nurturing mental health: acting............ .Talent Development Resources..home page

It's a way to exteriorize all my shit. To scream and cry and laugh on-screen, it's almost like black magic.

For me, acting is like a therapy....

Eva Green .. [imdb.com bio] / photo from "Kingdom of Heaven" (2005)

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What I love about a play is that it's such an investment because only time can create a lot of what happens onstage. And I really believe it takes about three months for a show to gel: No matter how good or how prepared you are, there are certain things that only time can take care of - it's like it has to cook. 

The satisfaction you get from that is different from the satisfaction you get from film. The other thing I love about theater is the friendships you make and what you learn doing it. 

I believe that no matter what you do in life, if you learn the basics through theater, it will help you in everything else - problem solving, communication, discipline, all of that stuff.

Laura Linney / Interview mag., Dec/Jan 2005

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I'm sure it has to do with working out private passions that are almost inscrutable to me. I've never been in analysis and I don't want to go there. But I just get to work out all my murderous thoughts and my weaknesses and my failures and things I don't want to do as a parent or work out on the family. 

It's better to take them here [acting]. I need it as an outlet. I love it. It feeds my imagination. It connects me to understanding -- if you're talking about a life journey -- to understanding other people: what it means to be alive, what it means to be you, not just me, you. That's interesting to me. Always has been.

Meryl Streep  - in an interview about her role of senator Eleanor Shaw in "The Manchurian 
Candidate" - The Boston Globe, July 2004 - posted on meryl-streep.de

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Trillian [her character in Deep Rising (1998)], Famke Janssen declares, is "probably the most light-hearted character I've ever played. 

"All my other characters I've made deeper, more complicated, and I think it was really nice for me, for my own personal life, because I'm not that light-hearted. 

"I think you learn something from every single character, and I kind of learned that from her. Sometimes it's just important to have fun, and not worry about everything too much. That's a lesson we all know, it's just harder to apply to your own life sometimes."

Famke Janssen - from interview by Douglas Eby 

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I so needed to be Catwoman in that moment. 

I so needed to make some tough life decisions for myself, and putting on that suit made it a whole lot easier. 

Halle Berry  ... [azcentral.com  May 24, 2004]

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I think getting to tell stories fills anyone with a void. I mean, we read and write stories, we like stories read to us and we like to watch movies. Therefore all of us can fill a void or fill some moment at least, and get some better understanding of ourselves.

So, I do find that playing and get to pretend everyday fills tons of empty spaces.

Selma Blair  - darkhorizons.com interview about acting in "Hellboy", March 23, 2004
photo from "Hellboy" (2004)

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Charlize Theron.. was asked about the night she watched her mother shoot her father. She insists her mother acted in self defense, but admits for years she lied about her dad's death. And on Primetime Thursday last night, Theron choked up when interviewer Diane Sawyer quizzed her about the night her mother took on her alcoholic father - when the actress was just 15. 

She said, "Oh Diane... you know the tough thing about things like this is that everybody now knows. It's out. For years I just said that he died in a car accident." 

Theron went on to reveal that acting has helped her deal with the incident. She added, "I think acting has healed me. I get to let it out. I get to say it and feel it in my work and I think that's why I don't go through my life walking with this thing, and suffering."  ... [imdb.com Celeb News Jan 12 2004]

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No one could have anticipated that [Nicole] Kidman would portray Virginia Woolf.. with the depth and resonance she brought to "The Hours" ... She immersed in the project to a degree that might have been dangerous on an intimate level.

"Unfortunately the thing that makes me want to be an actor, in terms of wanting to be consumed, is also what can destroy you because it becomes almost too hard," she says. 

"At a stage of life, you have to say, 'I have to walk away from this.'"

from article Portrait of a Lady by Stephen Galloway,
The Hollywood Reporter, Nov. 13, 2003

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Cate Blanchett adds that switching on and off when in dark character mode, generally is not too difficult. "Some scenes are more intense than others and I think probably from making Veronica Guerin and going back to work with a young child, your focus has to be almost more intense. 

