing and why does it mean
so much to us? So bill taught me a lot
about the creative process and I feel very grateful
to him and for the time that I spent here at State. The question you asked — I
remember an actress came here and spoke and I remember I asked
the very same question of her. That’s funny that you
asked that question because I remember asking
her, what do you, you know, sitting out here, raising
my hand saying, you know, what do you do when
you first get a script? All of the basic script
— well, first of all, you only get one first
read of anything, even if it’s a classic, even
if it’s Romeo and Juliet.You only get one innocent read
where you’re following the story in the way that you hope the
audience will follow the story when you’re trying to
tell them that story, and I find that to be an
incredibly important moment because you’re following it
in the way that you’re going to want to create
it or recreate it. So, especially as I’ve
worked professionally, I understood more and
more how important it is, that first experience is,
where you’re moved, mostly. Because that’s really what
we’re trying to get people to do, is to be moved. Then you can teach people
something, then you can educate, enlighten, broaden
people’s perspective. But how you get there
is in their gut. So that first initial moment
where your heart pounds or you know you have a
lecture to attend at State but you’d really rather
be sitting in the library or in the coffee shop
because you’re in the middle of something and you love it
so much that you sort of worry that if you put it down what are
all of those characters going to be doing during the time that you’re [laughter]
doing something else. I’m in the middle of
the book right now and that’s really how I feel. I’m a little bit worried
about all of those characters and what’s going to happen. I haven’t yet finished
it; it’s a great book. It’s called The Goldfinch.It won the Pulitzer Price. Anybody read it? It’s great. Okay. Yeah. I’m going to say it. It’s a huge book. It’s worth it. But, so that sense of vibration
and that sense of anticipation of being in the middle of
a story is what our job is, to create that feeling
among the audience.>>You speak about belief, and I think that’s a
really interesting word. Have there been times where you
feel like you didn’t believe, either in something
that you were working on or actually lose faith
in the craft itself? Or, you know, I suppose
working the business aspect of it could also make you
lose faith at some times.>>Well, let’s see. Losing faith in a
particular project?>>Or in your approach
to that project. I think that as artists
we all get to that point where we are doubting
something –>>Oh, oh, yes.>>– doubting the way
we’re approaching something.>>Oh, yes. Oh, yes.>>What do you do
when that happens?>>Doubt is something you
just never get rid of. So don’t even try. Just stop right now [laughter]. Insecurity, vet it. You’ll always have it. So in a way that’s — I’m
saying to reassure you and to encourage you,
not to discourage you. It’s the opposite. It never goes away and I think
when I was younger I used to think, oh, well, there will
be some point in the future, not that I really [inaudible],
it’s clearly in my own head. But I think unconsciously
I thought sometime in the future I won’t have
the jitters, I won’t be afraid that I’m either not very good
or phony or too big or too small or not liked by so and
so or just not very good. You know, all of the fears. Or, that in the moment, I won’t
have it because, of course, as an actor it’s all about
in the moment are you there. It’s not about, you know,
sure you can sit in rehearsal and then you can sit beforehand
in the dressing room and, you know, or wherever
you are dreaming it up. But it’s all about,
okay, go, now. That moment. So I used to think,
yeah, there’s some point where I’ll just be like oh,
yeah, I know what I’m doing now. It’s okay. Then I got it taken
care of [laughter]. Creativity doesn’t
work that way.>>When you have that
moment when you’re on stage and you’re aware that
it’s not there for you, what do you do, or on the set?>>Yeah. Well, of course, in front of a camera it’s
different because, of course, you can — I mean, not
that you really can, but I mean you can
conceivably say, “I’m sorry. Can we stop because that
was really terrible?” Definitely, they
don’t want you to do that because the director
wants to be able to say, “Cut.” [ Laughter ] Not that I have any
hostility about that. [ Laughter ] [ Inaudible Speaker ] Well, yeah. It is a craft and so
the craft is something that you’re all building
and studying. And all of the studying and
the reading and the thinking about what other people
have done before you and what they’re writing about
in their books and people like me coming and
speaking, it all gets in there and it’s just — none
of it’s a waste of time. And it all comes in and it
becomes part of your workbook. And there is a craft, thank
goodness, that we learn. And when we learn the
craft then we go back to it in times of trouble. You want to work
from your instinct; and it’s always what
they tell you, right? Trust your instincts and
it — well, it’s true. And all want to work from
that part of ourselves because that’s the
best part of ourselves. Stanislavsky said
he was creating a — who was the father of modern
acting, basically said, “I’m creating a conscious
way to the unconscious.” So the unconscious is the goal. That’s where you want
to be working from. But, of course, there’s
10 million reasons why, including having an
intellect and a mind and a chattering brain, that
leads you away from that. So you want to develop ways
with your conscious mind to feed you unconscious, so that
when you are working you’re free and you’re not thinking. When you’re in rehearsal you are and when you’re building
something in your mind you are. But then, as a performer,
eventually you want to get to a place of — is all
you’re doing is breathing and your mind is clear. I mean, that’s like
an ideal, right? We never quite get
there; maybe once or twice and that’s why we do what we do
because we have a few moments of that kind of utter
ecstasy and freedom that we then go back
and look for a lot. But, so, what you do is
you go back to the basics. What do I want? What’s in the way
of what do I want? And what am I doing to get it? Actions, objectives,
and obstacles. Obstacles are really good. Give yourself — and I’m
talking acting terms now. What do I want? I want to make him love me. What do I do? I control him; I berate him;
I charm him; I throttle him. What’s in the way
of what I want? I’m afraid he’ll reject me. Inner obstacles? I have a stomachache; I have
to pee; I have a headache. Those are physical
things you can use. They’re very useful. I just came from — I
haven’t eaten all day. You can give yourself all
kinds of physical conditions. This is all imaginative. Right. This is all —
I’m making this up. You make these things
up for yourself. Where was I just before I came
in this door in this scene that I’m playing in right now? What can I imagine that puts me
in a better place in the moment? And then if, you know — so
when you run into trouble, when you feel awkward, you
feel you’re not relaxed, you’re not able to really listen to what the other person is
saying to you, you’re not able to receive, that’s when you
go back to the simple things of wait a minute, what do I
want, what am I trying to do, what am I trying to get,
what am I doing to get it, what’s in the way of
me getting what I want? And you give yourself all
of this and, of course, what you’re basically doing
is creating a big problem for yourself, that I
mean in a positive way. You’re creating a
dramatic problem. So if you — it’s one way of
thinking about it as an actor is that it’s like you’re creating
a hole that you need to fill because you want to come in in
a state of dis-ease to a degree. I mean, this is me telling you. I’m sure there are other ways
of talking about acting, but. You’re not coming into
the situation you’re in because everything’s fine. That’s not what drama is about. Drama is about having a problem
that you’re, a dramatic problem that you’re trying to solve. So there’s an ache that the
characters usually have, some sort of thing
that they’re trying to get in order to be well. So having a chance to practice
this kind of stuff in scenes and in productions here is very
useful so that when you come up against those moments
of not knowing what to do you have somewhere to go. And learning physically how
to handle your own body. I mean that’s — and I just
met a movement teacher. He was moving down the hall. He was going to his class. So you take dance and you take
athletics and you take yoga and you take — because,
mainly, because it’s important to remember to breathe. It really comes down —
that sounds so simplistic but actually you’ll
often notice — I notice for myself in moments of nervousness, I’m
not breathing. Of course, we all
have to breathe or we would pass out and die. But we’re not [sigh]. Watch baseball? One of my favorite things about watching baseball,
you watch a pitcher.>>Ha.>>Hoo. You see them do that
almost everytime before a pitch. You can tell it’s built
into their discipline. It’s built into their
process of throwing a pitch. And we have to learn
the same things. And because we are
— that’s right. I’m not wired. I was thinking I couldn’t stand up because I was wired,
but my mic’s here. So, you know, on the stage
we have to be able to move, we have to be able to
— it’s an athletic job, and we have to be comfortable
on our feet and we have to be able to make sound. Although now we’re all
mic’d and you’ll work — if you work in the
theater, you might be mic’d. There’s a lot more mics going on
because sound is so much better than it used to be, too. And they amplify the edges of
the stages now you’ll notice, if you go to professional
productions, in order to be heard. But you do have to make volume. So how do you make
— what’s volume? Volume is a lot of
air going out quickly, and the better capacity
