ON ACTING: Seeking Performance Complexity
Many years ago I had the good fortune to direct the brilliant actor Raul Julia in a film. Before every scene we would sit and analyze the scene. We would mutually agree on was the emotional essence of his character in the scene. Then as he started away toward the set for filming, he‘d stop, turn and we‘d say: "And yet...." That was our code way of expressing: 'the exact opposite might also be true,' so Raul would enter every scene with a complex set of emotional possibilities.
Contradiction seems inherent in all exciting life. Characters (like people) love and hate simultaneously. Characters are brave and cowardly. Characters are certain and confused. Characters contain paradox, contradiction, irony, and mutual opposition, even absurdity.
When a stimulus occurs in the presence of a mediocre actor, it echoes singularly, with monochromatic dullness, as if off the walls of a one room cave. But when it echoes in an exciting actor, one who has dug through the cavern walls of their own deepest life, who has deeply explored all sides of all issues, who has through a career of emotional rehearsal process become a high-ceilinged, and multi-roomed hollowed-out grotto of feeling, that stimulus resonates profoundly, over and over again, like the eternal inner voices in the caves of E.M. Forrester‘s Passage to India.
If an actor enters an scene without sufficient appreciation of and preparation for the depth and resonance of human complication possible in the scene, their acting craft will fly very low to the ground…and will generally crash in performance in the unremitting and all-consuming explosion of audience boredom.