Friday, March 09, 2007

David wrote...

"I saw an ad (I think in Backstage West) for an acting teacher with a quotation from Jack Nicholson, saying something like, "If you want to be still..." go to this teacher.What's that mean? Still."

Cliff responds:

Jack is often cryptic, so one can't be sure what he means.
But I'll take a stab at the notion of being "still"!
My first thought is: "Still waters run deep." The surface is calm, but monsters swim beneath.
The notion of "still" in acting make me think of an often quoted line from "Death in Venice": He and She are about to make love in a gondola; She says to He: "Move move much." Meaning: 'don't rock the boat...focus all your energy into well aimed movement'.
To be 'still' is not to be dull; it is to be excitingly precise; to avoid (forswear) all unnecessary and wasted motion.
A filmic example: There is the great scene in Jack's "Chinatown" where the 'heavy' wants to punish/scare-off Nicholson. Instead of the 'heavy' hitting him with a two-by-four, a pipe, or punching him...the heavy takes a knife and slits Jack's nose inside to out. Small move; powerful impact.
What is more effective: hitting someone with a baseball bat or sticking a needle into their eyeball? Move little; move much. Fit the emotional equivalent of an atomic bomb into the size of a pea. Maximum firepower; minimum delivery system.
'Stillness' is gliding like a duck along the surface of the performance; paddling like emotional hell within.
Feel deeply...but be is always emotionally stronger. Focus the same amount of pressure through a smaller aperture, you increase the power; a truism about acting; because it is a law of physics.


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