you have, the better you understand
your own physiology, the better you are
at making sound and not hurting your voice.>>So what training
methods helped you that, either at ACT or here? It sounds like when you
described your acting classes, it sounds like a
Stanislavsky-based process in terms of movement, training,
or [inaudible] training. Was there anything
that really spoke to you during your training?>>Yeah. We — yes.>>[Inaudible] within.>>Voice classes
are basically — there’s a lot of
loosening up of the body, which I think is important. It’s important to understand
your own physiology — how the lungs work, where the
muscles are that you need, and all of that stuff, to
break it down and to — yeah, I mean, we
did a lot of yoga. We did a lot of stretching. And then we did exercises
with poetry and with speeches and making sound and using
different kinds of voices and using different
kinds of rhythms, because that way you’re
not only always speaking in your own rhythm but you
can do different characters, you can pitch your
voice in different ways. I benefitted enormously. I very much needed. I was at Community College
first and I was lucky because there was a
Theater Department there that had a theater very much
like this theater with a couple of great guys who ran it. And then coming here I
was able to practice. And that’s why it’s good;
that’s why it’s so important that you have a good education,
because it gives you a chance to practice in an
environment that is safe. And because I also — I had
gone to a play in San Diego at the Old Globe Theater. I was taken by my English
teacher in junior high, and I saw a Shakespeare
play and I just loved it. And that’s how I got
interested in doing theater. And I really hadn’t
been to very many plays. I hadn’t even been to very many
plays when I started working.>>What was the play? Do you remember?>>Yes. They were doing
“Merchant of Venice,” and “Two Gentlemen of Verona.”>>And what about that
production made you go, “I got to, I got to do this”?>>There was something
about Shakespeare that I loved and I still love. I just did a Shakespeare play
this summer, and if anything, I was more excited
than I ever had been. It was ridiculous. It was ridiculous. I was like a little
kid except I’m me. And so it was so strange. But I just couldn’t
— I was so excited. I learned so much. We had a great scholar. It was at the New York
Shakespeare Festival, Shakespeare in the
Park that they do in New York City every summer. They do free Shakespeare. [ Inaudible Speaker ] Yes. We did “King Lear,” and
we had a scholar from Columbia who came in and worked
with us on the text. I mean, it was so
exciting to have this guy. Usually, you know,
you’re thumbing through all the various
editions saying what am I saying here [inaudible]? What do I mean when I’m talking
about the cat and the thing and the, you know,
the metaphors? And he was right there. He’s a very down-to-earth
guy, a New Yorker. And he would, you know
— he would say, “Well, what you’re really
saying here is if you don’t do what I
say, you can fuck off.” [ Laughter ] I get it. [ Laughter ] Yeah. So they were doing
Shakespeare in San Diego, and I didn’t understand
everything they said, but I knew what they meant. And I liked the [inaudible] and
I liked the immediacy of it, and they were right
there in front of me, and it was all happening
right in front of me. I don’t know. My response to it was
very unintellectual. It was just [gasp], oh,
my heart is pounding. I. I want to be part
of this in some way. So that was — and I had a
really good high school acting teacher who was a little crazy. Most of them really
good teachers. I’m realizing that
all of them crazy. [Laughter] I know that doesn’t
speak to anyone in this room — [ Laughter ] — or to me, so — just
to be clear about that. So I was very encouraged
by that. And, like I said, I mean,
my Community College. I am so grateful to
these two gentlemen who ran this Theater Department in this little Community
College, and I’ve know them
my whole life. One of them is still alive
and they meant so much to me because they were like me. They were like crazy and
really into it and really cared and wanted to teach
and pass along — so.>>Was your first
love Shakespeare? That was the production
that made you go, oh, I have to do this. Was classical material
your first play? Or was it just — did it just
sort of spark an excitement about theater in general?>>I think what it — the reason
that classical theater to me is so important and it’s not
the only thing I like to do because I also love to do movies
and I love to do new plays. But what the classical theater
has is intellectual heft. You know, you’re working inside
the brain of a great person, a great thinker, and so
there’s so much to aspire to. When I was working on “King
Lear” this summer, I really — when I was backstage listening,
I liked it almost as much as being on the stage, because
I would just listen to it and I just found it so
endlessly interesting.>>What did you discover
about that play? Because there’s so much
in “Lear” to [inaudible] as you were listening? And also, well, I have a lot
of questions about “Lear,” but as you were backstage and
listening to this language, what did you discover that you
hadn’t known of the play before?>>Monster ingratitude.>>Ooh.>>This is one of
the things he says. I was talking to –>>Did you?>>– someone about
this yesterday. As a parent — see, I have four
children, 22, 20, 17, and 14. That’s a whole other story. [Laughter] But yet,
of course, it’s not. It’s all the same thing. It’s all mixed together,
you know. It’s not like work is here, relationships are
here, family is here. It’s all one big, for me,
chaotic, beautiful thing. I used to not understand that. Now I do understand that. So I have four children, okay? So, doing “King Lear”
as a middle-aged woman with four children, the ages
they are, when Lear says, “monster ingratitude,” I
thought, oh, I understand that. [ Laughter ] And I was playing his
daughter, one of the — I’m playing one of the terrible
daughters who’s a complete murderer, which is so much fun. So [laughter] at one point
I’m saying to him, you know — he divides up the
kingdom; he gets really mad at the youngest daughter,
Cordelia. She’s banished. The two other daughters are
left, Goneril and Regan. And he says, okay, what I’m
going to do is you two split up the kingdom and you’re
in charge of your areas, and I’m going to
go back and forth. I’ll probably spend a month
with you and a month with you. And I’m going to bring
along 100 knights because I’m the king
and I can do that. So he comes to my
house and I say, you know, this isn’t working. The 100 knights, it’s a mess. They’re, you know,
they’re fighting; they’ve got prostitutes;
they’re drinking; it’s madness. And I have a lot of servants. Why don’t you just
let them help you out? And he says, “You’re
ungrateful.” And then I thought, oh, I
get it because, of course, I’ve now experienced
this moment as a moment. You should be so grateful to me. I gave birth to you. I gave you everything. So you have to be
nice to me, you know. And we have a normal, healthy
family, and I have great kids. But this is what happens. It happens to all of us. We have those moments. And then they pass. Now in “King Lear”
they don’t pass. [Laughter] It doesn’t go well. It ends very badly. But that’s not what
— that’s not my life. But so just the richness
of the language and how did Shakespeare
understand that so deeply and all of the poetry in it.>>How did you play a character like Goneril without
judging her? We always talk in the class about don’t judge
your character.>>Yeah.>>Goneril doesn’t
think she’s so horrible. She thinks she’s pretty swell. Knowing that she’s not, and
also having that perspective as a parent and, you know, and.>>The other subjectivity
is a joy in acting. You don’t have to be objective. You don’t have to be rational. The character is not. And you don’t have to be. You are their biggest advocate. You could give a speech for
three hours based on their point of view of life and
what they need and why it makes perfect sense to kill your younger
sister [laughter] — actually, both of
them is what I — I ended up killing both
of them [laughter]. But, you know, I had my reasons. [ Laughter ] And actually, of course,
as I’m sure you all know, if you study people, this
is what we’re all like. We all have our reasons, right? And that’s you job. That’s your job and it doesn’t
matter how you get there. It doesn’t matter what you
do to create those reasons, however irrational they
are, because, by the way, secrets are incredibly
important. You don’t have to tell anyone. If it works for you, use
it, whatever that is. And we all have our
reasons to do what we do, and we all have our secrets. And those are very
valuable when you think about your own personal secrets. Characters, they all have
their secrets, you know. So the classical theater, the
intellectual size that you have to possibly reach for, combined with incredible emotional
content, that’s what gets me about the theater, is the
marriage of those two things, because you can stand and give
a speech about Shakespeare and be interesting because
Shakespeare’s so fascinating. But if you can go and watch a
good production, that’s going to be more valuable than
anything because it’s going to hit you somewhere
in your gut. And, of course, that’s
very challenging to do. First of all, it’s challenging
to be understood, right? Because it’s a language
of another period. So you have to know what you’re
talking about and you have to be very clear about
it, and then you have to find a way to communicate it.>>Tell me about your Lady Anne. I know you played
Lady Anne at ACT.>>Yes.>>Tell me about how
you approached her. I’m just fascinated
because that’s one of those problematic
roles for me in how you get a handle on her.>>Well, I was a
new company member and there was another actress
who was supposed to play. She’s talking about
Lady Macbeth. And somebody else was supposed
to play the part who was older and more experienced, but then
