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- Acting is illusion, as much illusion as magic is — and not so much a matter of being real. I mean, I would probably shock Lee Strasberg.
- As quoted in Famous Actors and Actresses on the American Stage (1975) by William C. Young, p. 885
- If I wasn't an actor, I think I'd have gone mad. You have to have extra voltage, some extra temperament to reach certain heights. Art is a little bit larger than life — it's an exhalation of life and I think you probably need a little touch of madness.
- As quoted in Laurence Olivier (1979) by Foster Hirsch, p. 166
- Never. The shot is too big for the cannon.
- On filming Shakespeare, before he did it, as quoted in Olivier (2005) by Terry Coleman
- I think that bloody old National nearly killed me.
- On the Royal National Theatre, as quoted in Olivier (2005) by Terry Coleman
- Like coming for a living.
- On acting to a live audience, as quoted in Olivier (2005) by Terry Coleman
Quotes about Olivier
- When I was young, I used to queue at the theater early in the morning to see Olivier. His performances were electrifying...I admired their originality and courage...and their terror. There is no acting like it today. He made me want to become part of the theater.
- Peter Shaffer quoted in Theater Week Magazine 1989.
- Such subtlety, such detail, biting deeper into the role than any actor of my time, or indeed any time.
- Bernard Miles quoted in Olivier by Terry Coleman, Bloomsbury, 2005, p 504
- As a man and an actor he was an inspiration. I loved him.
- Dorothy Tutin, actress, quoted in Olivier by Coleman, p 504
- I think you're the only actor in the world who plays in a Shakespeare play with a special, tender familiarity as if you were keeping it in the family
- J. D. Salinger, author of The Catcher in the Rye in a letter to Olivier dated 1 September 1951, quoted in Olivier by Coleman, p 240