Life as an Actor


In the recent BBC series Taboo, Tom Hardy delivers a masterclass of screen acting as the protagonist James Delaney. 

Alongside him many excellent actors are working skilfully with a deep understanding of the medium, Jason Watkins, Oona Chaplin and Tom Hollander among them, but it is Hardy who dominates the series and several elements show his total mastery of his craft.

Firstly he utterly commands the screen whenever he appears.  It’s easy to put this down to the blessing of charisma but its cornerstone is deep concentration.  Additionally his stillness and use of silence draw you into his world.  His movements are few and highly controlled and the viewer’s eye never has to search for him.  Whenever an actor moves, or the camera moves, the viewer's eye unconsciously has to readjust to find the point of interest –  usually the character's eyes as we seek to understand what he or she is thinking but not saying.  For this …

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While the four leads give a strong ensemble performance, there are also some valuable lessons in this film about the intangible depth that preparation can bring to a screen role.

Without the structure offered by theatre rehearsal, and the fillip provided by the approval of the director and other actors, it can be hard for screen actors to do an equivalent amount of preparation.  (In fact I believe that even greater preparation is needed because of the intense scrutiny of the camera.)  And, let’s be honest, there’s a leap of faith required that the time and emotional energy spent, alone, developing a character’s backstory will pay off.

The performances of Ewen Bremner and Jonny Lee Miller stand out in ways that suggest extensive emotional preparation.  (I’ll try to write about them without spoiling the plot)  I worked with Ewen on the very first piece of film I directed, when he was in his …

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Top Audition Tips from The Forge Initiative

Here at The Forge Initiative, we believe that there are going to be times when you have a good feeling about an acting audition, a workshop or a course. Perhaps it is going to be for someone you know, maybe they have heard you audition before or it could be that they have expressly asked to see you as they think you are well suited to the role they are auditioning. However, that is going to be only a very small percentage of the time. Mostly you are going to be auditioning for a panel of people who you have never met before and who only know you through a headshot photo.

You have no idea what they are looking for and they have no idea if you are going to be suitable. So, without being defeatist or apologetic, you must always bear in mind that as soon as you walk in that room, there is a chance you may not fill the criteria of the panel.

Having said that, we at The Forge Initiative, encourage all auditionees to always face an audition with a positive attitude. Someone is going to get a …

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BEYOND THE CANON: Colour-blind casting turned on its head.

Warning! Stop reading this if you’re precious about the classical and contemporary play canon. I’m referring to the canon that mainly features the works of dead white men with hardly any reference to the plays written by or for people from a culturally diverse background. For those that have ever studied Drama & Theatre Studies or Acting or fortunate enough to work in the arts industry, these are the plays that are constantly pushed down our throats at every given opportunity, with a big invisible sign that reads:

‘This is high-quality art. Respect, value and digest the work as it is written – and do not (by any means) contest it’.

In addition to numerous revivals, these works are usually backed by the limited number of ‘respected’ critics for that added certification.

Well I, like many others, questioned the whereabouts of the plays that existed beyond the canon. The plays that were written by men and women from around the world who wanted to …

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Re-watching Some Like it Hot I was struck once again by the problem I have believing anything Jack Lemmon does on screen. I simply see him acting all the time in a way that I don't experience with either Tony Curtis or Marilyn Monroe.  It's partly the difference between showing and sharing that I write about in my book: where Lemmon is continually showing us what's going on, with exaggerated reactions that border on gurning, Curtis and Monroe deftly find the line between credibility and the comic hokum of the plot.

But I also see, in Lemmon, an overwhelming need to be liked. It affects almost every performance of his that I've seen, with the one possible exception of Glengarry Glen Ross.  It's something that often seems to affect comic actors, especially those who’ve been stand-ups.  Long before the tragic suicide of Robin Williams it was evident that, having become a star as a manic comic turn, he …

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