she dropped out for some reason. So then the director called me
and said, “Would you play it?” Are you kidding [laughter]? Yes. Remember, you
always say yes.>>[Laughter] I said
yes, and then he said, “Oh, and I have an idea. What if she were pregnant?” What if she were pregnant? And I thought, yes. [ Laughter ] Whether that was a good
idea or not, I don’t know. But I did. I said, of course. Yes, okay, sure. What an interesting idea. So, yes, I did it. I never say it so I don’t
know how it was [laughter].>>How did her being pregnant
change things for you?>>Well, like, of course, now, I had never been
pregnant at that point.>>Yeah.>>Now I’ve been
pregnant a number of times and so now I know
what it’s like.>>Was she [inaudible]?>>I think it’s not a bad idea,
actually, that she’s pregnant.>>Was she –>>Yes. Oh, yeah,
of course, visibly.>>Okay, yeah.>>Or else it wouldn’t matter because then nobody else would
know because you can’t, like, put it in the footnotes
[laughter], right, yeah. My interpretation is that
she’s pregnant [laughter]. Yeah, no, no. I had a belly and it
was — yes, it was — I think the production
had certain challenges. It’s a really hard play. It’s the shortest of
the tragedies, I think, and it’s a very hard
play to get right. But the poetry’s so beautiful
and the two characters are so compelling that
it’s done all the time, and I just saw a really
interesting production of it. But it’s not a play that’s easy to make work, whatever
that means.>>What was your choice about
why she did what she did? What was your choice about that? About why she –>>I don’t –>>– pushed him? Do you remember?>>Why she pushed him?>>Yeah.>>Ambition, power. I mean, I don’t — that’s –>>For her own?>>– that’s too broad
because quite frankly I don’t remember [laughter]. But I’m sure I had my reasons. But, certainly, in the play it’s
about power and greed and lust and I wanted to be queen.>>Yeah.>>And she gets what she wants. But it doesn’t go
well, so, once again, it’s sort of a sad
ending, just so you know. You know the play [laughter]. But, actually, you know, not knowing these plays was
incredibly valuable to me. I was very naive, and I
want to get that across just because I don’t know — you guys
are maybe more sophisticated. I was a very unsophisticated
theater person. It didn’t matter because
I just loved doing it and I loved studying and
I worked really hard. And so that’s why I want
to encourage you to do it and to be disciplined. I think in the creative
world, whatever that is, and, of course, most things
are creative, whether it’s science
or whatever. But discipline is so important. And you can have your own form. It’s not like discipline means
getting up at 7 a.m. every day and that means you’re
a disciplined person. But having some rigor
with yourself is important because we’re all
fragile and we’re all lazy and we’re all gardenias
[laughter]. We are. We’re human beings. And it’s not easy. And you have your insecurities
and you have your doubts and you have your problems
because we all have them. And you have your
family stuff to deal with which sometimes can be
really hard and discouraging. We were talking about
this before we came in about maybe not all parents
are encouraging of people who want to be in the arts. And you just must do it anyway. And you can say it
nicely [laughter]. You can say it nicely,
but you must say it. Thank you. I know you love me and I know
you have what’s best for me in mind in your heart,
and I understand that. But that’s very discouraging
when you say to me, don’t do what I love. So, I’m sorry. I’m going to do it. I’m going to do what I love
and I’m going to pursue it because I’m not sure
where it’s taking me. But that’s the path, okay? That’s the path. Even if you’re not quite
sure where you’re going, if you’re studying and
working on something you love, you’re doing the right thing. Just keep doing that, and do whatever you
have to do to do that. And I know a lot of you
probably work and it’s hard. And you have families, probably. So I know it’s a lot,
but it’s worth it. And right now, unfortunately, in
our culture, we don’t have a lot of reflection around us
in the government funding and in university funding of
the importance of the arts, and the importance
of art in our lives. But it is important. It’s essential. And for those of us
who want to make art, that’s very loft
sounding, so I, you know, I don’t want to sound lofty. It’s show business, believe me. We could talk about
show business. I’ve been in show business for
a while now, so it’s not all about lofty, artistic ideals. But inside of you
there’s always that flame of the ideal and the dream. And, you know, once it got lit
in me, it’s the same thing. And it’s not to say that
I haven’t had a lot of ups and downs, because I have. We all do. But it’s still the same hah,
oh, sitting down, you know, for the first reading
of something. It’s the same. I look around and I
think, is this my job? This is my job and it’s crazy. I love this so much. And it’s the camaraderie
and the mutual vulnerability that we all have. That’s part of what we do what
we do, you know, why we’re here, is because we work so
closely together so quickly. It’s crazy, the intimacy
that we have with each other. Sometimes it goes beyond that
but we won’t discuss that. [Laughter] And I don’t
know anything about that. [ Laughter ] No, but, you know,
those are the kind of — those are some of the things I
really did want to talk about and to be encouraging. Let me take questions now.>>Sure. Of course.>>I know, you might
be frightened now that I’m throwing
that out [inaudible]. If anybody has any questions,
you can ask me about anything, any project, if you’ve
seen a movie that I did you liked,
or whatever. Way in the back, yes.>>Was there ever a
time when you need worry that the fire was out?>>Yes. When I — yes. The question is did I ever
worry that the fire was out. Yes, very much so. And for me, the first time
it happened was when I wanted to have a baby and wanted
to get pregnant and I was, for a while — this is
a long time ago, now — for a while I didn’t think
about working at all, which for me was — it
never happened to me. And, of course, now,
in retrospect, I realize what a
blessing that is. What a blessing that is
to be completely pulled out of it for a period of time. And for those of us who are
pregnant and having children, some of you will have children but you don’t have
to be pregnant. But, actually, I
like being pregnant. But, you know, for men
it’s a different thing. But for us it’s a
physiological reality. So, but, I always
wanted children, ever since I was real little. I was one of those little
kids that wanted children. I don’t know why [laughter]. I was the youngest of four and
I always wanted a little brother or a little sister, and I didn’t
have one, but so I don’t know if that was part of it. But I always loved
little kids and babies. And I’m still that way. So I wanted to have children. So I always knew I would. I just kind of didn’t know
when it would happen for me in the right way with
the right person. So that when it did happen I was
in my early 30s and I stopped, of course, because you do. You stop and you, you know,
you’re taking care of a child. So it was incredibly gratifying. I mean I still, you
know, I’m just — that’s a huge part of
my life is my children. But I did kind of get
away from it, that hunger. And then I thought,
oh, my god, it’s gone. I don’t want to do something? I’m not thinking
about the next thing. I’m not preoccupied with a
new role, whatever it is. And then I realized, oh,
I see, it comes back. I flick a cycle. So then I stopped worrying. So then I had three more. [ Laughter ] Crazy, again. Like, but, you know, I mean, I
— so, so, yes, that does happen and I, you know, and maybe for
some people they end up going in another direction, you know. Perhaps if you’re losing
interest in something it’s because you need to pick
up on something else. Yes.>>With respect to your actors
and a career in the profession of acting, what is
the biggest difference between live theater
and making films?>>Well, one thing is
financial [laughter]. It’s very hard to make a
living just doing plays. You can do it but it’s hard. And so, film pays more. So there’s that way
of talking about it. From an acting standpoint,
should I talk about that maybe?>>Yes.>>Okay. I never had
a class with a camera. Had no idea sort of
what it meant to act in front of the camera. It was the only thing I sort
of heard was you’ll be too big. You know, if you’re a theater
actor and you go in front of a camera, be smaller,
do less. But when you think about
it, that’s terrible. That’s negative. Do less. You know, you’re taught to have positive
objectives, right? To try to get something
and to — so, I had never been
in front of a camera. I did a few seasons
at ACT and then I went to the Denver Center
Theater Company where there’s a professional
theater. And I was doing a season there
and there was a television movie that came through town and they
were casting for actors to be in — to play small parts
in this television movie. It was called “The
Manhunt for Claude Dallas.” And Nat Salinger was the star, and I was the girl
he met in the bar. And so I got the part. So then I got to join SAG. I think I did one commercial
and then you can join the union. So I got into the union. I was in this. So we were shooting this
scene in the bar and he comes up and we’re chatting. And I remember we did the scene. We, you know, practiced
it, rehearsed it, and they like decide
where to put the cameras, and then we did it. And then they said, “Okay,
we’re done [hand clap]. Okay, everybody,
you can go out now.” And I thought, wow,
that’s so fast. It’s like we’re done [laughter]? This is weird [inaudible]. No, really, this
is how much I knew. When I think about it now,
I think, God, it’s a miracle that I got through it. So then they brought
us back in and said, “We’re doing it again.” I thought, oh, we’re
doing it again. Because, of course, they
had done a wide shot, and now they were
doing a medium shot. I didn’t know that
