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Adam DeVine is a comedian, actor, voice actor, singer, writer, and producer. He both created and starred in the Comedy Central series Workaholics, and Adam DeVine’s House Party. You may recognize him as Bumper Allen in the Pitch Perfect musical films or as the voice of Pizza Steve in Cartoon Central’s Uncle Grandpa. He’s a talented go getter that would make pretty much any dad very proud–that is, except his own! His manly-man father struggles to accept the fact that his son’s career requires him to wear makeup.
Although there are certainly many dads out there who are passionate supporters of their sons’ and daughters’ acting careers, there are likewise countless fathers who discourage the theater arts with their notoriously unpredictable and unstable work conditions; instead, many dads prefer their children chose a career in something seemingly more stable. You know, jobs like writing contracts, accounting, engineering, maybe taking over the family business. But the thought of these kinds of jobs is enough to make many actors dance on the street with a tin cup!
Some Hollywood dads have been strong supporters of their children’s decision to pursue acting. Take, for example, Martin Sheen who bolstered the careers of his sons Emilio Estevez and Charlie Sheen; Kirk Douglas supporting Michael Douglas; Will Smith encouraging Jaden and Willow Smith; Donald Sutherland supporting Kiefer Sutherland. And director-producer Bruce Paltrow found a way to cast his daughter, Gwyneth, her acting debut in a TV film he directed. But it doesn’t take a dad in the entertainment industry to support his son or daughter’s acting career. How supportive has your father been of your choice to pursue acting? Please share!
Watch below to see a dad who’s head-over-heals supportive of his son’s singing career.
In this footage of Tom Hanks rehearsing for his Oscar-winning role of Forrest Gump with co-star Robin Wright, you can hear him speaking without the characteristic Southern drawl we all now associate with his endearing character. That’s because when Hanks initially accepted the role, he was thinking of easing Forrest’s distinctive accent. Was this creative decision as powerful as the eventual choice to replace it with a heavy drawl?
Well, it was the director, Bob Zemeckis, who convinced Hanks to adopt the familiar twang as it was established in the novel from which the movie was adapted. But specifically, Hanks went on to pattern his character’s manner of speech to match the unique accent of the young actor who played Forest in his early years, Michael Conner Humphreys. As you can hear in this video clip, the adorable Humphreys sounds much like the Forrest we’ve come to know.
This illustrates the collaborative process it often requires for a character to evolve. Writer Winston Groom who authored the 1986 novel Forrest Gump, envisioned a Forrest with some “rough edges” and he pictured John Goodman playing the part. However, it was John Travolta who was offered the title role; but he passed on it. Although this video clip is described as an audition for Hanks, he never actually auditioned for the part. He had finished working on A League of Their Own, Sleepless in Seattle, and Philadelphia and so was simply given the role. However, this clip is reportedly a screen test for Wright as well as Humphreys, Hanna R. Hall who portrayed the young Jenny, and Haley Joel Osment who played Forrest Gump, Jr..
Forrest Gump went on to win many accolades including Oscars for Best Picture, Best Actor in a Lead Role, Best Director, Best Visual Effects, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Film Editing.
Do you have a personal story of collaboration and evolution of a special character? Was it a positive and transformative experience as it was for Hanks and his co stars? Did it empower your art or advance your career? Or in retrospect do you wish you’d listened to your own instincts and ignored the input of others? Enquiring minds want to know!
When considering the various aspects of acting, thespians find many different reasons to explain why they love their favorite roles. Here are a few examples of actors expounding on what made them feel so connected to their favorite performances.
Paul Dano has performed opposite Daniel Day-Lewis as Paul and Eli Sunday in There Will Be Blood, and has played the brutal carpenter John Tibeats in Academy Award-winning film 12 Years a Slave. But having recently finished playing Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson in the film Love and Mercy, Dano says that preparing for the movie was “the most fun research he’s ever done for an acting role.” He told the Wall Street Journal, “There’s probably nothing more fun to research than the Beach Boys, 1960’s Los Angeles. I’ll probably never find a better acting job. I did a lot, but it’s the music. Listening to the music, listening to the studio sessions. Even more important was learning to play the songs….Brian is his music.”
Alyson Stoner played Channing Tatum’s character’s little sister, Camille Gage, in the Step Up series, and is the voice of Isabella “Whatcha doin’?” Garcia-Shapiro in Phineas and Ferb. After considering the role she liked most, Stoner said, “I think my favorite role was playing Sarah Baker in ‘Cheaper by the Dozen 1.’ It was my first movie, and I worked with amazing professionals who had such strong work ethics that I immediately learned how to work in this industry.”
