Kim Stanley on Choices

Los Angeles

I'm not a teacher who encourages careers: I encourage artistry. That's a big term, and it encompasses many things: talent, integrity, honesty. I'll stick to one thing that's been on my mind: choices.

Everything we do in our lives derives from a choice or a set of choices we've made, and I have always found that people are very casual about these things. I heard someone in class once--this was years ago at the Studio--say that they had their eye on a part that would generate attention and awards and all of that. I understand the need for money and acclaim, and we're lying if we say we don't like it or want it, but it must never be the goal; it must never be the choice. The moment that actor--or any actor, at any time--sets the goal as one so puny as a good review or an award or some attention, his entire apparatus is lowered, the eyes seek something baser than what he would have searched for if he had stated that he was an artist, and that he wanted to achieve the highest standards of art in his performance.

Very few actors are artists; even fewer try to become artists. Get your head around this now.

I don't tell students or people seeking advice that acting is an easy or enjoyable journey, but it is an exciting one, a fascinating one. It's not for the faint of heart, I can tell you that.

Even if you remove from my biography all of my marriages and my drinking and my myriad other mistakes, the acting was the hardest thing I ever tackled. It was also the only thing, other than motherhood, that had any discernible return or reward: Acting or writing or composing compensates us when it compensates others; when the effects begin to be returned to you, and that doesn't happen often. It takes more than we realize to move people, although things are plummeting so quickly now that people respond more and more to less and less.

The person walking around represents everything that was placed within it, loved by it, used by it, shared by it. I think you have to be careful. I can tell you that I was not careful--certainly not with the foods and liquids I put into my body, or the people I allowed to enter my heart. I was always careful about what I put into my head--the words, the art, the music, the goals.

When we turn to God, we are asking that the sinner we are be raised up, changed, altered. We are then expected to be an example; we are expected, I think, to convert others. People laugh when I say that I think the arts are this way. We are asking, as bad actors or hopeful actors, to be raised up, changed, altered. We are then expected--required, I think--to be an example and to convert others.

Back-sliding Christians: That's a real Texas term I remember from growing up. A good Christian person, who was living so well, doing so much for others, loving his God, got depressed and beat a woman or drank too much whiskey. Ah, poor thing, he's back-sliding! I love that term.

A lot of actors are back-sliding. They work well and hard and the artistry shows, but the mortgage is due or there's an expensive divorce or the face starts to sag and needs to be lifted, so they do a series or a movie they hate but it pays well.

Back-sliding actors! We must attend to them.


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