that’s how it worked. Generally, when you’re
shooting a scene, they start out with a wide shot, and they put the
camera back further so they can see the whole
— like, for instance. If they were shooting this, they
would have a camera somewhere where they could see all
of us, and we would do it. And then we would stop and
go back and do it again. And they might do a two-shot. They would put the
camera over there. Most of you wouldn’t
even have to be here. They would say, “Okay,
you guys can all leave.” The camera’s pointing
in this direction. It’s the two of us. It’s a medium shot. And then they would
probably do a single — one on me, one on you. Then they might even do a
single that’s my whole body, and then they might do a
single that’s a close-up. Okay. So that’s how
cameras work. Obviously, it’s not
rocket science. I mean, you can learn it. But I didn’t know that. So they said, “Okay, we’re
going to do it again. We’re going to — ” and
they put the camera closer and I thought, oh, I see. We’re doing it again and now — but we have to do
the same thing. And so if I’m sitting there
and my elbow’s on the chair like this in the scene when
I did it in the wide shot, I sort of have to do kind
of that in order to match it when they’re going to cut from the wide shot
to the medium shot. So what I’m basically saying is
I went into it knowing nothing. I went to New York. I started doing plays
in New York. I was cast in a television
pilot. And I was the lead,
I was the girl. I was supposed to be sexy and
funny and smart and charming and all of these things. And, meanwhile, I
was just petrified because I was so inexperienced. And they guy that was the lead
was the executive producer and a very, a very — a veteran. And I remember they said to me,
“Could you sit into the shot?” [ Laughter ] And I thought, I don’t
know what that means. And I’m an idiot. And I’m a jerk. And I don’t — here I am,
I am playing this part, I don’t even know
what that means. And I didn’t want to say that. I didn’t say — I didn’t want
to say, I’m really sorry, but what does that me? Can you explain that to me? So I didn’t say that. And I — what did I do? Oh, yeah. So I’m sitting
down and they said, “Please, could you sit into it?” [ Laughter ] So I remember I think I
just sort of sat forward. [Laughter] And they, you know. Of course, what I remember is
it being they’re all laughing at me, and I — oh,
what a fool she is. She doesn’t know
what she’s doing. Of course, they probably
weren’t thinking that at all. But they said, “No. That means that you get up,”
and the camera’s on the chair. So the camera’s pointing
at the empty chair. And then as the scene
begins you sit into it. [ Laughter ] Let’s see, it’s like
etched in my memory of like stupid things
I have done. That’s okay. So these are the basics. It takes, you know, I
could probably teach you in one class the basics of
the technical part of film. You know, there’s a mark. There’s a mark right
there on the stage, right? There’s a little piece of tape. So if I was doing this scene,
and the camera was back there, I would stand — and I was doing
most of my speech from here. They would fix the focus
at this point, right? So the gentleman working the
camera and doing the focus, we would practice together and
then he would fix the focus so I was in focus if
I was standing here. So if I’m doing the scene the
second and the third time, and I come to here, I’m not
hitting the mark, right? So I have to learn
how to hit the mark. Okay, you have to
learn how to do that. Again, is this rocket science? No. In fact, you can use
these things called sandbags that are always around set. So I always use them and
I put them right there, like on the mark, so that
when you come to the mark, you hit it with your toe and
you don’t have to look down. If you watch Spencer
Tracy, he was a great actor. And you see him — you can watch
it almost every move he’s in. He’ll always come up to the
spot, and you’ll see him kind of put his hands in his pockets. He looks at his mark. [ Laughter ] If you’ve studied
acting then what gets you to the important stuff which is,
of course, the work once you get to the mark, then it’s
not that different. That’s my view. If you’ve learned how to act
and you’ve learned the basics, whether you’re in
a play or in front of a camera, it’s very similar. With a play, you’re doing
it eight times a week, depending on how long. Here, maybe, you know,
six or seven times. But if you start
working professionally, you do it eight times a week. That’s the job, whether you’re
in a good mood, a bad mood, whether you’re on your period,
whether you’ve gained 10 pounds, whether you haven’t slept
all night, whether you are, you know, got drunk the
night before, whether or not your mother
has died, whatever. You’re producing this play and this performance
goes through you. And that’s very demanding
to be good at it. To be good at it that
many times a week. That’s craft. Okay. So you go from a to b; you go through the
whole story each time. In a film you do a
day or two on a scene. So if you have to describe
the time that your father died in the car accident and
you were in the car, if you’re doing a play, you
do that eight times a week, and you go through the story and perhaps it’s a
very emotional moment. If you’re doing it in a
film, you know you have to do that scene, but that might
be on day 35 of the schedule or on day 20 or whatever
day it is. So you don’t do it every day. One day you’re just doing a
scene where you’re rapping down the aisle when you
don’t — there’s no — it’s not hard emotionally. But for a film then,
maybe you’re doing that scene for a couple of days. So you have to find the
stimuli, whatever that is, inside of yourself
for that many times. So that’s one of
the big differences, just from a practical
standpoint. But in terms of what is it
that gets you there, you know, how do you school yourself? What do you use to put you in
the moment where you can say, it broke my heart when my
dad slammed into the side of the car, or whatever it
is that you have to say. That it’s you saying it and you
are the one that experienced it and you are the one
that went through it, and it’s affecting
you in a specific way. So, often in film you
never get to rehearse. Or maybe you get to rehearse,
sometimes you get to rehearse. Some of the films I’ve
done, we have rehearsed. But sometimes you
don’t get to rehearse. So what’s rehearsal
for [laughter]. You know, rehearsal is to
go through and find things that work for you or don’t work
for you or that are effective or not effective
in terms of getting across what you’re
trying to get across. Okay. So I’ll stop
talking [laughter]. Yes. Yes.>>What’s your favorite
experience working on a film?>>What’s my favorite
experience work on a film? That’s hard because
each one is — it’s like picking
a favorite child. Even if you had one,
you wouldn’t know it because you wouldn’t
let yourself. You know, everytime I
work it’s so different. And also, you continue to
change as a human being, and what you’re going through
in your personal life is so different. So often when I think back
on projects that I did, I think more about, oh, yeah,
that was the time I just moved and I had just broken up with
so and so, and I was, you know, kind of a wreck, and
I did that project, and then I met this
person, and — you know, you remember all
of the things around it. I was lucky because I
made a couple of films that were unsuccessful first. And the reason I value that
now is because, when you talk about process, you know, you
learn to love the process. In fact, if anything, you begin
to fall in love with the process and then rest of it is like,
aye, whether something is like successful or not. But because I was in a couple of unsuccessful films I didn’t
know what it was like for there to be another chapter
because it’s this funny thing as an actor. You go, you make something,
you give your performance, and then you go off and
you’re doing other things. Meanwhile, they’re
cutting the film, they’re cutting your performance
up, they’re putting this tape or that tape, they’re
fashioning it and they’re fashioning
the movie. You’re going on with your life. And some time, maybe a year
later, the movie comes out. So in a couple of cases
— one was a very small, like family comedy movie. And then the next one
was a big production that took months to shoot. It was expensive
and a period film. And it was a big flop. So, of course, like the
cliche is you learn so much from the things that don’t
go as well, and it’s true. But it wasn’t devastating to me because I was just
excited to be working. Are you kidding? I got this job. I was paid. I was in Europe. It’s like, who cares [laughter]? But — by the way, I had never
been to Europe the first time that I was given a job there. And I was supposed to be playing like a French aristocrat
[laughter]. I had never been
out of the country. I’d been to Mexico
and Canada [laughter]. So it was like, once again,
I hope nobody kind of catches on to the fact that I have
no idea what I’m doing here [laughter]. Yeah, so, then I did a film
that was successful, that, like, got a lot of attention
and critical acclaim, Academy Award nominations,
and all that stuff. And it was like, oh, now I see. Well, this is really
exciting, you know. This is great. So then the next time you do a
film that’s a flop you know what it feels like. It’s like oh, I see. There’s no future here. [ Laughter ] And before, like, it
didn’t occur to me.>>Who?>>But then I had a
successful experience so then I know what it’s like
when you’ve done something, you pour your heart and
soul into, and nobody cares. They don’t care, and they
tell you it’s not very good. That happens a lot. So, you know, I really —
that is my honest answer. I mean, I met my husband when
I did a film called “Bugsy,” so that means a lot to me. And we made that
film 23 years ago. It’s a really good movie. I saw it recently on — and my
husband’s great in the film, and there’s a bunch of
amazing performances. Ben Kingsley played
Meyer Lansky. He was great. So, you know, the personal
