A Baz Luhrmann story (about Truth)

Since The Great Gatsby is in theaters, I thought I would share a Baz Luhrmann story from my days working with him as Casting Director and Resident Director. 

One of my favorite notes that Baz would give to actors was a very simple one.  And super hard for actors to trust.

Baz would say, “Be truthful and let the audience come to you.”

You might be thinking that this seems odd considering his very flashy and spectacle aesthetics.  However, what folks don’t fully know is how he works with actors.

No matter which medium he works in, stage or film, he asks performers to do less and internalize more.  He builds from the premise that the most engaging element is the internal, private life of the actor in each moment.

Doing less, is not less.  It is more.

Actors often rely on their “tricks” to entertain and generate emotion.   Without “doing” something, actors might feel naked, totally vulnerable.  So actors counter that scarey discomfort by “doing” things to cover up the truth of what is happening internally in that moment.  For example, the biggest  trick I notice when coaching actors on camera is how actors avoid eye contact.  That feels much less vulnerable.

What is your “cover up trick”?  How do you move away from discomfort as an actor while in performance or auditioning?

A vulnerable actor is riveting.  Trust it.

If you are patient with the moments, then you will know what to do in the moment.  If you can settle in to the material, bring every word that you say close to home, then you will have the audience hanging on every word.  Find your truth and they will be mesmerized.

The audience will lean in and COME TO YOU.  

Or, in the case of The Great Gatsby, Leonardo DiCaprio literally comes to you in 3D!  He practically jumps out of the screen at you.  But in my opinion, actually it’s the nuances of his internal life that draw the camera to him.  The camera leans in to get inside Gatsby’s mysterious head.  For me, the close-ups on the actors are riveting.

So…take a tip from Baz… trust your ability to draw the viewer/reader/scene partner TO YOU.

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