Scottish actor James McAvoy earned a Golden Globe Award nomination for his performance as Robby Turner in Atonement, was nominated for a Best Kiss MTV Movie Award while playing opposite Angelina Jolie in the action-thriller Wanted, and has played the telepathic superhero Professor X in the X-Men movies. That being said, a role that he loved playing was Mr. Tumnus in The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. “I got to play my favorite character in children’s literature, which I loved. You don’t get the chance to do that in other jobs,” he said.
Emma Watson once shared her gratitude for being able to play Hermione Granger by saying, “I could be one hundred years old and in my rocker, but I’ll still be very proud that I was part of the ‘Harry Potter’ films.” When asked which Harry Potter film was her favorite to work on, she answered, “I’ve enjoyed all of them in different ways. I think the first one was incredible, obviously, because everything was new, and everything being a novelty is very exciting. From an acting perspective, this last movie was amazing because I had such big parts, and it was really challenging and demanding. I did a lot of stunts and had a lot of very difficult scenes to do.”
Johnathon Schaech was cast by Tom Hanks as a a self-centered lead singer in the musical comedy drama That Thing You Do!. From that point on, Schaech landed a role as a leading man in Hush with Gweneth Paltrow and Jessica Lange, and has worked continuously since. As far as his favorite role, he once said, “People recognize me on the street for all kinds of different things that I’ve done. ‘That Thing You Do!’ remains to be my favorite film in which I played my favorite character. That role is the one that I’m most recognized for.”
What has been your favorite role to date, and why?
If you are an actor whose parents much prefer you find a “real” job instead of pursuing acting; or if you find yourself second guessing the decision to follow your passion, wondering if it’s wiser to find a more conservative profession, then you might be interested in hearing Jim Carrey’s Commencement Address at the 2014 Maharishi University of Management. This video clip highlights portions of Carrey’s speech, where he warns the consciousness-seeking graduates that, “Your need for acceptance can make you invisible.” He therefore encourages them to “Risk being seen in all of your glory.”
Speaking from his personal life experiences, he says, “So many of us choose our path out of fear disguised as practicality. What we really want seems impossibly out of reach and ridiculous to expect, so we never dare to ask the universe for it. I’m saying that I am the proof that you can ask the universe for it. Please. And if it doesn’t happen for you right away, it’s only because the universe is so busy fulfilling my order.”
He briefly tells a story about his father who had natural comedic talent, but who didn’t believe that being a comedian was a career option. Having four children, he thus chose the more conservative career path as an accountant. But a 12-year-old Jim learned an important lesson when his father lost that “safe” job, and consequently everything seemed to fall apart for the family. They, in fact, lived out of a van for some time, and the family members pulled together as they persevered through the tough circumstances. By the time Jim was 15, he started working as a janitor to help the family survive, and he never completed high school. “I learned many great lessons from my father–not the least of which is that you can fail at what you don’t want, so you might as well take a chance on doing what you love.”
For Jim, that meant following his dreams of being a comedian despite his family’s lack of financial stability. His dad, adept with his own sense of humor, helped Jim create a stage act which gradually lead to Rodney Dangerfield taking notice of the budding star, and asking Jim to open his tour performances.
“As far as I can tell it’s just about letting the universe know what you want and working toward it while letting go of how it comes to pass,” Jim tells the graduates. “You are ready and able to do beautiful things in this world. And after you walk through those doors today, you will only ever have two choices: Love or fear. Choose love, and don’t ever let fear turn you against your playful heart.”
To hear Carrey’s full, entertaining 26-minute speech, click here.
Have you ever created your own acting technique? Rather than rely solely on the tools you learned in your Method acting or improv class, perhaps you came up with a helpful technique that was specifically well-suited to the way you do things. Well, that’s what Guardians of the Galaxy actor, Chris Pratt seems to relish doing. Pratt recently shared with GQ Magazine that although he might appear like he’s often playing the funny man and not be taking things seriously, that he actually is quite cerebral when it comes to his work.
When discussing his role of failed-lawyer Brett in the Vince Vaughn movie Delivery Man, Pratt revealed, “I came up with some awesome techniques on that movie that I still use.” Using color associations to impact his emotions, he explains, “In that movie, I used bright orange, like a blaze of orange, as a reminder that my [character’s] mother doesn’t seem to believe in me and that she believes I’m a failure.” So, while on set, Chris strategically stuck Post-it notes off camera and within his line of vision to catch his attention during the scene. “And it would affect me emotionally underneath,” he said.