experiences that come from it are, you know — obviously that changed
the course of my life. But each one has
its own learning. And you’re always different
and always changing. In my craft that’s
one thing that’s due, is the craft always
changes, and what you do to get you where you want to go. Yes, go ahead, go ahead, you.>>Me?>>Yeah.>>So what’s you
secret to auditions and do you have a funny
story for those [laughter]?>>Secret.>>Surprise us.>>Yes.>>What, what –>>My only — so, anxiety and
insecurity and fear are just, you know, they walk in the
door with you and all of that. So, finding a way to assuage it
and to ameliorate it is the key. You’re not going
to make it go away so you don’t even,
don’t go there. Just go in. Oh, yeah, I’m afraid. Well, that’s normal. I’m scared. That’s normal. But I know how to breathe
because I learned how to do that and I’ve been working on this. So my only — what I did
for myself in the middle of auditions, in the middle
of the process of auditioning, is I worked on the
part like it was mine.>>Oh.>>So you just, you just
continue to work on it. That’s the only way I could
get my brain to be quiet. Okay. Let me see. Where was I before this? Okay, I’m walking into the room. I’m having this — you know,
whatever the audition — whatever’s going
on in the scene. Where was I right before this? What do I — yeah,
whatever, why don’t we — you know, all of the
basics of acting. You prepare for that. And then — I mean, the
other thing is the aftermath. It’s not only working
up to it and doing it, but then afterwards
what do you do? You’re usually waiting. And then, when you’re waiting, then if you don’t get
it, you want to know why. And there’s never a
good reason [laughter]. It’s because they didn’t
like you; it’s because you — wait, you have brown
hair and your father, who is cast already,
has dark hair, and you don’t look the same,
you’re not the right, you know, your coloring isn’t right. Or, you know, you’re
tall and they’re short. Or something very mundane. But I know that there was
a lot of, oh, you’re trying to do a good job and so you want to know how could
I have been better. That’s probably one of those
questions you don’t ever really get a good answer for. But preparing, preparing. And there’s a lot
of books about it. Read all the books. And do it as much as you can. And go up for everything. And practice auditioning
because, basically, you’re dealing with a lot of
rejection in our business. Even once you get a job
sometimes you experience a lot of rejection. So, yeah. I would
encourage that. You just — just to
work very hard at it.>>Thank you.>>I’m sorry. I don’t know if that’s
a very good answer, but. Yes, in the back.>>Hi.>>Hi.>>First off, good
morning and thank you for taking the time
to answer questions.>>A pleasure.>>My question. What are your thoughts or
opinions on the representation or misrepresentation of different ethnicities
in the film industry?>>I think that right
now, especially in film, everything — and
it’s in theater, too. Everything is exploding
and everything is changing, because everybody has a camera,
and everybody has a screen. And the good news
is that if you want to change the way people
are represented and you want to make stories that speak to
this issue, then you can do it. Now I don’t mean to sound
simplistic about that, but, quite frankly, in my view,
it’s all becoming one screen. And it will all be one
screen very quickly. The delivery systems and how
we watch things will change. I went to AMC on
Van Ness last night and watched Gone Girl
on a massive screen.
Those screens will
continue to exist as well as your iPhone or your watch. I guess the watches
are the newest ones where it’s right there
on your wrist [laughter]. Have you heard about
those, you know, where it’s right
there on your wrist? And I guess they’re going to start implanting
things in our eyes and — [ Laughter ] So — but the content —
there’s more access now than there ever has been. So I take that, yes,
movies are changing and there’s a certain dinosaur
that’s dying in the way that movies are made
and financed. And there’s a certain sadness
there in terms of large pictures and large stories that aren’t
just cartoon comic-book hero stories. But, Dr. Zhivago or Reds,
if I may, or other films
of great size and scope that have incredible
human stories to them. That is — it’s true. Right now that’s
a really tough — that doesn’t happen very much. And the in-between size
films don’t happen very much. But write your script. Make your story. What do you want to write about? And whatever it takes to
get yourself to do it, and being a student
is a great idea because being a student gives
you a chance to avail yourself of as much information
as you can get. And you learn that
you’re always a student. When you’re a student, you
think, I’m just a student now and pretty soon I won’t be
a student anymore which, in a certain way, is true. But in another way,
it’s not true. Because the learning just keeps
happening, and the feeling of not knowing enough
also just keeps happening. I consider myself a little bit of a veteran now,
so I can say that. It took me a long time
to understand that. But you have to just
start doing it. And it makes a big
difference when you say, “I’ve done this thing. Can I show you this?” Rather than “I have this idea.” But, you know, a lot of
people get things made because they have an idea. I mean, I have people coming
to me with ideas and saying, “I don’t know what this is
but I have this character and maybe we could make a TV
series out of this character. And she’s sort of like
that woman who used to live in New York in the ’50s and
— ” So I encourage you. I think that the dollar
drives show business. So the dollar is ruthless. And there’s a lot of preference
in the country and there’s a lot of people who control financing
that don’t have the imagination to make stories about everybody. So you have to change that. There’s nobody, you know, if you feel that way then
put yourself out there. Yes.>>How do you go about selecting
the roles that you play?>>Well, selecting
roles now is a lot of it is the schedule
[laughter]. Like they say to me, “We’re
interested in doing this thing.” And I say, “Uch, I
would love to do that. When are you shooting it?” Just happened to me this fall. There was a picture, actually,
that they had been trying to get financing for for years, and they had asked
me to do years ago. And I would have
done it in a minute. I was dying to do it. But it didn’t work with
my family’s schedule because I can’t be away. I can’t go away for
two months right now. I’ve got kids at home. What am I going to do? So, like in that case, I
didn’t do it because of that. But then there have
been a lot of blessings that have come from that, too. There was a picture that
wanted to shoot in New York in the summer that I did. And I thought, great,
it’s summer. I can go. See, the kids are
busy and I can like work out there schedules
so they’re — that one’s at camp and that
one’s going to that thing and that one — and
I’ll juggle it and then I can kind
of get in there. And that one can come with me
because they’re still young and I’ll work it all out. And then I remember this
one particular summer. And I remember turning to
my son and saying, “So, what are you thinking
of doing this summer?” [Laughter] Because I
was thinking I’ve got to work this schedule
out, right? Because I wanted to film
and where is he going to be and he was — I remember
him saying, “You know, I’m not really sure.” And part of me was
like nothing to decide. [ Laughter ] But I didn’t want to say that
because he’s a little kid. Oh, he wasn’t that
little, but he was a kid who was little enough
where that’s appropriate. He didn’t know and he
shouldn’t have to know in this particular scenario. So I just said, “Oh.” And I called the people back
and I said, “I’m really sorry. I can’t be in New
York this summer. I thought I could. I can’t because my schedule
doesn’t work that way. If you can shoot it
in L.A., I’m here. I can do it. But, I’m sorry. And if you can’t, I understand. But if you can bring it
to L.A., I can do it.” We shot it in L.A. It
worked out that time. But it doesn’t always work out. So that time it worked out. So a lot of my choices
are based on — really, they’re all
based right on — like — and the Shakespeare
that I did this summer. It fit in perfectly
in the summer. It was like four weeks
of rehearsal, five weeks, their week of tech, four
weeks of performance. It was perfect. And I thought, uh, because
I’ve been dying to get back to New York to do a
play, and so I did it. It worked out. Yes. I don’t want to
— yes, in the back.>>Yeah. Apropos part of the
paper and the craft of acting –>>Yeah.>>– what else can
you say about props? [ Applause ] He’s our prop master. [ Laughter ]>>They are the most
important things. [ Applause ] I’m not really kidding
[laughter]. I did props on a
show here that — you know, you have
to do your prop. You have to do lighting
and props, and I did a show on — I did props here. But, actually, I’m not kidding. Okay. One of the terms they use in acting is “secondary
activity.” I don’t know if they
still use that. But it basically — it’s
like what are you doing at the same time that
you’re acting the scene? I don’t really have — okay. Let me see here. I wrote some things down. Okay, so I can rip this
up [paper being torn]. So if I have activity that I’m
doing while I’m talking to you, sometimes it helps me. I don’t know why
but it just does. And if I decide that in this
scene, instead of just talking to you like this, which I
could be doing, and not moving and just looking at you, I could
actually be doing something. Because sometimes
having what they call a “secondary activity” helps
me [paper being torn]. Why? I don’t know. But it does. [Laughter] Now, I
break up my rhythm. Okay. So props are —
they’re your friend. They give you something
to do with your hands. I know — I mean, just
this– I mean, I love props. I use them all the time because
you’re here, just walking around doing the scene. And sometimes, of course, you really shouldn’t have
