“The great art of films does not consist of descriptive movement of face and body, but in the movements of thought and soul transmitted in a kind of intense isolation. The actors sole hope is to set free his honest spontaneity” — Louise Brooks

Thomas: Do you remember DeNiro’s early work or Pacino’s? They were so courageous, inventive and unpredictable. What happened to them James? Was it the fame and accolades? I know the applause is addictive and as a result we are less willing to fuck up the canvas. Is it just that they got old and started to phone it in?

Brando never seemed to lose his unpredictability.

Meisner said that it takes 20 years to make an actor. What if he was wrong? What if it’s only when we’re in our 20’s, intoxicated with visions of potential greatness, and sure we have the ability to redefine an art that we’re at our best.

I speak from experience…once I got a standing ovation for some particularly intense work and numerous claps on the back…I had a hard time dialing down the intensity for fear I wouldn’t be any good and wouldn’t get…you guessed it….the applause.

James: They had no “comfort level” then. None of us do when we’re young. And I know we only use them as examples because they’re well known. My theory is that once you’ve found it, once you’ve found “what works”, you become a caricature of yourself. You fall back on what you know instead of submitting to what you might not know or don’t know. You stop working as hard.

My opinion on Brando coincides with yours. Even in the uneven Free Money, one of my favorites of his later movies, he had fun. It’s an amazingly unpredictable and funny performance. He was having fun. I’m convinced that’s a big part of it. You can see the fun, even if he claimed he abhorred what he did for a living, he was having fun doing it when he was at his best. When you see the sense of fun in the playing pretend, it’s just the best. I love watching DeNiro having fun.

Look at Dame Judy Densch or Helen Mirren or some of the great actresses who’ve been doing it forever. (Streep is just from another planet altogether…) They haven’t fallen into the “caricature” of themselves trap. They’re who they’re supposed to be in the story, as they should be. Pacino is Pacino acting in the story. Who cares about that? How is that moving or compelling?

Thomas: As an actor and as a man; I accept that as a human who is part of human nature and living in the human condition, I’m capable of doing anything a human does if the circumstances are right. Acting has been a way to explore and live the lives of so many people in imaginary circumstances without real consequences.

In my opinion, acting is also an opportunity to explore those parts of us which are universal to human kind, and to bring them to the light of consciousness for the identification of the audience.

Actors who have lost their courage to explore hit a wall where they can’t go there, they can’t go that dangerously deep (like I think Heath Ledger did for the Joker), so they play it safe.

One of my favorite, truest quotes for me is from Uta Hagen; “Acting is more than a way of life. It’s a way to life.” And life is really, really large. There is much to explore in human nature and in the world through the arts one moment at a time.

Again, thanks for sharing so fully and articulately. It’s been a pleasure for me.