Being An Actor, Revised And Expanded Edition by Simon Callow
A new edition of the timeless book for aspiring actors embarking on their careers, now featuring fresh content. Few individuals have ever been more articulate, more candid, or more captivating in sharing their experiences in both life and the theater profession than Simon Callow, a truly exceptional actor of his era who has also gained immense admiration for his writings on the stage. Commencing with the poignant letter addressed to Laurence Olivier, which ultimately secured his first job in theater, Callow takes us on a mesmerizing journey, encapsulating his remarkable journey through the demanding and vibrant world of English theater.
This enthralling narrative encompasses various moments in Callow’s career, spanning from his formidable tutelage at London’s renowned Drama Centre, to his challenging but significant tenure in regional theaters, culminating in his groundbreaking accomplishments at the Joint Stock Company, and ultimately, his triumphant stints at Olivier’s esteemed National Theatre. In his book, Callow not only provides invaluable insights into the intricacies of the actor’s profession, but also offers a profound understanding of the manifold facets of his craft. He delves into the depths of the unpredictable nature of employment for actors, likening it to a primordial ooze from which all performers emerge and inevitably return, ultimately leading up to the momentous final night of a long-standing production.
The Interview: Simon Callow – From Box Office to Center Stage
Are you curious about how I entered the world of acting? Well, it all began when I was around 18 years old. I landed my first real job, and it was quite extraordinary. I found myself working at the box office of the renowned Old Vic Theater. Not only did I have the opportunity to watch numerous plays, but I also had the chance to meet the actors. On top of that, I would sneak into rehearsals, bending the rules, but oh, those rehearsals captivated me! It was the theater’s work that particularly fascinated me. I would stand at the back of the Old Vic Theater, observing the actors rehearsing. Often, I would witness their moments of uncertainty – pondering how to make a scene work, striving to comprehend their characters. The director would provide guidance, suggesting different approaches, such as altering their movements or experimenting with various props.
I was enthralled as I watched everything fall into place, and that’s when it hit me – what an incredible job acting is! A job filled with captivating challenges, where one grapples with understanding and expressing characters. My passion for acting was born from this perspective – the thrill of overcoming artistic obstacles.
On Becoming Famous with Mozart
Do you want to know which role kicked off my fame as a young actor? It was none other than playing Mozart in the original theater production of “Amadeus,” which later made its way to the big screen. Now, let me tell you, portraying Mozart presented quite a challenge. After all, Mozart was not just a fictional character; he was a real historical figure, one of the greatest artistic geniuses in Western civilization. As a devoted fan of Mozart’s music, I felt immense pressure to do justice to this portrayal. Peter Shaffer, the playwright, delved into Mozart’s complexity, depicting him as a somewhat crude and hysterical child-like figure in many parts of the play. My task was to reconcile this version of Mozart with the fact that he composed masterpieces like “The Marriage of Figaro.” It was an arduous undertaking, but one that pushed me to my limits.
The Truly Satisfying Roles
Now, let me tell you something – as much as playing Mozart was exciting, it wasn’t the most fulfilling role I’ve ever taken on. Yes, it was exhilarating because the play gained tremendous fame from the moment it was announced. The controversy surrounding its opening only heightened the excitement. Imagine looking out into the auditorium each night and spotting renowned figures like Paul Newman, Robert Redford, Ava Gardner, or even Margaret Thatcher! It was quite the spectacle.
However, the most satisfying roles for me were those that might not have garnered as much attention but allowed me to delve deep into the character’s essence, to truly connect with them on a profound level. Those are the roles that leave an indelible mark on an actor’s soul, regardless of the external fame surrounding them.