It has become fashionable for actors not to learn their lines, Bill Nighy complains

It has become fashionable for actors not to learn their lines, Bill Nighy complains

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  • The Marlon Brando technique.

  • That man is a godsend.

  • It’s funny, there’s a conversation out there between Christopher Waltz and Ralph Fiennes where they discuss the scripts of Wes Anderson and Quentin Tarantino. They adore well-written wordplay and practice learning lines so that they can mail the snappy dialogue.

    The older actors who are flexible and can do it both ways are where is at. Learn your lines, but be ready to improv.

  • There was an interview with Juliette Binoche and Kristen Stewart where Stewart’s talking about how she prefers to see her lines for the first time while filming or something because she’s ‘obsessed’ with that first moment and doesn’t wanna form a reaction or too much about the lines ahead of time and wants it to come out on screen.

    While I respect her and have nothing personal against her, I just find that super annoying and it makes no sense to me. If I’m a veteran actor who does line prep, I’d probably find it even more annoying.

    Here’s the interview:

  • I improvise all my reddit comments.

  • Nighy is an actor far more interested in classical methods of acting than a lot of more modern actors who prefer method and improvisation.

    There’s no real right way, and Nighy’s complaints do have their validity. I suspect a lot of actors do in fact engage in this based on the laziness he accuses them of. Nighy, like a lot of classically trained actors, believe the point is to learn your lines frontward and backwards to the point you become so familiar with them that you can see the nuance. And it works. It’s a long standing acting tradition for a reason.

    But it also can sometimes lead to a certain stiffness, either in interpretation or the performance itself. Which is where the other method comes in. Sometimes learning your lines on the spot, or improvising them can provide a fresher and even deeper take on the character. It can ease you into something far more relaxed and naturalistic. When it works, it works like gangbusters.

    Which method works depends not only on the actors themselves, as some might work better with one style than the other, but also the film they’re in. If you’re in a tightly constructed film (from someone like, say, Wes Anderson), then knowing your lines inside and out and doing very little improvisation will be key. Those directors have a vision and it’s probably best you stick to it.

    Then there’s directors who play a little more loose. If I’m in a Mike Leigh film, I probably have more leeway in how I interpret my character, and barring some scene that requires something specific, I’m basically painting on a mostly blank canvas.

    Results vary with acting styles, as they do with directing styles.

    (As they do in any artistic medium for that matter)

  • I’m honestly pretty sick of seeing improv ruin many recent comedies. When I can tell that actors are just riffing, it takes me completely out of the moment. I stop seeing characters in a movie and start seeing actors goofing around as themselves. I just don’t find it cute anymore. Improv should only happen after the written version is in the can.

  • John C. McGinley complained about this in an interview on the *Kevin Pollak Chat Show*. He used to fuck with guest actors on *Scrubs* who weren’t off book, telling them, “Don’t worry about it; the camera’s gonna be on me for the entire scene, so you can look at a script.”

  • “To be or not to……….line?”

  • I just realized that bill nighy and bill Nye are different people. I’m an idiot. This definitely will go in the next “what did you learn late” askreddit thread

  • The article (and commenters here) seem to assume he’s specifically calling out young actors, since he was asked to give them advice. But it actually reminded me of an interview that came out a few years ago, of some respected older actors laughing about how writers wanted them to follow the script. I feel like it was Morgan Freeman and a co-star during Freeman’s stretch of “old people doing things you wouldn’t expect!” movies, but Google isn’t turning up anything. Anybody know what that was?

  • This approach is why so many actors act the same. Nobody is a character, they’re all just high energy people who repeat something said in their ear.

    When all you have to do is touch a Wienstein in Hollywood to get a big part…

  • The best method I’ve heard of is I think Anthony Hopkins, who goes through a script a ridiculous amount of times until he knows it so well he’s free from ‘remembering’ it and can just act it. Acting is a real profession, and you shouldn’t half-ass it.

  • So that’s why most of the big actors that have come out in the last decade or so have been just terrible?

  • Look at Brando reading cue cards, or saying fuck it and ad-libbing one take & saying that’s what you get.

  • Will someone kindly tell me how to pronounce Nighy? Is it Ny-hee or Nig-hee Or Nig-hy?

  • You don’t even have to be able to memorize lines to be an actor anymore? Hollywood, here I come!

  • I thought learning your lines was acting 101.

  • The best example I can think of is Anthony Hopkins. The man learns his lines inside and out. Very few actors could have put so much gravitas into that scene without having known those lines first.

  • “I never talk about acting in my life, but any good actor will tell you the common denominator is private study, for months if necessary. Every nuance every phrase is considerably thought out well in advance.” – Peter O’Toole

  • > leaving school with two O Levels

    Would someone more British than I please decode this?

  • Shooting digital is cheap.

  • That’s absurd for actors doing theater and he’s got every right to complain about it and call them out, but it’s a valid approach for film. Not walking in and having no clue, but walking in giving yourself more flexibility than knowing a script inside out. Most actors have no problem meeting each other halfway. People who prefer that looser, naturalistic style won’t (and shouldn’t) give a fuck about working exactly the way Bill Nighy wants them to work.

  • Robert Downey Jr has done interviews on Howard Stern where he talks about not bothering to learn lines and that he uses an earpiece during scenes to have people feed him lines.

  • I don’t know if she does it but Jennifer Lawrence will brag about being unprepared in interviews. Like Bill Nighy said it seems trendy to not try hard. I’d rather work with a super method Jared Leto than an actor who isn’t prepared at all.

  • So fire them.

  • This is one of the reasons I think the entertainment industry overpays. Any other profession able to do this? I’m not going to memorize the new changes to the tax codes, even though I’m a CPA, because it’s hard and I don’t want to do that.

  • What does the science guy care about actors?

  • Stick to science and leave acting to the actors.

  • This is an industry that asks it’s actors to fuck for parts and they do.

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