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Acting is an activity in which a story is told by means of its enactment by an actor or actress who adopts a character—in theatre, television, film, radio, or any other medium that makes use of the mimetic mode.

See also: William Shakespeare quotes about acting


What they teach in these acting schools is incredible, hair-raising crap... How can you "teach" someone to be an actor? How can you teach someone how and what to feel and how to express it? ~ Klaus Kinski
  • I wanted to stop acting. The director was like, 'It looks too real. It looks too painful. Can you be prettier when you cry? Cry pretty, Jessica. Don't do that thing with your face. Just make it flat. We can CGI the tears in.' And I'm like, But there's no connection to a human being. And then it got me thinking: Am I not good enough? Are my instincts and my emotions not good enough? Do people hate them so much that they don't want me to be a person? Am I not allowed to be a person in my work? And so I just said, 'F--k it. I don't care about this business anymore.'
  • For an actress to be a success she must have the face of Venus, the brains of Minerva, the grace of Terpsichore, the memory of Macaulay, the figure of Juno, and the hide of a rhinoceros.
    • Ethel Barrymore quoted in George Jean Nathan's The Theatre in the fifties.
  • It's not whether you really cry. It's whether the audience thinks you are crying.
    • Ingrid Bergman, Halliwell's Filmgoer's and Video Viewer's Companion.
  • For the theatre one needs long arms; it is better to have them too long than too short. An artiste with short arms can never, never make a fine gesture.
  • An actor's a guy, who if you ain't talking about him, ain't listening.
  • Acting is the expression of a neurotic impulse. It's a bum's life. Quitting acting, that's the sign of maturity.
    • Marlon Brando, Halliwell's Filmgoer's and Video Viewer's Companion.
  • The principal benefit acting has afforded me is the money to pay for my psychoanalysis.
    • Marlon Brando: The Only Contender, Gary Carey (1985), Ch.13
  • Acting is the least mysterious of all crafts. Whenever we want something from somebody or when we want to hide something or pretend, we're acting. Most people do it all day long.
  • If a studio offered to pay me as much to sweep the floor as it did to act, I'd sweep the floor. There isn't anything that pays you as well as acting while you decide what the hell you're going to do with yourself. Who cares about the applause? Do I need applause to feel good about myself?
  • The close-up says everything, it's then that an actor's learned, rehearsed behavior becomes most obvious to an audience and chips away, unconsciously, at its experience of reality. In a close-up, the audience is only inches away, and your face becomes the stage.
  • When an actor has money, he doesn't send letters but telegrams.
  • You know, the objective of all of the acting classes really was for you to show how you feel, and not to be clever and not to show all the tricks you could do a lot of people came there with some experience and a lot of times they would bring whatever tricks they had, to be entertaining to the classes. The teachers wanted to strip all those away, and say, "No, could you be emotionally honest onstage?" The first stage of emotional honesty, or at least the resistance to being emotionally honest, is to be angry. When anger doesn't work, you try crying. But those are all just defense mechanisms to shut off how you actually feel about everything. We all build these sort of walls to keep ourselves from showing our true emotions, because they can be seen as weaknesses.
  • The question actors most often get asked is how they can bear saying the same things over and over again night after night, but God knows the answer to that is, don't we all anyway; might as well get paid for it.
  • Unlike writers or painters, we don't sit down in front of a blank canvas and say, 'How do I start? Where do I start?' We're given the springboard of the text, a plane ticket, told to report to Alabama, and there's a group of people all ready to make a film and it's a marvelous life.
    • Albert Finney, Interview with Paul Fischer at Dark Horizons (2 December 2003).
  • It was a character that I wanted to play my whole life and not one part of me was indifferent ... but I got incredibly uncomfortable with the attention that just came with that job. It was nothing to do with me, it was to do with this idea of celebrity. Hopefully I’m just more myself as I get older and as I grow, but in our culture they’re telling us to be something totally f--king different.
