Arthur Penn: The Truth Is The Goal

Faye Dunaway and Arthur Penn on the set of Bonnie & Clyde (1967).

Interview with Arthur Penn
Conducted by James Grissom

You know how people frequently say that it isn't important how you come to God--to Jesus--but that you get there? All roads lead to God, I guess, and all the roads are holy and valuable. I feel--with a few toxic exceptions--the same way about acting or directing. You do what you can with what you're given. I keep hearing about teachers who have had a remarkable impact upon actors who astonish me, so I have great faith now in those teachers, because I've seen their work displayed in good actors working well. Now, I don't understand what they're teaching, but that's okay: I mean, I'm in there learning all the time as well, so I'm grateful when I hear or read or learn something that continues to open up this art I keep trying to mount like a wild horse or climb like an impossible mountain.

But it's about truth, and there are no rules when it comes to truth, except to tell the truth. It sounds so silly and simple, but try to live and work with nothing but the truth. It's harder, I think, to live and work with truth than it is to work with silence. Silence drives most of us crazy--after a time, we have to express ourselves. But silence is a vacation compared to truth. Truth is scary. Truth unmasks us completely. And truth is the key to anything valuable in any work of art, and I consider good actors to be ambulatory works of art.

So read it all. Do it all. Audit the classes, and if something speaks to you, enroll and learn all you can. Then move on--to the next class, the next part, the next adventure.

But what you're chasing is the truth.

The truth is the goal.

© 2014 James Grissom


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