anything in your hands. But most of the time
I have something in my hands because it helps me. It relaxes me. And sometimes it can really help because if you’re doing
something while you’re talking — which is what we do in life. You just don’t stop
and not do things. We don’t stop and just [finger
snap] — we’re not just still. [Laughter] We’re
always doing things. And it’s one of the things
that Uta Hagen taught and Stanislavski taught. They all taught it. Which is learning how to —
and it also relaxes you — learning how to handle
things while you’re working. And sometimes taking a pause
[laughter] can be very arresting and can draw attention. So all I can say is this summer when I was doing
King Lear
I walked
up to the friendly
prop man and said, “Can I have something
in my hand? Could I have like
a stick or a — ” you know, because
we’re supposed to be in the Bronze Age
or wherever we are. So it’s not like I could
have my lipstick [laughter]. Yeah, I mean we were, you know. I’m laughing just because this
often happens in Shakespeare that you’re working in a time that isn’t necessarily
totally specific. But this was. You know, there were
no props on the stage. There was no scenery. It was a bare stage. But, you know, you have a ring. I had rings. I had bracelets. I had a necklace. So I found the things to use. And I think it’s
really important to do those jobs, you know. It’s part of your — if
you’re a theater major, you have to do all those things. I think it’s really important. My son is a theater
major at Northwestern. And he was kind of complaining
to me a little bit — sorry, Ben [laughter] —
about doing these other jobs, because he wants
to study acting, and I try to restrain myself. I try to not say it too
vehemently, but I’m like, “That’s so important
that you do those jobs. It’s so important that you’re
on every side of the process because then you
really understand it.” And it teaches you humility,
which is the important thing, the most important quality
that an actor can have. You also have your ego,
you have your ambition, you have your narcissism,
you have all of that, but you have to have humility. Because it takes [inaudible]
to be a good performer and a useful performer to be
on the stage and say, okay, look at me, look at what I’m
doing, whether it’s on film or in the theaters you
want to have humility. Yes?>>So after [inaudible], when
you watch the film is it ever, like, [inaudible]
totally different than what you expected
[inaudible]?>>Can you hear the question? [ Inaudible Speaker ] Okay. Watching yourself, I have a very mixed
experience watching myself. I’m very critical of myself. I think most of us are. And I know some people who
never watch what they do. Of course in the theater you
never get the chance, so. And in fact that was valuable to
me because I did so many plays and I acted so much before I
ever was in front of the camera. I didn’t do a movie
until I was almost 30, so I was a pretty fully formed
adult by the time I got into it. And I was just, you
know, using — you can pretend you look any
way you want in the theater because you don’t ever
have to look, [laughter] and you don’t see your face. Seeing your face, it’s like hearing your voice
for the first time. You guys are probably much
more experienced at that because there’s so much
more technology now. But hearing your own voice,
you know that feeling of, what, is that how I sound [laughter]? And it’s the same thing, except
magnify it a bazillion times when you see your own image. “Oh, that’s what
my face looks like? Oh my God.” When I’m crying or when I’m
this, or I’m that, or listening or whatever it is,
or aging [laughter]. So you have to find a way to do
it, because you can learn a lot from watching yourself . I mean, I have — I still
wrestle with it sometimes. But, you know, there
are times I watch myself and I think, “Wow,
that was good.” [Laughter] So I have had that
experience, “Oh, that was — that worked out okay.” Especially as time goes on and I see something I
did a long time ago, because then I begin
to really forget. Yeah, I forgot that, you know,
all the circumstances around it, which is generally
what you’re thinking about when you see something that nobody else would
ever think about. “Oh, that was the day I
was sitting outside the set and they called me and
they weren’t ready, and then they were ready, and I
was tired,” or whatever the — or, I just had some
crisis in my life. And, you know, those things go through your head
when you’re watching. But as time goes on, I’ve
forgotten [laughter]. So I watch something
and I think, “I have no idea what
I was doing that day. That scene was pretty good.” [Laughter] But I’m
also very critical, and sometimes I really cringe. And I started doing that right
away when I started doing films and I — and so I
try to school myself because I remember watching
myself and thinking [noise], and then it was a
very big success and people liked
the performance. So you have to learn to
live with a certain amount of discontent with yourself. Once again, it’s that theme of,
you know, learning how to cope and that’s just more in the — I mean, that applies
to life, right? So I can’t — I certainly
don’t want to presume to speak on a larger level, but
I can certainly speak on a personal level in the
terms of the craft of acting, that you are confronted
with this mental chatter. And the mind — all of our
minds, chatter at us endlessly. So what are the techniques
that you use to get down into the smarter or up
into the smarter or more — the larger part of
yourself, let’s say, and what are the
techniques that you use? We took yoga at ACT,
for instance. That’s where I took
my first yoga class. Yoga — and that’s a — you
know, [inaudible] just take that word and whatever
that means — I mean, there are certain ways that you can move your
body that quiet your mind. So whatever you call
that, if you — you can learn techniques to just
use your physical body to get to the wiser part of yourself. And that’s basically how
yoga was originally sort of conceived, was to quiet
the modifications of the mind in order to be able
to be focused. And that’s another way of
dealing with fear and anxiety. Oh yes, of course I
remember sitting — I was about to go
into a scene in a film and I was very nervous, and I
— you know, it’s terrifying. There’s all these — there’s,
like, this many people work on a movie and then
they all say, “Quiet. Quiet. Okay, everybody quiet. Everybody sit down. Please don’t move. Don’t make any sound.” Okay, are you ready? [Laughter] And they
say, “Okay, quiet. Rolling. Okay. Action. Go.” That’s scary because you
can’t say, “I’m really sorry, I’m having a bad day everybody, can we just not spend $100,000
today and do this another day, because I’m just — I’m
not feeling it, you know?” [Laughter] So the fear comes. So I guess what I’m trying
to describe is a moment where I’m sitting there,
they’re doing my hair, they’re doing your make-up,
and you got to go in and do it. And so what I —
sometimes what — I can remember this one moment, what I said to myself
was, “I’m afraid. I’m really scared. I’m really scared right now. I’m nervous.” I don’t know if that makes
any sense [laughter]. Rather than say, “Oh
my God, I’m so nervous. Ah, what am I going to do? How am I going to do it?” Well, you begin to work
with that part of yourself, and you begin to school
that part of yourself, and you begin to know it. That’s why practicing, being in
school, getting an education is so good because you have
to chance to confront that part of yourself. That never goes away, but
you’ll get to know, “Oh, I see, this is what happens to me. I have to go in the bathroom
and throw up,” or I have to — and then you learn the
techniques that say, no, no, I know what I’m doing. I rehearsed. I have my partners. I have that friend of mine
who’s on the stage with me that I am going to do everything
I can for that person. I want to be there for them. I can listen. I can put my focus on you. Usually in acting, you’re
acting with somebody else, so you can just put all of
your attention on that person, and you watch them
and you listen. And listening is one of the most
important parts of what we do. We think a lot about what
we’re doing when we’re talking, but a lot of acting and a
lot of film acting and a lot of stage acting is listening. Can you really listen? I had to really learn. I remember when I went
to my first class at ACT and we were doing scenes, and
we did five-minute scenes, and I remember — and I
just saw my scene partner who was doing magic show
in L.A., I just saw him, we did our first scene together, and they raked me
over the coals. He says, “Oh, you’re just
acting away, aren’t you? Have you ever — did you
look in his eye once? Did you really take in what he
was doing and let it affect you? No, you did not.” And of course they were right. I was really hurt,
but they were right. So that’s another way to get out
of yourself and out of your fear and out of your chattering
mind is, oh, wait a minute, what’s he doing? Oh, oh, that’s different
than what he did yesterday, and letting it affect you. Yes?>>[Inaudible] has
there ever been a time where you just could
not find [inaudible] that maybe you [inaudible]?>>Did I ever find a time that
I couldn’t find a project? Because I — this is the
question that I think relates to life in general,
which is a huge part of what we’re all doing. We have our jobs,
we have our lives. We have our boyfriends and our
girlfriends and our husbands and wives and children. And for me, you know, I
know a few people who don’t, who are single, who — or
maybe they were married and they got divorced and
they haven’t gotten remarried. But most of us have our lives that we’re involved
in, and nurturing that. And some of us are lucky
enough to be married, or some of us are lucky
enough not to be married, depending [laughter]
on how you look at it. I’ve been both. But there is — there is the
larger context of your life. And as an artist and as a — whether you’re an artist