Additionally, it’s pretty common for actors to use music to tune into the various moods their characters are experiencing, but here’s how Pratt makes the most out of his music in order to affect the “rhythm of [his] spirit.” He stores a hundred-plus songs on his phone under the category of “Acting Music,” and then files them into further groupings like “Love,”“Sadness,” “Wonderment,” and “Action.” From there, he renames each musical piece with specific imagery that arouses strong, distinctive feelings. For example, under the “Sadness” file are choices to listen to like “Leaving Home,” “Brother’s Funeral,” and “European Town in Ruins.”
Another technique Chris talked about was one he admitted to finding while searching on the internet. He imagines which animal his character most resembles, and lets that inform the posture he’ll use as he moves. For instance, while playing Velociraptor trainer Owen Grady in the upcoming Jurassic World, Pratt likened him to a dolphin, explaining, “They lead with their forehead.”
They say inventions are born out of necessity, and sometimes actors need something to pull them through a scene or gig. What kind of creative tools do you use when challenged to take your performances to the next level?
Ashton Kutcher has always gotten a kick out of revealing the unseen human nature of celebrities in his hidden camera, practical joke series, Punk’d. But when he won the Teen Choice Awards’ Ultimate Choice Award, he surprised the teenage fans by exposing something about himself: that he felt like a fraud, and admitting his first name is actually Chris–that he only switched to using his middle name, Ashton, when he started pursuing acting at the age of 19. Although Kutcher is not necessarily known for his powerful cinematic performances, what followed at the awards event was a heartfelt and insightful motivational speech. And even though it was given in 2013, his words of encouragement to aspiring hearts bear repeating. He lists three basic keys to help a person create a quality life. Ashton himself has managed to navigate a career in the entertainment industry starting as a successful model in the late 1990’s, moving to acting with That 70’s Show, and then branching out to several popular roles in both TV and film as well as working as a producer.
“In Hollywood, in the industry there’s stuff we do. There’s a lot of like insiders’ secrets to keeping your career going, and a lot of insiders’ secrets to making things tick,” Ashton asserts. Then he goes on to share some of the “really amazing things” he learned when he was Chris. “And I wanted to share those things with you guys because I think it’s helped me be here today.” He then lists three approaches to life that he credits for his success, starting with making the most of opportunities. “I believe opportunity looks a lot like hard work…And I’ve never had a job in my life than I was better than. I was always just lucky to have a job. And every job I had was a stepping stone to my next job.” He also has some ideas about what makes someone sexy (being really smart, thoughtful, and generous). And he shares some basic ideas about how you can build the life you want. Take a listen, and see if his words speak to you.
Kutcher never seems to stop working; he’s currently filming the upcoming indie The Long Home directed by and starring James Franco to be released in 2017.
The craft of theater acting and acting in front of the camera have been described as essentially the same thing for an actor: performing a character amidst a storyline to be appreciated by audiences. While some actors enjoy both mediums and make a point to participate in both stage and film, others gravitate more to one than the other. After all, both mediums have their own distinctions. Here are just a few notable differences.
Variations of subtlety or boldness
The camera notices and records every subtle facial reaction or gesture, and can pick up even the most quiet-but-powerful utterance. This close-up study of an actor can bring a strong sense of intimacy for audiences. On the other hand, large physical actions are often distracting when picked up by the camera. The need to subdue movements can be hard for a theater-oriented actor who is trained to express more overtly. Because a stage actor is performing for both the person in the front row as well as the one in the way back, some productions use microphones, whereas others require an actor to project words more loudly and express emotions more boldly. Meryl Streep has worked on her lung capacity and her ability to “expand the sound” by swimming a mile a day for the months before a performance requiring her to project as needed in a performance.
Performing with different time flows
If you like to get immersed in your performances and not be interrupted, then theater will likely be a better fit for you. Theater actors work in a storyline’s chronological sequence which allows the character’s arc to naturally build and resolve through the course of the show, and without a director shouting, “Cut!” or requesting variations of the same line. But this also means that with each line, a theater actor is given only one precious shot to “get it right.” No two nights in theater are identical, thus the medium will keep you on your toes each performance with the awareness that the audience is present, watching, and responding. In contrast, actors who gravitate towards film appreciate the opportunity to do several takes to explore the material, perhaps take more risks knowing any serious fumbles can simply be edited out, and find creative ways to authentically portray their characters’ emotional journey even though film work is so often shot out of order.