Being an actor is a matter of choice that above all takes place at an existential level: either you express the conservative structures of society and are nothing more that a tool in the hands of power, or you address the progressive components of this society in an attempt to settle a revolutionary relation between art and life. ~ Gian Maria Volonté
  • What they teach in these acting schools is incredible, hair-raising crap. The Actors Studio in America is supposed to be the worst. There the students learn how to be natural - that is, they flop around, pick their noses, scratch their balls. This bullshit is known as "method acting." How can you "teach" someone to be an actor? How can you teach someone how and what to feel and how to express it? How can someone teach me how to laugh or cry? How to be glad and how to be sad? What pain is, or despair or happiness? What poverty and hunger are? What hate and love are? What desire is, and fulfillment? No, I don't want to waste my time with these arrogant morons.
    • Klaus Kinski, Kinski Uncut : The Autobiography of Klaus Kinski (1996), p. 59.
  • People call me an "actor". What's that? In any case, it has nothing to do with the shit that people have always blabbered about it. It's neither a vocation nor a profession - although it's how I earn my living. But then so does the two-headed freak at the carnival. It's something you have to try and live with - until you learn how to free yourself. It has nothing to do with nonesense like "talent," and it's nothing to be conceited or proud of.
    • Klaus Kinski, Kinski Uncut : The Autobiography of Klaus Kinski (1996), p. 310.
  • A motion picture must be true to life. If a picture portrays a false emotion it trains people seeing it to react abnormally.
  • By the time an actor knows how to act any sort of part he is often too old to act any but a few.
  • What I want to do is to become the part -- to leave Tomas Milian wherever he is and become the character.
  • Acting is therefore the lowest of the arts, if it is an art at all.
  • They wanted to "teach" me to act. But to act is natural. It is ten percent acting and ninety percent being smart.
    • Franco Nero, as quoted in his Blue Underground talent profile.
  • The adults who should have been there to protect me were my parents, not you…[but] you can’t underestimate how in awe of you people like them can be. They didn’t want to be an annoyance or an inconvenience to anyone, and it must have been daunting to imagine holding up 100 people for your kid.
  • If I went to see Berma in a new play, it would not be easy for me to assess her art and her diction, since I should not be able to differentiate between a text which was not already familiar and what she added to it by her intonations and gestures, an addition which would seem to me to be embodied in the play itself; whereas the old plays, the classics which I knew by heart, presented themselves to me as vast and empty walls, reserved and made ready for my inspection, on which I should be able to appreciate without restriction the devices by which Berma would cover them, as with frescoes, with the perpetually fresh treasures of her inspiration.
    • Marcel Proust, Within a Budding Grove, C. Moncrieff, trans. (1982), p. 476.
  • In music, the punctuation is absolutely strict, the bars and rests are absolutely defined. But our punctuation cannot be quite strict, because we have to relate it to the audience. In other words we are continually changing the score.
    • Ralph Richardson, The Observer Magazine, 'Tynan on Richardson', (18 Dec 1977).
  • The art of acting consists in keeping people from coughing.
  • I accept or reject a film based on my conception of cinema. The definition of political cinema is one I don't agree with, because every film, every show, is typically political in nature. Political cinema is simply the brainchild of bad journalists. I try to make films that say something about the mechanisms of a society like ours, which correspond with some research of a shred of truth. For me, there is a need to understand the cinema as a means of mass communication, as well as the theater and television. Being an actor is a matter of choice that above all takes place at an existential level: either you express the conservative structures of society and are nothing more that a tool in the hands of power, or you address the progressive components of this society in an attempt to settle a revolutionary relation between art and life.
    • Gian Maria Volonté, in Un attore contro: Gian Maria Volonté - I film e le testimonianze (1984).
  • An actor entering through the door, you've got nothing. But if he enters through the window, you've got a situation.
  • Billy Wilder As quoted in The Bright Side of Billy Wilder, Primarily (1970) by Tom Wood, p. 20

Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations[edit]

Quotes reported in Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 4-6.
  • Farce follow'd Comedy, and reach'd her prime,
    In ever-laughing Foote's fantastic time;
    Mad wag! who pardon'd none, nor spared the best,
    And turn'd some very serious things to jest.
    Nor church nor state escaped his public sneers,
    Arms nor the gown, priests, lawyers, volunteers;
    "Alas, poor Yorick!" now forever mute!
    Whoever loves a laugh must sigh for Foote.
    We smile, perforce, when histrionic scenes
    Ape the swoln dialogue of kings and queens,
    When "Chrononhotonthologos must die,"
    And Arthur struts in mimic majesty.
  • As good as a play.
    • Saying ascribed to Charles II, while listening to a debate on Lord Ross's Divorce Bill.
  • But as for all the rest,
    There's hardly one (I may say none) who stands the Artist's test.
    The Artist is a rare, rare breed. There were but two, forsooth,
    In all me time (the stage's prime!) and The Other One was Booth.
  • I think I love and reverence all arts equally, only putting my own just above the others; because in it I recognize the union and culmination of my own. To me it seems as if when God conceived the world, that was Poetry; He formed it, and that was Sculpture; He colored it, and that was Painting; He peopled it with living beings, and that was the grand, divine, eternal Drama.
  • See, how these rascals use me! They will not let my play run; and yet they steal my thunder.
    • John Dennis, see Biographia Britannica, Volume V, p. 103.
  • Like hungry guests, a sitting audience looks:
    Plays are like suppers; poets are the cooks.
    The founder's you: the table is this place:
    The carvers we: the prologue is the grace.
    Each act, a course, each scene, a different dish,
    Though we're in Lent. I doubt you're still for flesh.
    Satire's the sauce, high-season'd, sharp and rough.
    Kind masks and beaux, I hope you're pepper-proof?
    Wit is the wine; but 'tis so scarce the true
    Poets, like vintners, balderdash and brew.
    Your surly scenes, where rant and bloodshed join.
    Are butcher's meat, a battle's sirloin:
    Your scenes of love, so flowing, soft and chaste,
    Are water-gruel without salt or taste.
  • Prologues precede the piece in mournful verse,
    As undertakers walk before the hearse.
  • Prologues like compliments are loss of time;
    'Tis penning bows and making legs in rhyme.
  • On the stage he was natural, simple, affecting,'Twas only that when he was off, he was acting.
  • Everybody has his own theatre, in which he is manager, actor, prompter, playwright, sceneshifter, boxkeeper, doorkeeper, all in one, and audience into the bargain.
  • It's very hard! Oh, Dick, my boy,
    It's very hard one can't enjoy
    A little private spouting;
    But sure as Lear or Hamlet lives,
    Up comes our master, Bounce! and gives
    The tragic Muse a routing.
  • And Tragedy should blush as much to stoop
    To the low mimic follies of a farce,
    As a grave matron would to dance with girls.
    • Horace, Of the Art of Poetry, line 272. Wentworth Dillon's translation.
  • The drama's laws, the drama's patrons give.
    For we that live to please, must please to live.
    • Samuel Johnson, Prologue. Spoken by Mr. Garrick on Opening Drury Lane Theatre. (1747) line 53.
  • James Bond was established by Ian Fleming as a white character, played by white actors. Play 003 or 006, but you cannot be 007. A lot of people say we should be allowed to play everything. Don’t be ridiculous. If I say I want to play JFK, I should be laughed out of the room. Black men should stop trying to play roles created by whites. These roles are not written for black men. We have pens [to create] roles that no one else has established.
  • Who teach the mind its proper face to scan,
    And hold the faithful mirror up to man.
  • I have turned roles down because they are rapists. It's something I don't even want to watch. If I even click on it on TV, I have to click it off or I'll put my foot through the screen... What you see on that screen is just my terror at having to do that scene.
    • James Marsters James Marsters on Life After Buffy, on the rape scene in Buffy the Vampire Slayer "Seeing Red"
  • A motion picture must be true to life. If a picture portrays a false emotion it trains people seeing it to react abnormally.
  • I would never say Don't try it to people, but in my seminars Ill play demo CDs of actors with whom I work; they don't get as much work as I do but are every bit as talented. They have agents, they're members of the Screen Actors Guild and they cant get a job. The point I'm trying to make to these folks is, you need to know that there are people that they've never heard of who are really good and are going to get the call before you do. They've already got representation and have been here for five or 10 years.
People aren't aware of how much competition there is; there are things I never even get a shot at and I've won an Emmy. I've done a couple 1,000 half-hours of work on a couple of 100 series and I still have to audition and still don't get everything I read for. That's the two big things: Knowing there's a lot of competition and realizing that its not all just a matter of doing funny voices. Its also acting, the ability to sing and improvise in your characters.
  • A long, exact, and serious comedy;
    In every scene some moral let it teach,
    And, if it can, at once both please and preach.
    • Alexander Pope, Epistle to Miss Blount, with the Works of Voiture, line 22.
  • This is the Jew that Shakespeare drew.
    • Attributed to Alexander Pope when Macklin was performing the character of Shylock, Feb. 14, 1741.
  • There still remains to mortify a wit
    The many-headed monster of the pit.
  • To wake the soul by tender strokes of art,
    To raise the genius, and to mend the heart;
    To make mankind, in conscious virtue bold,
    Live o'er each scene, and be what they behold—
    For this the tragic Muse first trod the stage.
  • Your scene precariously subsists too long,
    On French translation and Italian song.
    Dare to have sense yourselves; assert the stage;
    Be justly warm'd with your own native rage.
  • Tom Goodwin was an actor-man,
    Old Drury's pride and boast,
    In all the light and spritely parts,
    Especially the ghost.
  • The play bill which is said to have announced the tragedy of Hamlet, the character of the Prince of Denmark being left out.
  • (The) play of limbs succeeds the play of wit.
  • Lo, where the Stage, the poor, degraded Stage,
    Holds its warped mirror to a gaping age!
  • The play is done; the curtain drops,
    Slow falling to the prompter's bell:
    A moment yet the actor stops,
    And looks around, to say farewell.
    It is an irksome word and task:
    And, when he's laughed and said his say,
    He shows, as he removes the mask,
    A face that's anything but gay.
  • In other things the knowing artist may
    Judge better than the people; but a play,
    (Made for delight, and for no other use)
    If you approve it not, has no excuse.
  • I think that people don’t realize how challenging that voice work can be. Because when we invite them into the booth, we will be asking them to do multiple scenes. And so we will be asking them to go from one emotion, to another, to another very quickly, and they have to be very nimble. And they don’t have the benefit of a costume, or a set, or even another actor to bounce off of, they have to conjure all of it up. And because we work in animation, it is very physical often times: it’s you’re crashing through a window or you’re on a motorcycle or you’re in a room by yourself or you’re in a room with ten people, they have to imagine that while they are doing it, and I am always so impressed by the guys that can do it, and we do ask them to do long sessions. And the stamina is also something I am very impressed by.
  • Every now and then, when you're onstage, you hear the best sound a player can hear. It's a sound you can't get in movies or in television. It is the sound of a wonderful, deep silence that means you've hit them where they live.

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