that works in biochemistry or you’re an artist that
works in theater, investing in and understanding and getting
into your own relationships and what that means for
you is part of the picture, and it informs the way you work. It informs the way that
you approach a project. And it’s messy. It’s always messy, and that’s
part of being a human being. So when you have
invested in other people, my own experience is,
that gives you freedom. And I used to kind of think
maybe it would be the opposite, that having responsibilities
would sort of weigh you down in life. But I found, especially
because I’m — maybe it’s because the
field I’m in and it’s so — because we’re actors and
it’s our body and it’s — you know, we do what — we use
ourselves to do what we do, like a singer would, that you
can become very self-focused, and that’s the cliche
about actors, right? But the great actors aren’t. Some of them are, and we
all have our narcissism, and we all have our, you know,
our lives that we’re carrying around with us as we go
through and as we progress. But I really believe in
cultivating relationships. You know, and, again, I mean,
that may mean that you move to Seattle with your boyfriend, or that may mean you have
a baby, or that may mean that you do something
big, like, I don’t know. I believe in making big choices. Like, I feel like moving to
New York, or I feel like moving to Melbourne, or I’m — you know, I’m going to
go off on this trip. I’m going to go work
in Central America, or my dad’s friend offered me a
job in Montana for the summer. I’m speaking around
your question, but there are always times when
you’re not finding yourself in the position that you
want to be in professionally. That happens over and over. And so you begin — I
know there was a guy at ACT named Ed Hastings
who was one of the people who formed ACT, and he used
to talk a lot about a pyramid of human beings that you begin
to develop a circle of friends. And his was like if you
picture a pyramid upside down and you’re at the base. And that as you go through your
life and you’re in the middle of right now, you’re building
this circle of people that are around you, that are your
colleagues and your friends, and in some cases, you know,
your lovers, your boyfriends, your girlfriends, your
husbands and wives. And as life goes on, this
just continues to expand, and you have this
field of people that you’re a part
of that you know. And some people you
sort of lose touch with and other people you stay
in touch with, and then now with social media you can so easily stay in
touch with people. That’s also part of it is
cultivating this group of people who help you and you help them,
so that when you’re in a place and looking for a project
and wanting to find something that means something to you, like your question
about making stories. You know that you cultivate
relationships with people that you can call up and say,
you know, “I’ve got this idea. Can you work on this with me? Would you work with me?” Dan Sullivan is on
the wall out there. Dan Sullivan is a
Director, theater Director. He was here before I
was here, and he is one of the most prolific stage
directors in New York City. He was here, he went
to New York, he ran the Seattle Repertory
Theater for many years and now he’s in New York. He directed King
Lear
this summer.
So Dan is someone who I
over the years got to know. I didn’t know him when I first
started out, but I’ve gotten to sort of know him,
and I asked him to do a play many years
ago that I wanted to do. So that’s another way of talking
about it is relationships. You’re not in [inaudible],
you know. You’re not a person
just disconnected. You’re connected to
all of these people. To your teachers. Stay in touch with people. Stay in touch with the
friends, and you will. There will be some people
you’ll stay in touch with. Yes?>>I’m curious to know, in
the movies it’s [inaudible]. You’ve had your daughter, Joanie [assumed spelling]
was [inaudible] character and then the character
of [inaudible], your son, is a parallel of [inaudible]. I’m curious to know, what
sort of work you guys did to develop those
sort of similarities. I could really see in the
character of Joanie your sort of [inaudible] orientation
and your sort of sense of responsibility. And in Laser I can sort
of see [inaudible] sort of just do whatever you
want sort of [inaudible]. You know, [inaudible] thing. Do you guys do any sort of
private work together, or? I think there’s a
question there, but –>>No. No. [ Laughter ] Excellent — excellent
observation. That — thank you. By the way, Lisa Chiladanko
[assumed spelling] went to San Francisco State. She wrote — co-wrote
and directed that movie, so shout to Lisa. She’s another person
I have to contact. There’s all these
people now I want to contact after I’ve been here. But Lisa became a very
good friend of mine. She lives near where I live. So she co-wrote it with
a guy, a friend of hers, Stuart Brumbert [assumed
spelling]. So they wrote it, they
couldn’t get it made forever. For a number of years
they tried to get it made, they couldn’t get it made. They brought it to me, we
still couldn’t get it made. And so then eventually
we go the money together. And so before we were
shooting there was a section that we worked on
a little bit — what I’m speaking
to is rehearsal, because we basically — I
think we rehearsed one day, or two days. Except that before, when we
were preparing the movie, Lisa and I worked a little
bit together on that — there’s a scene in a restaurant
where I sort of have a rant, that’s what we working on.>>Yeah.>>But that’s what
we were working on, like what would I rant about? And so I was kind of — I was improvising and
we were talking some. So that is incredibly
useful as an actor, even though we weren’t
“rehearsing”. For me we were sort
of rehearsing. So we did that, and then we
eventually made the movie. That was actually the movie that
was going to shoot in New York that they eventually shot
in L.A., because Lisa lives in L.A., she grew up in
L.A., she wrote it for L.A. So for her it was
like she wanted — she was happy to do it in
L.A. Anyway, for tax reasons, L.A. has a — California has
been a harder place to work, that’s why so many things are
being shot everywhere else because of tax breaks that
producers get on budgets. So we didn’t really
rehearse barely at all. We had a couple days. I knew Julie-Ann
[assumed spelling]. I had met her. Socially, I didn’t know her. This is so crazy,
isn’t it [laughter]? And believe me, when I first
started out, I did a few films where we rehearsed and a few where people didn’t
believe in rehearsing. And I thought —
when I was starting, I thought, well, what do I know? I’m not experienced,
so I’m just going to go with what people are doing. You know, you’re Robert De Niro, you say you don’t
want to rehears? Okay. [Laughter] You
know what you’re doing. But, you know, I
definitely believe in it. And it’s not because you’re
practicing what you’re going to do, okay, and that’s
what people don’t understand about it, and some movie
directors don’t understand about it, because maybe they
didn’t start in theater. They think, wait a
minute, if they do it, then I don’t have the camera
rolling, what’s the point? [Inaudible] reason you do it,
as an actor you get a chance to kind of work with it,
you work with the lines, you work with the other people. You get to know each other,
you tell each other stories. You become a company. You become a family. And some people do that. Some really good movie
directors don’t do that at all, and you know what,
they’re excellent. The camera is so paramount
and tells so much of the story that it doesn’t matter. So in that case, what you’re
talking about is good writing.>>Yeah.>>That’s what you’re really
talking about is good writing. So that’s what came to me. So I can’t take credit for that. And Lisa and Stuart
worked on it for years and then right before we were
going to shoot [inaudible], some of the money fell apart. And after we made the film
and it was well received, and I was at a film festival
in France, I think that was when I was in [inaudible] and [inaudible] has a
film festival that’s all American films. This guy — I actually
met the guy, he’s old now, but he started this film
festival I think back in the ’60’s because
he just loves American movies [laughter]. So he — this guy, this
Frenchman, takes me aside, this other gentleman,
and he said, “I want you to know that” — and
he was very modest, but he said, “I want you to know” —
first of all, I gave — a lot of independent films
now are financed are financed by selling off foreign rights,
as you guys probably know. So I go to Spain
and I say, okay, when we release this
movie we’re going to — you can handle it in Spain. If you give me $500,000 or
$25,000 or whatever it is on the deal than I can make
my movie and then when — we don’t know what it’s
going to be like yet, but when we eventually
release it, you have the rights to Spain. And so this is a way that a lot of independent films
are financed now. Now, obviously, if you have a
great film that’s a big success and you’ve already
sold the rights, you have already sold the
rights, so there’s the downside. But the upside is, in
some ways you never — that’s the only way you
can get the movie made. So this gentleman came
up to me and said, “I originally gave you guys
some money to make this film, but I was the one who
came in at the end” — when we were about to do the
film and it was falling apart, apparently this guy,
Phillipe [assumed spelling] — his name’s on the
film — Phillipe — [inaudible] to Phillipe
and they said, “Phillipe, can you give us some
more money?” [Laughter] And he did. So he was really proud of that. And he just modestly
told me that. And then I found out just a few
months later he passed away. And he was very ill at the
time that he spoke to me. I couldn’t see it, and I —
he looked fine, you know, but he was actually very ill. And so he passed away
a few months later, but I always remember
that moment. It was so sweet and it
meant so much to me. So that film was made — you know, they scraped