Industry professionals hold a wide array of point of views about whether theater or film skill sets are more or less the same, or if they are ultimately more distinct abilities than is often acknowledged. For instance, in the video clip above, Casting Director and Teacher Carolyn Barry shares her belief that it’s easier for actors in television to adapt to theater acting than the reverse. “Television is about connecting emotionally, and it’s more intimate. And I think it’s easier for those kind of actors to maybe then up the energy as opposed to people who are working just energetically and not as emotionally, truthfully. I mean, you can pretend an emotion in the theater; you can not do it in film and television.”
Unforgiven actor Saul Rubinek feels the reverse to some degree, arguing that every actor who does stage can do film, but that not every actor who does film can do stage. “Doing eight shows a week is another muscle altogether because any actor knows who does theater is that the best show in your first week doesn’t even come close in quality to your worst show in your last week….Your audience teaches you how to perform…and that’s not what happens on film. Everything you do in film is to give the director and the editor choices in that editing room. That’s everything; that’s all you’re doing is creating those choices for the people who are going to put it together.”
ActorJohn Malkovich feels that stage acting and film/television acting have considerable differences, and doesn’t believe an actor who excels in one will necessarily do well in the other. He argues, “Theater is an ephemeral, living organism; film is not. Theater, as we say about life, ‘You had to be there.’… Film, to me, is different. You only need a few good seconds….Film acting has no momentum.” He compares performing in a play to riding a wave or holding onto a runaway train, “Your job is to hang on while this material whips you around.”
There are many actors who have managed to benefit from careers in both stage and film with apparent ease. Among them is Tumbleweeds actress Janet McTeer who also narrated Maleficent. She tries to continually work in both mediums. McTeer feels that both film and theater have “a huge sense of community.” In theater you have “an immediate contact with your audience, and in film you don’t, but in film it’s much more intimate…so in another way it’s even more truthful.” But she admits working in front of a camera can make an actor feel very self-conscious with all the crew buzzing around from lighting experts to make-up artists. To break away from this overwhelming sense of self, she feels that concentrating on the face and words of the other actor is the through line to overcoming all the distractions and self-consciousness inherent in the film-making process.
An Education actress Carey Mulligan likewise has found a way to thrive in both mediums. She insists that “You get better as an actor doing theater.” Mulligan makes woking in both forms look easy with a starring role in the film Madding Crowd about to hit theaters, working alongside Meryl Streep in Suffragette to be released later this year, and currently starring in Skylight on Broadway. She admits her affinity for the stage stating, “Once you’ve done a play, you build muscles, you feel better when you keep it fresh every time, it has to have the feeling it’s never been done before….On a film you can get nervous at the proximity of the camera, which immortalizes one moment, and you can’t do anything about it. You lose control. The theater is a fresh experience.”
Do you prefer one form of acting over another? Please share!
“For every reason that I did poorly in school was the reason why I was going to be a good actor.” –Jessica Chastain
After seeing a production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat with her grandma, seven-year-old Jessica Chastain realized that acting was a bonafide profession, and was determined from that point on to become an actress who could make a living from her work. But with years of struggling with schoolwork and academic testing, Jessica didn’t qualify for graduation in her senior year. And she had no connections into the business. Still, Jessica steadfastly took any opportunity she could to advance toward her acting goal. Cut to years later, she’s an A-list actress who’s displayed a variety of characters and celebrated performances in films such as The Help, Zero Dark Thirty, Interstellar, and A Most Violent Year.
So how did she transform from being a poor student to begging for years and years to get an auditionto becoming a multi-award-winning actress? “I didn’t know what my path was going to be, I just knew what I was going to do….I believe in signs that come to you. And if you leave yourself open to things that are in your life, you can find an incredible path.”
For Chastain, that meant attaining an adult diploma, attending college, and joining a professional theater company in San Francisco. While playing Juliet, her acting partner was accepted into the prestigious Julliard School in New York to study drama. “And that’s what made me go…I thought, ‘Wait a minute. If he got in, maybe I should audition because maybe I could get in since we’re playing Romeo and Juliet together.’ Before that I never even imagined that I could get into that school. So I just kind of followed these paths that showed themselves to me.”
