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On Acting and Actors

The worst thing an actor can do is show his awarness of the camera. Often when an actor hears the call “Roll ’em” he will tense up, alter his sight lines and present himself very unnaturally. This self consciousness shows very clearly to the camera’s eye. I always say, “Just talk to the actor playing opposite. This isn’t like the stage, where you have to speak your lines to the audience. There’ no need to look at the camera.” But when he knows where the camera is, the actor invariably, wihout knowing it, turns one-third to halfway in its direction. With multiple moving cameras, however, the actor has no time to figure out which one is shooting him.’2

A sad truth in the film business is that when an actor succeeds in a particular role there is a tendency to keep casting him in similar roles. This stems, of course, from the convenience and advantage of those who use him, but for actor himself there is no greater misfortune. Repeating the same role over and over, like a machine-stamped image, is unbearable. An actor who is not constantly given new roles and new subjects to tackle dries out and withers like a tree you plant in the garden and then fail to water.’2

There are three very important things I learned from [Kajiro Yamamoto] about actors. The first is that people do not know themselves. They can’t look objectively at their own speech and movement habits. The second is that when a movement is made consciously, it will be the consciousness rather than the movement that draws attention on the screen. The third is that when you explain to an actor what he should do, you must also make him understand why he should do it that way – that is, what the internal motivations in the role and the actor are.’2

I begin rehearsals in the actors’ dressing room. First I have them repeat their lines, and gradually proceed to the movements. But this is done with costumes and makeup on from the beginning; then we repeat everything on the set. The thoroughness of the rehearsals makes the actual shooting every time very short. We don’t rehease just the actors, but every part of every scene – the camera movements, the lightning, everything.’1


1 These notes were published by Toho Company Ltd. in 1975 as advice to young people considering a career in filmmaking. They are taken from: Kurosawa, Akira. Something Like an Autobiography. Translated by audie E. Bock. Vintage Books, 1983.

2 These are taken from: Kurosawa, Akira. Something Like an Autobiography. Translated by audie E. Bock. Vintage Books, 1983.

3 These notes are taken from: Richie, Donald. The Films of Akira Kurosawa. University of California Press, 1996.