"You have to switch off at the end of the day because there's a little creature that needs you and I found that quite educational. 

"I have a very healthy relationship to my work and I find that if a scene is working, no matter how intense it is, you have the catharsis on screen and you can let it go. 

"I think it's if at the end of the day you feel like you haven't cracked it, that's when you go home and it's more difficult to switch off."

darkhorizons.com interview Nov 25th, 2003 by Paul Fischer 
about her film The Missing [photo at left from poster]

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Does the intensity of a movie like this [Gothika] drain you? 

Halle Berry: It's draining at the end of the day, but on some other level, it's also really cathartic. 

So although physically I would feel exhausted and tired, my back would hurt, my arms would hurt and my feet would be raw from running through all the stuff, there was still something about it that felt good because at the end of the day, I felt like I had a really cathartic experience.

I got a lot of stuff out of me that was pent up in little corners of myself, so I felt good at the same time. 

What did you learn about yourself?

Just my ability to be able to stretch myself in ways that I really didn't think I could do.

I had to keep this kind of emotion up. I realized that I was able to go to those places and access that much more than I ever thought I could do.

That's career-wise, but personally, I'm always working through. Whatever is going on in my life is what I use as my tool to sort of bring out different emotions and so therefore I get to work through my real life issues through my art. 

So you can work through your personal troubles at work?

Halle Berry: I didn't necessarily mean that. It just means even the good stuff that happens in my life, I use all of that somehow in my work, what's really real in my life.

from Gothika and personal struggles - 
about.com interview by Fred Topel

photo at right as psychiatrist Dr. Miranda Grey - 
from official Gothika site

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... the separation from my husband and my kids. All that. There's a great solitariness in a one-woman show. I don't have other company members... so all that plays into I think the psychological... some kind of discipline I have to construct for myself. ...

It's hard but it's interesting. I'm learning. I'm learning a great deal. ... I think it's important to feel that so I'm having a very fascinating time. Fascinating to see why I'm feeling that. It's very good to feel that. We are alone. And very seldom in life do we realize it as directly and profoundly as I'm feeling it in this experience. 

Kate Mulgrew - about her one woman show, "Tea at Five"
- based on the life of Katharine Hepburn 

[from interview by Angela Churm - quotes and photo from totallykate.com]

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Now, some might argue that an actor's life isn't very grounded in the real world either, what with our peripatetic journeys in search of work, our night-owl schedules, donning new characters and so forth. 

But the actor's world is an intensely real world, for our subject is the human condition. We are students of human behavior, of emotion, of motivation, the language of everything that is human.

Jane Alexander- from her Commencement Speech, Duke University, May 12, 1996

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There is no artist worth the name who doesn't incessantly split their personalities in two.

Sarah Bernhardt***[1844-1923]

...from her memoir:*My Double Life

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She had loved being an actress because the theatre seemed to her nothing less
than the truth.

A higher truth. Acting in a play, one of the great plays, you became
better than you really were. You said only words that were sculpted, necessary, exalting.

You always looked as beautiful as you could be, artifice assisting, at your age.
Each of your movements had a large, generous meaning.

You could feel yourself being improved by what was given to you, on the stage, to express.

   excerpt from book: Susan Sontag. In America: A Novel

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You are on your own [doing a solo program]. On the other hand, it isn't like creating a character; the character is you, and it's real. 

You don't have to ask the audience, "Believe me as this." You are the person already. Once you start, it's lovely - just like having a conversation about what interests you most.

***Marian Seldes***[theatermania.com Jan 10, 2002]

****The Bright Lights: A Theatre Life by Marian Seldes

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I had a happy childhood... It's made me a cheerful, sensible girl, which may explain why I'm able to wallow in misery for the camera.**[Calgary Sun, January 19, 2000]

"I had a strangely untroubled and happy upbringing and I live quite a normal life now. Maybe it's because I am so centred in real life that I love taking my characters to the edge of insanity."*[Calgary Sun, 1/30/99] 

**********Emily Watson

*related pages: ....early life......mental health

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I want to have a good life, not just a good or lucrative career. I want to be a happy person. 

