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Actors on Acting page 6

During shooting, it is not unusual for an actor to spend twenty hours a day on the set. Due to this, physical stamina is critical. A typical day may consist of rising at four in the morning, sitting through several hours of make-up, and then sitting around waiting for filming to begin. 

Once the director says action, the actor must be in full form, showing no signs of fatigue. After several hours of filming have concluded for the day, the actor may find they only have a couple of hours to sleep, eat and learn the lines for the next day's shoot. 

When a role calls for even more physical demands, such as a disability (ex. Tom Cruise as a paraplegic in Born on the Fourth of July) or a special skill (ex. Harrison Ford's use of a bullwhip in the Indiana Jones trilogy), an actor may find the need for physical stamina is even more crucial.

Finally, using personal memories to convey suitable emotions for a particular scene is an essential tool for actors. Some of the most recognized actors today have achieved fame through their abilities to portray emotions so well. Actor Michael Clarke Duncan was recently an Academy Award nominee for portraying the character John Coffey in the film The Green Mile. Duncan had audiences in tears through his ability to portray a giant man, so humble and honest that even the cold-hearted were touched and awed. 

Another actor, Haley Joel Osment (The Sixth Sense), was able to portray a character so realistically that he was nominated for an Academy Award at the age of 10. In any case, actors whom have the ability to get in touch with their emotions and portray them on screen so believably are exceptional; they can take a personal experience and let it radiate.

Once the major roles for a film have been cast, directors can begin preliminary run-throughs (rehearsals) to help actors develop their specific characters. The amount of rehearsal time afforded depends greatly on what the director wants, the availability of the actor, and the overall time constraints on the film. Generally rehearsals last 2-3 weeks before the actual shooting process begins. 

Rehearsals can be very helpful in establishing relationships between actors and directors, along with determining if a specific scene plays out as believable or not. It is a time when the actors can give input, ask questions and collaborate with the director on whether a scene will relay well to the audience. If not, this is the time to make changes.

Different directors have differing points of view as to whether rehearsal is important to the overall production of the film or not. On one side there are those such as Paul Williams, "I am very actor oriented, and am very concerned with performance. I don't know how to do it without rehearsals. Next there are directors such as Bernardo Bertolicci, "I don't rehearse too much. I try, if I can." 

Then there are directors such as Robert Altman, "I don't have any real rehearsal period. I'm embarrassed to rehearse because I don't know what to do." Finally, there are directors like Michael Winner, who don't believe in rehearsal for a film.

For the actor, rehearsals are not just about nailing a part or figuring it out, but also discovering if there will be chemistry between the actors. Actress Mary McDonnell (Passion Fish, Dances With Wolves) contends that the best actors are the ones who aren't afraid to make mistakes. Invariably, actors discover something about themselves as they move through rehearsal. 

With the rehearsal period complete, the actual filming of the picture begins. There are a number of strategies for dealing with the pressure-packed atmosphere of the shoot. Generally, if the rehearsal period was successful, the actor has some assurance that the actual shoot will be the same. Some scenes are much easier to play than other scenes. The actor is the most vulnerable person on the set, and it is up to the director to bring out a great performance in the midst of the actor's uncertainties and insecurities. 

Actors and directors need to develop a special collaboration while on the set. Unfortunately, knowing what exactly it is that each individual actor needs to accomplish their goals is not an easy task for directors. There are those actors who are willing to listen to what ever the director says and try and comply with them. On the other hand there are actors whom are very strong-willed and have their own ideas set in stone. 

A director can make or break the entire experience for an actor

Some directors, such as Louis Malle, are willing to change everything possible in order to appease their actors. Other directors, such as Brian De Palma, have been known to be very strict on their set and inform actors from the very beginning that they run the show.

A director can make or break the entire experience for an actor. Good directors can create great experiences, while poor directors can create unworkable situations. Actors expect directors to protect them on the set. By this I mean that they want the set to be a place where they are able to transform themselves into the character they are supposed to be, without any reservations or distractions. 

Actors become dependent on directors and vise versa. One last item of importance for the director-actor relationship is that of keeping the thread of the story on track. This means that the director must sometimes step in and inform the actor if their emotional line is off track or if they are getting out of sequence with the shot. 

Many directors end up using the same actor's picture after picture. Once a good working relationship becomes established it is only natural that the collaboration continues. The director and actor will know each other's idiosyncrasies, their style of filming and their approach to a picture. A perfect example of this is the relationship between director Martin Scorsese and actor Robert DeNiro. To date the two have worked on eight different pictures together. Scorsese and actor Harvey Keitel have also collaborated on numerous films.

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