Yes, she was accepted into Julliard. But Jessica was the first person in her family to attend college, and her family didn’t have the money for such an expensive school; indeed, she has five siblings. Amazingly, a scholarship by Robin Williams provided Jessica with the funds to attend. In the years to follow, she continued to remain open to any signs that revealed themselves, continually climbing the ladder of playing small, eccentric TV roles, and eventually landing her film debut in Jolene.
Jessica Chastain excelled in one of the most competitive industries in the world because she left no stone unturned. She was patient, and seized every opportunity afforded to her. She refused to believe she was only as worthy as her test scores, or accept that she’d forever be shut out from the kinds of auditions she hoped to get. And when she ran into good luck she seized it too. Here’s to you finding many signs along your actor’s journey as well!
When Oscar- and Golden Globe-nominated and BAFTA-winning actor Chiwetel Ejiofor was lauded for his portrayal of Solomon Northup in 12 Years a Slave, he was overwhelmed with support before the awards ceremonies. In stark contrast, he likened the subsequent days after the awards season to the Olympic Games and the World Cup saying, “You win and it’s great. But then it’s time for the next one, and nobody cares if you won before.” So what is Chiwetel’s idea of success in regards to his acting? He was once quoted as saying, “I like to disappear into a role. I equate the success of it with a feeling of being chemically changed.” Perhaps he is continuing to feel chemically changed in his more recent projects including playing an FBI agent in the film The Secret in Their Eyes, and starring in a London theater production called Everyman.
Kevin Spacey has had his share of accolades as well. With Best Actor Academy Awards for his portrayals as Roger “Verbal” Kint in The Usual Suspects, and the mid-life challenged Lester Burnham in American Beauty, and more recently taking home a Golden Globe for his character Frank Underwood in the political drama series House of Cards. But Spacey similarly equates success with an inner feeling. “I very often watch a lot of young people sort of meander around without any idea about why they’re doing what they’re doing. I mean to want and to be ambitious and to want to be successful is not enough. That’s just desire. To know what you want, to understand why you’re doing it, to dedicate every breath in your body to achieve; if you feel you have something to give, if you feel that your particular talent is worth developing, is worth caring for, then there’s nothing that you can’t achieve.”
Dustin Hoffman has had his generous share of awards showered upon him for roles in movies like Kramer vs. Kramer and Rain Man. But he insists that even if he hadn’t received “by freak accident” a breakthrough role–as Benjamin Braddock in The Graduate–which lead to his prolific and celebrated career that he’d still be acting any chance he could find. “There’s no question in my mind whether I’d be teaching at some college or whether I’d go to some repertoire theater in Seattle, wherever, I’d be doing it.” His idea of success is actually doing what he loves to do, likening his sense of purpose as an actor to Picasso and his relentless drive to paint.
What are your ideas about success in your career? Do you share the sentiments of these three noteworthy actors, or do you have other ideas of success and milestones to mark along your actor journey?
Robin Wright has battled her share of fears and insecurities over the years. She devoted much of her youth to studying modern jazz which later lead to her dancing in a Doritos commercial. From there, her talent agent encouraged her to audition for many popular movies like Sixteen Candles and Less Than Zero even though Robin didn’t have any acting training. And it seemed like things were going well when she was invited to callbacks several times. But however close she was to landing roles, over and over again the parts went to other actresses. In retrospect, Wright says her fears prevented her from fully investing in the characters; she didn’t take enough risks, opting instead to play it too safe.
As a result of the ongoing rejections, Robin decided to quit the business altogether and instead work on kitchen duty on a tour boat. But right before the boat was set to sail, she received news she’d been cast in the supporting role of Kelly Capwell in the soap opera Santa Barbara. Subsequently, Wright’s been embraced as Princess Buttercup in The Princess Bride, and Forest Gump’s love-of-his-life Jenny Curran. Presently Wright is garnering great respect for her acting abilities, and being called a major star, thanks to her portrayal of the calculating, formidable politician’s wife Claire Underwood in the web series House of Cards.
In this clip, Robin admits she wishes she’d done more training as an actress, but shares some helpful tips she learned from the one time she used an acting coach that has greatly informed her acting for twenty years: In any given sentence of dialogue or monologue, choosing to emphasize the word you love as well as the word you hate (as well as the reason why you love or hate those words) allows you to play around with your character’s feelings and expression until you land on the direction you want to take the material. “How many variations you could do with one sentence,” Wright marvels. Playing with the words so deliberately frees her up to sift through all the failed interpretations in the process of finding what ultimately works. In other words, “Go wrong, and you find right,” she asserts.