Wednesday, June 19, 2013

James Cagney on Imagination Beyond the Script

One time, having heard that I was a bit difficult (something I admit to being when I strive to get a thing right), a director I know decided to put me in my place. After I finished the scene, I noticed he was looking at the ground. He had paid no attention to what we were doing in the shot. I said, Let's go again, and we did. Same as before. He sat there, eyes on the ground. Uh huh, I said to myself, I see. All right. The next time I played the scene just as written and without adding an iota of imagination to help it along. We went through that day, and the next day, in the same fashion. I did nothing more than say the words and do action only as required in the dialog. On the third day, Darryl Zanuck appeared. He asked me what the matter was, and I said, Nothing.
Come on, now. There is something the matter.
No, no. I'm just doing it as required. I'm playing the script just as written.
Now, that isn't what we want, Zanuck said, in unconscious revelation. Get with it, boys.
He left the set, and the next day the director came in nice as pie, and there was no further trouble. This director and I became good friends and we worked together several times after that without the slightest difficulty.

(from Cagney by Cagney). Actors are the squishy, are intended to go unexpected places and we must do our job whether or not anyone else does theirs.

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this posted by David August at 10:04 AM 

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