Was DiCaprio's Best Performance Before His Titanic Break?

Leonardo DiCaprio is a big star. A really, really big star - a bonafide A-lister who can call the shots. DiCaprio went through a pretty standard Hollywood trajectory for an aspiring actor kid who was born and raised in Los Angeles. First came the commercials, then the guest star roles followed by a stint as a recurring character on a goofy sit-com, then some sci-fi crap, some noteworthy smaller films and then the trajectory took one of those rare twisty curves and a run-of-the-mill working actor became a megastar by getting not just a big break but a giant, gargantuan break - when he was cast as Jack Dawson in the aptly titled Titanic

DiCaprio's ability in Titanic to make young girls swoon, weep uncontrollably and pledge their virginity to him eclipses Robert Pattinson's Twilight powers a thousandfold. Titanic was the first film to make a billion dollars - and his fans' desire to watch DiCaprio's "Jack" declare his undying love for Kate Winslet's "Rose" over and over and over was one of the main reasons Titanic raked in that immense amount of bucks.

The Titanic experience messed with DiCaprio's head big time. He retreated from his massive fame and became profoundly uncomfortable with "Leo-Mania". In a 2000 interview with Time, DiCaprio said "I have no connection with me during that whole Titanic phenomenon and what my face became around the world [...] I'll never reach that state of popularity again, and I don't expect to. It's not something I'm going to try to achieve either." 

Like so many other young performers, DiCaprio couldn't handle the pressure and the expectations so he spent his time indulging in escapist pursuits. He blew off interviews, partied heavily and ate - a lot. If his intention was to destroy the "heartthrob" Leo and bury him under a layer of flesh - he succeeded. When he emerged from his food-fueled retreat he had gained 20 pounds and his pretty face was bloated. But eventually the extra weight made him appear older and more serious. He transformed from Leo into DiCaprio - and entered Scorseseland.

When I first saw DiCaprio I never guessed he would become such a big star - although I did think he'd have a great career as a character actor. I wasn't a fan of Growing Pains or any of the other early DiCaprio fare so I had no idea who he was when I watched Lasse Hallström's quirky but moving film What's Eating Gilbert Grape starring Johnny Depp, another actor who has a love/hate relationship with his own pretty face. DiCaprio played Depp's mentally challenged younger brother, Arnie, with such intense realism that I had a hard time believing Hallström hadn't cast an actor who really had a disability. 

Although DiCaprio is one of the actors in his generation who will probably have a long, diverse career - he'll probably even win an Oscar along the way - I don't know if he'll ever give a performance as nuanced and moving as the one he gave in Gilbert Grape. Why? Because stardom tends to have the strange effect of flattening rather than enhancing an actor's range. They get paid to be themselves rather than lose themselves in a daring performance. These days, DiCaprio is a leading man who stars in high-profile films with high-profile directors and is valued more for being DiCaprio than for being versatile. 

So let's look back at DiCaprio before "Leo-Mania" and see how good he was as a relative unknown in a small but powerful film.


David Lynch And The Bright Future Of The Dead Extra

The first time I came into contact with the unique brain of David Lynch was when I saw Eraserhead. I sat in the darkened theater watching in amazement as strange, nightmarish, often repellent images flickered across the screen. My boyfriend at the time was mesmerized and afterwards declared Eraserhead to be the most brilliant movie ever made. I wasn't sure what I'd just seen but it definitely made me think twice about having kids.

Later, I saw Blue Velvet and when I emerged into the light I felt like I'd woken up from the kind of disturbing dream that impresses you with how creative the subconscious mind can be. Who could come up with such a weird creation that reveled in shiny, innocent people being pulled down into a miasma of degradation and creepy brutality?

Then I met Lynch.

David Lynch with Isabella Rossellini
I had the chance to work with him as a regional casting director on the pilot for his classic television series, Twin Peaks. He strolled into our office with a big smile on his appealing, boyish face. The first thing he asked for was...yes... a cup of coffee. He was friendly and polite, sprinkling his sentences with plenty of "gosh" and "gee". He had stepped out of a Norman Rockwell painting via the Twilight Zone. At one point,
when his producing partner, Mark Frost, informed him that he couldn't have one of the actresses staggering around blood-covered in just her bra (this was TV in the 1990's after all) but could maybe get away with having her wear a teddy, Lynch furrowed his brow and said, "What the heck is a teddy?". Frost explained that it was like a silky, skimpy undershirt, to which Lynch, frustrated but amiable replied "Gosh no, Mark, that won't do at all. We have to be able to see the blood running down her naked belly!". Ultimately, Lynch had to bow to the times and settle for a tattered slip.

