What Makes a Great Actor ?

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Every aspiring actor asks this one question. What makes a great actor? Many would answer that great actors are born. Just put them in front of an audience or camera and they will perform. That’s not true. There are few things common among great actors. In this article, we have compiled those 7 things that makes a great actor.

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What Makes A Great Actor?

Great actors love acting

Whatever you want to do in life, you must have love for it. Same applies for actors. Good thing about the acting profession is only those who want to make it as actors, pursue it. And as it is a tough profession to make big. Only handful of succeed. Hence, make sure you love the artform. If not, then you are in wrong business, do something.

Look at the interviews of great actors, even in person if you hear them, the are so much passionate about their work. Many great actors have pushed themselves to death, just to make sure they do justice to role. Take example of Heath Ledger, what he did to himself to create the amazing character of joker in the movie The Dark Knight.

Acting is a learnable craft, but only if you love. Don’t do it just because it gives you fame and money. Fame and money are the byproduct of the hard work you do as an actor. And humans are known to work hard only if they are passionate about the work.

Tip for actors: It is not something that can be developed. Its something is which is discovered. So, ask your self are you are moved by a scene? Or you cannot forget something that one actor did or you are fascinated by the world, a story creates and want to be part of it, then you are in right business my friend. You got the passion to be in this profession.

Great are creative

Acting is a branch of performing arts. Like any artform you need to have creativity. Creativity in acting means being a creative in your imagination. Theater and film is all about creating an imaginary story. Actor has to imagine almost entire life of a character. Actor might get a prop or set which seems real but the event is imaginary, the relationship with other characters is imaginary.

Great actors are so good with their creativity that sometimes they come up with so bizarre imagination that even the director or writer might not have thought about it. And somehow that thing just stands out in the entire piece.

Tip for actors: Everyone is creativity. What makes a great actor different from a good actor is that he has a much bigger bank of creativity. Best way to fuel your creativity is to read books, watch lot of movies, observe what you are surrounded by. Don’t be scared to try something different. Every role or scene can be performed in hundred different ways. In process of discovering those unique ways, you will hone your creativity.

Great actors listen

Morgan freeman in one of his interviews said “Acting is all about listening. A great always listens to what his partner has to say.” Listening is an artform in itself. Just observer for few minutes when someone is talking to you. You listen and you react. Then your partner listens and react. The conversation has a flow and feels natural. And if same thing transpires on the stage or on the silver screen, it just feels real and believable. That’s the whole and sole job of an actor. Make a scene real and believable for their audience.

Great actor so good at listening. They are not just listening through their ears, they are listening through their all senses. Even if there are not dialogues, actors work from their partners body language.

Many people talk about having perfect timing. Charlie Chaplin had amazing timing. He did right action at right which created a believable humor. This timing only comes when an actor listens from all of his senses.

Tip for actors: If you want to improve your listening skill as an actor, do a simple exercise. With your partner do a simple scene, where your partner has to say the dialogues and you have to listen. There is an entire chapter on listening in the Tony Barr’s Acting for the Camera (Available on Amazon).

Great actors observe

There as another big factor what makes a great, is art of observation. For an actor observation is a must have skill. By observing real people in day today life, actor has unlimited source of inspiration. Many great actors have confessed copying real life characters to portray reel life character.

Many great actors love to spend some time in the neighborhood or the community the character belongs to. They pick small mannerism, way the people interact, the norms, routines and infuse them into their performance.

One of the India’s finest actor Nawazuddin Siddiqui was confessed that he imitated his friend for his much-appreciated role in the movie The Lunchbox. Siddiqui portrayed the character who had a stuttering problem. While prepping for the role, he remembered an old friend who had stuttering issue. He almost mimicked the way his friend used to speak. When is friend saw the movie, he knew it was him Nawazuddin has mimicked. He messaged him saying thank you.

Tip for actors: Observing is the simplest thing you can do as an actor. You don’t have to record everything, just try get a mental note of people. Observe how people behave, how they walk, how they talk. Try to build a catalog in your mind. You never know, what might be useful.

Great actors steal

You might have heard famous quote of Pablo Picasso “good artists copy but great artist steal.” You believe or not almost all actors steal, even the best of all steals. After stealing, it’s how he or she that’s what makes a great actor. The key is to present it like it comes from you.

If you remember when you were young, you might have idealized Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, Robert Di Nero. You might have even tried to mimic, way the act. Even these idols in their younger days, would have tried to act like their idols. It stays on with you even after you have your mark as an actor.

Tip for actors: You might think, audience might know you are copying someone but the key is to steal from the best and still the best thing about them. If you steal from 3-4 different great actors, you will entirely different way of acting which even might seem new to audiences. If you like an actor because of the way he speaks, imbibe his manner of speaking. If you like an actor because of the way he prepares for his roles, copy his routine preparing for your roles.

Great actors improvise

They day you started training as an actor, you might have come across this word, improvisation. Improvisation means you are a scene where you know objective and the premise, rest you have to invent while playing the scene. All actor train to improvise but what makes a great actor is how he makes improvisation seem natural or second nature to him.

In the history of cinema, most of the scene that have become iconic were improvised. For instance, the famous mirror scene of Robert Di Nero from Taxi Driver, were he says “are you talking to me”, was completely improvised. It was Di Nero going wild with his improvisation.

Tip for actors: Improvisation is a wide subject when it comes to acting. But it’s is a skill that can be developed. There is numerous improvisation exercise that can be done. Almost all the method acting books are full of them. Just pick a book, and practice few exercises every day. Improvisation is all about coming from you. More the natural, more the merrier.

Great actors learn

A great actor never stops learning. In life, you should never stop learning whether its acting, or any other field. Its learning what makes you grow as actor. Best actor under go training every now and then before taking up any project.

Halle berry went to a acting coach, Ivana Chubbuck,before shooting for his Oscar winning performance in Monster’s ball. During her training she started from basics. This process helped her to not only better her performance but also helped her grew as an actress.

Tip for actors: it is advised that you must have a daily routine which involves you learning new techniques of acting. Acting books are one way to go. But sometimes, listening to some great actors also teaches a lot. Set aside an hour or half just to practice new techniques.

Beyond these 7 things there might be many more but above all what makes a great actor is passion to do sincere work. Be sincere to the craft of acting. Work as hard as possible. Either you make it as great actor or not, that’s for the fate decide but what you can do is imbibe all the things, what makes a great actor.


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