William Hurt Has the Answer!

by DavalosMcCormack on March 1, 2010

I was listening to NPR’s. Terry Gross interview William Hurt, the actor, on “Fresh Air” and he said something very truthful.  You know the feeling, when someone is talking and suddenly a what they say, just rings of truth and deeper meaning to you?  If that never happens to you maybe you just haven’t been listening.

William Hurt

I’ve listened to a lot of interview shows in my time, heck, I produced a daily TV talk show for years so I know what I am talking        about when I say, “William Hurt is truly an actor who creates his characters with a great deal of thought and ethics.  In this interview he describes his method for creating a character – and believe it or not, William Hurt can teach you everything you need to know about how to have a successful life”.  No Kidding!

Here’s a short transcript of the conversation from Fresh Air so you can judge for yourself :

GROSS: So we’ve been talking about your approach to acting. Has it changed over the years? Do you approach roles differently now than you used to when you, like say, in the “Body Heat” era?

Mr. HURT: To me, I mean, there’s a standard and the standard was something I arrived an understanding about after I had been looking for it for 15 years of study. The standard is six weeks of rehearsal, 42 days, to hatch a character the way, you know, nine months to hatch a kid. I don’t know why it’s true. I don’t know why we need nine months, but it is true for me and anything less results in a premature character. That means, of course, that I’m guilty of launching a lot of premature characters out there the way we live in a post-adolescent society. But I always have that image of what a proper rehearsal would be where we would go in everyday, eight hours a day, five days a week and prove that we were friendly to each other, not competing with each other. Where we would check our ego, guns, at that the door, go in, inspire each other, communicate with each other, research with each other and bring about the best possible life that can be breathed into that play.

Stanislavski said, when he was asked a question by a young actor, once, what is it that I do? I don’t create anything. I don’t write the words. I don’t write the themes. I don’t write the (unintelligible). Am I an artist? Do I create? He says, of course, you create. You breathe the ethic into the play. And he said, that’s essential.  A lot of people don’t understand the ethic of ensemble at all. They offer awards for ensemble when I can guarantee you that the only thing that those people had in common was that they maybe all met the director but they never worked together. They never sat in rooms, you know, before shooting, before judgment, before the, you know, the array of critiques and opinions and… They never got past auditioning for the next job. They never had the job, you know, what I’m saying?

GROSS: Yeah.

Mr. HURT: They never felt secure. And I believe in being secure. And I believe in proving my trustworthiness to another actor – that I’m not just there to gun him down. I’m not there to beat him. I’m not there to win. When people turned the role in “A History of Violence” into ‘the shortest Academy Award nomination in history’, I was chagrined by that. That’s not what we did. It was a role. It’s a guy. All the roles could be that great. Everybody can be that great. Everybody can be that vivid. You know, if you do the work right, everybody’s vivid. Every life is vivid. That’s what we’re trying to say, right?

You know, if your life, if some people you know, I’ve met eight-year olds that have more wisdom than 80-year olds. So my mom died young and she had a great life. So, you know, you can’t measure things in terms of time – or at least the quality. So so-called main characters, what’s that? We’re all main characters. We’re all main characters in our life.


Isn’t that what it’s all about?  We all want to be secure in our lives.  We’re all striving to have a good, full, successful, healthy, life.  And to do that is to stop comparisons, go beyond judgment of yourself and others, become a true friend, inspire and be inspired, leave our guns/egos at the door and open up to the knowledge that we can create our own life.  We can change what doesn’t work for us anymore, we are the main character in this life, and we have the power to create the life we want. All it takes is a serious, honest, attitude and the understanding that we are in charge of this one little life, you don’t have to be on stage to create your own roll.  How do you want to live? Are you the main character in your life?

So that’s all I wanted to tell you about William Hurt and what I learned about life from him.

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