Phoebe Augustine as Ronette Pulaski
In casting, every client is different. Some want to see as many people as possible for each part. Most want at least 8-10 choices. Lynch, not surprisingly, was different. He wanted to leave it up to us to pick just a few top candidates to read for each role. When I say "read for", I'm using it in the broadest sense because Lynch didn't actually have any of the actors read from the script. Instead, he spent time talking with them and getting a feel for their vibe. He asked questions  like "So, do you like to fish?" or "Have you ever eaten in a diner?" He assumed that if they were there in front of him they could act, and he was more interested in them as a person than in their ability to read lines. This actually threw off some of the actors who were already nervous meeting a director of Lynch's caliber and would have have preferred hiding behind a script. Looking back, I think that discomfort was exactly what Lynch was looking for; he wanted to get behind the mask and poke around in the essence of the unprepared actor.

One of the the roles that Lynch was looking to cast was the dead homecoming queen, Laura Palmer, who was at the core of the Twin Peaks mystery. The actress who'd be chosen would be "playing" a dead body wrapped in plastic and might be seen cavorting in flashbacks or home movies. It would give whoever was cast exposure but the part was basically a featured extra. The only prerequisite was that she had to be pretty,wholesome and preferably blonde.

We immediately thought of Sheryl Lee, a young actress who had all the elements Lynch was seeking. It turned out that Sheryl was going to be in Colorado when Lynch was in town and at first she wasn't sure if it was worth flying back to Seattle to audition for such a small part. But after all, it was David Lynch. How many chances would she get to meet someone of his stature? No young actor who is serious about making it in the business would miss that opportunity.

Lynch's face lit up as soon as Sheryl walked in the room. She was exactly what he was looking for: sexy but a little shy - sure of herself but with a fresh, youthful innocence.
You could see immediately that they hit it off. 
After she left, Lynch wasn't interested in seeing anyone else for the role.

Later, we got the word that Sheryl had been enthusiastic and professional while shooting the very uncomfortable dead body scene that took place on a freezing cold beach. Lynch had also been very taken with her in the "home movie" scene in which Laura Palmer is seen playing around before her death. She made such an impression on him that when the series got picked up Lynch decided to write her a part. He created the character of Maddy Ferguson, Laura Palmer's cousin, just for Sheryl. From featured extra to series regular all because Sheryl was smart enough to override her initial reaction of "is it worth it?" and grab a chance when it presented itself. You'd be surprised how many actors wouldn't have done the same. That audition was Sheryl's big break She's gone on to appear in numerous TV shows and films and even starred on Broadway with Al Pacino.

I love stories like this  - even more so when I've witnessed them myself. It proves that breaks do happen in the weirdest and most unexpected ways. It's not easy for actors to keep believing in that possibility. They're faced with so much frustration and rejection - rejection that feels deeply personal; it can really beat them down. They get sick of going out for yet another audition that isn't anything like that great dream role they've longed for all their lives. 
Becoming jaded is one of the biggest traps inherent in the acting profession. It makes actors who were once enthusiastic and fresh lose their creative spark. It makes them want to dull their frustration and anxiety with drugs or indifference. Unfortunately, it can also blind them to seeing an opportunity when it arises. 

My advice to actors? Take a chance, take all chances, even if you don't want to. You've chosen to be in one of the most unpredictable professions in the world so don't work against possibility - help it work in your favor. You really never know which odd experience or seemingly unimportant opening can lead you where you've always wanted to go. 

And if you ever have to fly somewhere to audition for David Lynch - do it! One way or another it'll be quite a trip.


A Twisted Genius And The World's Greatest Sinner

When I discovered that a friend of mine has a blog called The Timothy Carey Experience, I immediately surfed over to find out what she meant by that intriguing title. I clicked the link and, low and behold, I saw the piercing eyes, the crazed expression, the unforgettable face that I recognized immediately. It was one of those "Oh, THAT guy" moments that often happens when we see a familiar actor whose name we don't know. I should have known the name and now I'll always remember it. 

Timothy Carey was one of the most perfect embodiments of the term "character actor" that ever existed. He was a gifted, unpredictable thespian and he sure as hell was a Character. Although he was notoriously difficult to work with, Carey's unique screen quality and strange, riveting talent was sought out by the likes of Elia Kazan, Marlon Brando, Francis Ford Coppola, John Cassavetes and Quentin TarantinoAlthough his preternatural intensity was thought by some to be chemically enhanced, Carey summed it up when he said, "People were always offering me grass or cocaine. I got my own cocaine -- my own personality. I am cocaine. What do I need that stuff for?" Indeed.

