On Taking on a Role
Michael York, OBE is an English actor. An early career with the National Youth Theater, Oxford University Dramatic Society, and University College Players led him to the National Theater in London. After acclaimed roles in Zeffirelli's Romeo and Juliet (1968), Cabaret (1972) and Jesus of Nazareth (1977), he is more recently known among mainstream audiences for his role as Basil Exposition in the Austin Powers series of comedy films. Classically trained, Michael York wrote a handbook "A Shakespearean Actor Prepares."
Question: Is it difficult to distance yourself from a role?
Michael York: I usually can take off the role with the makeup and the costume. Obviously if you've been in a play that has you know, a tremendous moment, it doesn’t just leave you. I remember once, actually it was here on Broadway. I was in Martin Sherman's play "Bent" which was an extraordinary love story, again a very daring and pushing the envelope drama about homosexuals who in a-- who sent to a camp. And dark and dangerous but at the core of it, this wonderful story, humanitarian story of love between two unlikely men. Great play. And one night there was a young girl at the stage door and she said "Oh, I came to the play tonight with my mother." She said, "My mother was in a concentration camp and some of the things described in the play, terrible things, happened to her." And I went cold. I thought, oh my God, what is this girl going to say, "How dare you?" you know, "A well-fed actor trivialize or mis- you know, traduce her experience, her memories?" Instead she said, "I'd just like to thank you." She said, "My mother has never been able to talk about the experience but seeing the play was like a key. It unlocked the experience for her and she's talking about it for the first time." And I thought "My God, you know, this is the drama." As we said earlier, going back to that, its Greek origins, you know, as being sort of sacred, therapeutic experience. And I thought, well you know, if I never do anything else, then this one night is valuable
Acting is a roller-coaster of highs and lows.
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