Paul Scofield

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Paul Scofield in 1974

David Paul Scofield, CH, CBE (21 January 192219 March 2008) was an English actor of stage and screen. Noted for his distinctive voice and delivery, Scofield won both an Academy Award and a BAFTA Award for his role as Sir Thomas More in the 1966 film A Man for All Seasons.


King Lear is undoubtedly the greatest play ever written by Shakespeare — or anybody else for that matter. Hamlet is certainly great, but it doesn't contain as many elements of humanity as we see in Lear.
  • If you want a title, what's wrong with Mr? If you have always been that, then why lose your title?
    I have a title, which is the same one that I have always had.
    But it's not political. I have a CBE, which I accepted very gratefully.
  • I found at this point that effective acting wasn't what I wanted to do, that I didn't want to make effects, that I wanted, as it were, to leave an impression of a particular kind of human being.
    • Quoted in Garry O'Connor, Paul Scofield: An Actor for All Seasons (Applause Books, 2002, ISBN 1-557-83499-7), ch. 22 (p. 131)
  • As an actor I don't admit to any limitations. In rehearsal one comes up against apparently insuperable barriers, but if one can imaginatively get past them, overreach one's natural reach, it is astonishing how elastic one can become. I've got to go not so far as I can, but as far as is needed. It's up to somebody else to say if I've made a fool of myself.
  • I decided a long time ago I didn’t want to be a star personality and live my life out in public. I don’t think it’s a good idea to wave personality about like a flag and become labeled.
  • As you get older, the more you know, so the more nervous you become. The risks are much bigger.
    • Quoted in Benedict Nightingale, "Paul Scofield, British Actor, Dies at 86," The New York Times (21 March 2008)
  • I feel incredibly lucky to have discovered early in my life, practically when I was a child, that I could do something that in the end I finally wanted to do all my life. It has something to do with being completely removed from oneself, which doesn't necessarily mean one is uncomfortable inside oneself. It just means it's a great relief to be inhabiting somebody else. It can be a tremendously liberating sensation.
    • Dennis McLellan, "Obituary: Paul Scofield, 86; award-winning British actor," The Los Angeles Times (21 March 2008)
  • I've found that an actor's work has life and interest only in its execution. It seems to wither away in discussion and becomes emptily theoretical and insubstantial. It has no rules except perhaps audibility. With every play and every playwright the actor starts from scratch as if he or she knows nothing and proceeds to learn afresh every time, growing with the relationships of the characters and insights of the writer. When the play has finished its run the actor is empty until the next time...and it is the emptiness which is, I find, apparent in any discussion of theatre work.
    • Letter of Paul Scofield declining an opportunity to participate in a forum on theatre.

About Paul Scofield

  • Beneath the gentle modesty of his behavior lay the absolute assurance of a born artist.
  • The only great actor I have worked with who was not in any sense a star — there was no great publicity about him, no scandal about him, none of the attitude to stardom.
    • Corin Redgrave, "In quotes: Tributes to Paul Scofield," BBC News (20 March 2008)
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