How do great actors stay great?

Bonnie Timmerman: Well I’ll give you an example. I worked on a movie called Awakenings with Robert De Niro and Robin Williams. And it was fantastic to watch Robert in the auditioning process because he read with a lot of other actors. And the way he grew from the first audition to the last one that we did together . . . Because you know because he played somebody who shook quite a bit. And watching him do that . . . Watching him create a character in the audition, because he’s . . . many weeks. We read with a lot of different actors. I thought that was fascinating. And I could see him writing down on his script little things that he thought about. And his script was filled with like little notes. And I that’s a big part of it – that you put yourself inside that person and create a character. And maybe sometimes you can’t even come out of it. Another instance was I was working with Al Pacino, and I . . . He was directing, and I brought in this actor from Chicago to play a bartender. And Al said, “Would you mind reading with me?” And he said, “No, not at all. I’d love to.” And I saw Al take his hat and turn it in such a way, and his posture changed. And it was almost as if Al Pacino had walked out of the room and this character was sitting in the room. I had never seen anything quite like that. But he was . . . He understood that character so much that I would imagine he would be doing that almost daily in different ways when he would think about something; or how the character would sit; or what he would be thinking. It was just a remarkable physical thing. It was truly amazing. But he did. He twisted his hat. His shoulders went down. His body language was different. And he became the character, and Al Pacino literally walked out of the room. So I think there is a way to get inside a character that I think is . . . It’s unbelievable to me. I mean when a curtain goes up on stage and you’re transported into a whole other world, and these incredible human beings are playing these characters, I just don’t know how they do it. You know I just don’t know how they do it. I think it’s remarkable. But I’m talking about people who are really committed and great.

Recorded On: 12/21/08

Robert DeNiro takes notes.
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