together the money, you know, it’s the old story that a lot
of independent films have. And we shot it in less — I
think we shot it in 25 days. That’s crazy [laughter]. And I wouldn’t have
known that before because I didn’t
understand how days work. But that basically
means, like — on a movie, that
means we shot it, you know, in about five weeks. So, no, we didn’t
rehears, we just did it. [Laughter] I know,
that’s like crazy, right? I don’t understand how
it all works either. I think about, you know, that. Yes? Okay. Yes?>>I know a lot of people
in here are also interested in directing, and I was
wondering if you could talk about what [inaudible].>>One thing I learned going
from theater to movies, and I was really surprised, because I think theater
directors are much more verbose. We’re all more verbose
[laughter] in the theater because that’s what
it’s all about. It’s all about the spoken word. And so that’s why I fell
in love with plays was because I liked listening
to people’s voices. I still love the
sound of voices. I listen to the radio — I live in L.A., I drive
around all the time, I listen to the radio
incessantly. I just find it — I like that. So theater directors talk a lot. “This is my concept. This is my idea.” [Laughter] You know,
and that’s good. And when I first started doing
films I was really surprised that a lot of the really famous
people that I was working with who were really
well-known and, like, legendary, they didn’t say very much. I was kind of surprised. I thought, aren’t you going to launch [inaudible]
concept [laughter]. And actually that’s true
with theater directors, too, just depends on the personality. Being incredibly articulate
about what you’re doing and stuff doesn’t
necessarily make you good, it’s the work itself and
whatever it is that people — that they — that
gets people there. So one of the things that I
noticed in the great directors that I’ve worked with is they —
most of them, not all of them, most of them love actors,
and they’re great audiences. They just make you feel
so loved [laughter], and they make you feel like
you’re funny, and smart, and they make you feel
confident, even when you’re not. Not that they can
always do that, but they certainly
enjoy watching and they enjoy the process. Dan Sullivan, who
I just mentioned, he’s on the wall out there. I’m going to send him
an email after I leave. Dan’s very quiet. Dan doesn’t say very much. In fact, the first time I worked
for him, I was traumatized because he isn’t somebody
who gives a lot of praise. We want praise, that’s
what we want [laughter]. We want to be told that we’re
doing a good job, damnit, that’s why we do what
we do [laughter]. Yeah, that’s really thick. [ Laughter ] But, no, there’s a part
of you that wants to hear, you know, “That worked. That worked better today.” Or, “I saw that moment, I saw how you changed
that, that was good.” You know, you want
to hear [inaudible]. So Dan is very — he is very
economical in what he says. And the first time I worked
for him I was kind of scared, because I thought,
is it any good, does he like it, [inaudible]. But now in retrospect, I think
a lot of people that I know that are more that way. And now when I just worked
with him, I’m not as — maybe because I’m older, I
don’t know, but I don’t expect that as much from people. If they don’t say anything, it’s
like, it doesn’t surprise me. The most important thing
for actors is directors is that I think as an actor
it’s your responsibility to bring something in. It’s not their job to tell you
how to do it, that’s your job. You have to figure
out how to do it, and a director usually
isn’t interested in how, it’s just that’s the moment where you know you have
to break down, okay? [Laughter] Okay. Moving on [laughter]. That’s what happens. I was in a play in New York
that went on for a year, and it was a big success, and
I had to burst into tears. And, you know, it’s in the
script, “She bursts into tears.” The nightmare [inaudible]
you read that, you think, oh, my God [inaudible]. So I remember I was doing this
play and we were in previews, I think it was previews. Oh my God, was it a
preview, was it a rehearsal? I want to say it
was a rehearsal, but it may have been a preview. And, you know, there’s
the moment where — I don’t want to do it right now
because it would be so fake, but, you know, how many
times have you actually burst into tears in your life? Usually there’s a slow well-up,
you begin to feel emotional, but every once in awhile
there’s like, I don’t know, an explosion [laughter]. So I was supposed to do this. So one performance remember
I didn’t — I had nothing. And I didn’t pretend. You know, I just sort of
was like am I right now, and I was supposed
to be sobbing, and I didn’t know what to do. And, I mean, by this
time I’m in New York, I’m like a professional
actress, right? So I remember the director
afterwards saying, “Annette, you know, when you say
that you’re sobbing and everything, you
weren’t doing it. You weren’t doing anything.” And I said, “I know, I couldn’t
— I didn’t know what to do.” So I guess you just have
to fake it [laughter]. Yeah, so that happens. And especially when
you’re doing a play because you do it so many times. But the whole thing about
having something to bring in, I know at ACT they taught us in the very first acting classes
we had, go where you want. You’re working on
something, get up, go. You have an impulse
— you know, like I — you know, I’d like to be
over here kind of holding on the curtain, you know,
and part of you is like, should I ask the director,
can I — do you mind if I? Just do it and the director
then can say, “Oh, you know, that doesn’t quite
work when you go over and do the thing
with the curtain. First of all, you’re
out of the light, and secondly it doesn’t
— it just looks funny. It doesn’t quite work.” But you try it, right? So I very much believe in that,
is coming with — having — you know, trying stuff. Just get up and — now
eventually the director, especially in certain
circumstances, has to stage a play. And I remember working — I
worked on a play in Los Angeles at The Taper, which
is [inaudible]. So in a [inaudible],
of course, you know, over here you’re going
to turn your back. Part of it you’re turning
your back to the audience and it has to be staged. I mean, all plays do, but — and
so this guy was not staging it. And I was just going
wherever I wanted to go and we were doing The
Charity Orchard
and I —
you know, I didn’t stop. I just [inaudible] over here
and I’m going to go over here, and I was just — and I
remember at one point one of the actors saying,
“You’ve got to stage the play,”
to the director. He was right. I should have sooner but I
didn’t want to say anything. Now I would. But I didn’t say it then,
because I didn’t want to be bossy, but now I have less
trouble being bossy [laughter]. I’ve learned! So we need to stop?>>I think so, but before we
do, just, is there one piece of advice that was given
to you as a young actor that made a difference to
you that you could share with them just before
we wrap up?>>Oh, God.>>I know, I’m sure
you got a lot. If you didn’t –>>Okay, I got one.>>Okay.>>But this isn’t just about
acting, this is about all of [inaudible] professions,
whether you’re directing, or, you know, whatever you’re doing, because I’m sure there are
people in here from all kinds of different disciplines,
or there might be a few. When I was my second year of
training at ACT I was asked to do a job at the
[inaudible] Shakespeare — you know, the Oregon
Shakespeare Festival, which to me was like
the ultimate. That was my dream was to work at
the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. And I was asked to do a
part there and I wanted to quit my training and go, and I went in to see Bill Ball
[assumed spelling] and Bill — see it comes full circle,
because Bill was here in his trench coat giving a talk when I was a student
35 years ago. So Bill — I go in
to see Bill Ball. Part of me wants him to know that I’ve been offered
the job [laughter]. No question. So there’s that. But I was going to quit
and he said something about the long arch of
life, like an arrow, if you shoot an arrow. And there’s a long arch
and sometimes when you’re in the middle of it
you lose sight of that. That there’s a long projector of
life and we all, I certainly do, get caught up in the moment,
caught up in the situation that I’m in in the
moment, and we all have to make choices constantly
about what we’re going to do or not do, where we’re
going to move or not move, whether we’re going to finish
our degree or not, or stay here or transfer, or, you know, life is all of these choices
constantly bombarding us. And so he — somehow I
found comfort in this idea that there’s a long arch,
so don’t get to worried about whatever moment that
you’re in, it’ll pass. Whether it is good or
not so good, actually. Even the great successes,
if you’re in the middle of something that’s going
really well, it will end. And if you’re in the middle
of something that feels like it’s really not going
very well or it’s a class that you’re really bored by, where you think a
teacher is incompetent or whatever those things are
that happen to all of us, don’t worry, it’ll end and
you’ll be on to something else. So if you just keep
following what interests you. And that was the only
other thing that popped into my head about, like,
one little piece of advice. Because John Huston, who
was a great film director, and if you don’t know who
he was, then look him up. But he was one of the greats
and somebody said to him, “What would you — what piece
of advice would you give, and what do you want to
maintain in your creativity?” And he said, “To
stay interested.” And, of course, that’s
very beautiful, especially as you get older. It’s a little bit easier
when you’re younger, but as you get older
life gets complicated and sometimes it’s not as
easy to stay interested. But that’s what John
Huston said, so I’ll leave you with that. Thank you. [ Applause ]

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