Making movies involves every part of you, so it's inevitable that some of whatever you're working on seeps into your psyche and your soul, and you end up, having to live with the circumstances, during and after.

Toni Collette.... [darkhorizons.com Sep 29 2003]

*related pages:.....mental health.......nurturing mental health

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What I love lately about acting is you discover how that person, your character, would respond to those circumstances, not your imposition of how that person would respond. ... 

I got into acting because I was really shy. I wanted to live in my imagination. I couldn't decide what I wanted to be and acting gave me the opportunity to do a lot of different things. 

And I wanted to disappear from myself, be in disguise. I'm not an extrovert, I like to watch people, I like to analyze behavior, I don't like to be watched.

Daryl Hannah... [LA Times July 13, 2003]

*related pages:....awareness / thinking......introversion / shyness......self-esteem / self concept.

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As actors, I think we are responsible for making people 
more aware of their inner world.

    Juliette Binoche  .. [Inside the Actors Studio, June 2003]

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Acting is about showing people what it is to be human, both the beauty and the ugliness. 

If that interests you, and you want to be able to pay the price to feel all that, and educate yourself, and work hard, and do it when you don't want to, then you have a chance to be a working actor.  ~ ~

Students are tough to help when they are shut down to what they feel, and they've lost their humanness, they've lost their ability to feel pain and joy and humor and sensuality, and be alive.

Those are difficult people to work with, and they usually leave acting because it's too painful. 

They're asked to open up their emotional life, and some people just can't do it. I don't judge them, but to be an actor, you have to be open. It's the only way to be good at it."

Larry Moss

acting coach to Helen Hunt, Hilary Swank, many others [CNN March 24, 2000 posted on yelba.com]

Also see his book The Intent to Live: Achieving Your True Potential as an Actor

*related page:**nurturing talent

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Cinema therapy - by Daniel Mangin [salon.com]
During the early days of home video, psychoanalyst Foster Cline treated a woman whose wild and uncommunicative child resisted the slightest display of maternal affection. It occurred to the doctor that his patient might benefit from seeing how Anne Sullivan dealt with the similarly rebellious Helen Keller, so he asked her to pop "The Miracle Worker" into the VCR.

Counseling Issues with Recognized and Unrecognized Gifted Adults  by Mary Rocamora

Supporting creative achievement - an interview with therapist Lynne Azpeitia
"The people I see are multitalented, creative and artistic high-achieving persons. ... "People are capable of being expressive, but often they are interfered with or misinterpreted in these areas. So my job is to help them identify when they are in that fluid and creative state, and help them look at how they got there, and on purpose how to make those things happen."

The Vision Thing - The Actor's Way by Karen Kondazian
"After working with creative people for years, psychologist Dr. Robert Maurer advises actors to remember the grandeur of their calling and enjoy their everyday triumphs."


Brian Bates  The Way of the Actor: A Path to Knowledge & Power
"[reader:] Dr. Bates paints a fascinating picture of actors as modern day shamans, and interviewed many actors, including Sir Lawrence Olivier, in the process. This is a must read for all serious actors, and for anyone interested in shamanic practices, it will also be very interesting."

Glenn O. Gabbard. Psychoanalysis and Film

Steven Galipeu. The Journey of Luke Skywalker: An Analysis of Modern Myth and Symbol

Christopher Hauke, Ian Alister. Jung and Film: Post-Jungian Takes on the Moving Image

Stuart Voytilla, Christopher Vogler. Myth and the Movies: Discovering the Mythic Structure of 50 Unforgettable Films

Danny Wedding, M. Boyd Movies & Mental Illness : Using Films to Understand Psychopathology

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