Carey was kind of like asafetida - the malodorous spice so odd and powerful it's known as devil's dung or stinking gum but also food of the god's. Just as asafetida can impart the right flavor to a recipe when used correctly, so Carey could enhance a film with his unsettling presence. But when handled improperly both the spice and the actor wreak havoc. Thus, although Carey's  talent was admired, rumors of directors and co-stars losing their minds and attacking him abound, and Carey himself said he was known as "the scourge of Hollywood".

I first remember seeing Carey in Stanley Kubrick's anti-war masterpiece Paths Of Glory, in which he played the doomed soldier Pvt. Maurice Ferol. Although Carey was usually cast as evil, psychotic or a lunkheaded heavy, he was brilliant as Ferol, a part that called for vulnerability. I've never forgotten that film (or any of Kubrick's films - but that's another post altogether) and Carey was one of the main reasons it made an indelible impression. 

Once you start delving into the being that was Timothy Carey you realize that the twists and turns of his life and his mind are seemingly endless. No wonder there's an entire site devoted to him. He worked with great masters and he also worked with The Monkees. He had many moments of genius and he had moments that are...well...hard to describe, like when he worked for eight years on a play  about "the incarceration of farting in society and one man’s struggle to free it".  But he also did a one man show about Salvador Dali - oh, how I wish I'd seen that!

For more about Carey - and anyone who is interested in acting, film, Hollywood or fascinating people should know more about Carey - check out the November 16, 2011 podcast of The Projection Booth and listen in as the marvelous Mike White and Marisa, the magical mind behind The Timothy Carey Experience discuss Carey's opus, The World's Greatest Sinner, a cult film classic that is as weird and wonderful as the man who created it.

I had posted a clip from The World's Greatest Sinner here but it was flagged by Absolute Film - who owns the copyright. I highly suggest, though that you follow the link to check them out.


The Illusion That Is Marilyn Monroe

Every day another girl looks in the mirror and says to herself wistfully, "I want to be like Marilyn Monroe. I want to light up the world, I want to be beautiful, I want to be a woman no one ever forgets." Marilyn is the guiding angel that inspires  them to live their Hollywood Dream. Her mystique acts like a beacon to their sensitive, longing souls. She's the shimmering, seductive Anima of Tinsel Town. 

If you look carefully at Monroe's career it quickly becomes apparent that Marilyn worship isn't about her actual achievements as an actor. I'll go out on a limb and say that although she was certainly good at what she did, her versatility and depth as an actor isn't all that impressive (unlike her fellow legend James Dean). 

Don't get me wrong, I'm not a hater. I enjoy watching Monroe do her legendary thing as much as anyone. But what's most enthralling about Marilyn isn't her acting, it's her presence, her ability to emanate something radiant and unique, her ability to transform into a Goddess.  

Norma Jean Baker, the troubled, ambitious girl who was tossed from foster home to foster home, was the first and best Marilyn impersonator. Norma Jean conjured Marilyn from archetypal elements of beauty, sexuality and desire. Although many have tried to recreate the formula they've mostly fallen short.

To be fair, I haven't seen (the otherwise talented) Michelle Williams try to bring Marilyn to life in the latest silver screen offering, but judging from the pictures, trailer and clips, Williams strikes me as yet another actress playing dress up. No Marilyn emanation at all. Naomi Watts is supposedly next in line to march in Hollywood's endless Monroe parade.
If you want to see a Marilyn's Marilyn check out Suzie Kennedy channeling the diva. She pulls it off so well because she let's go of being a great actress. She just moves herself aside and let's Marilyn manifest. 


Many aspiring actresses who look to Monroe for inspiration are drawn to the power of the symbol, the adulation she evokes, the tragic power of her story. But if they're serious about the craft of acting they'd do well to be inspired instead by actors like Meryl StreepHelen Mirren or Marilyn's former roommate, Shelley Winters. It might be terribly seductive to be a Goddess but it's also fraught with peril. Mythology is peopled with those who draw the wrath of the gods when they try to be like them. And the goddess of sex and love - Aphrodite - is known to be particularly cruel when a mortal steps into her territory. 

It's said that "whom the gods would destroy, they first make mad". Thus, it comes as no surprise that once the fragile, emotionally scarred Norma Jean had completed her transformation into The Sex Goddess Marilyn Monroe, she spiraled into depression, addiction, bitterness and despair. Her destruction was part of her myth. No matter how talented the Celestial Marilyn was, her human self was a nightmare to work with. By the end she was viewed in the industry as an irresponsible, royal pain-in the ass who was as out-of control as that modern trainwreck, Lindsay Lohan

But, with her physical death, Marilyn Monroe was finally free of the neediness, pain and frustration that had been locked in the flesh and bones of Norma Jean Baker. Without the weight of human frailty she was able to achieve her greatest ambition and take her place among the Immortals.

Here is an excerpt from Marilyn's last interview that gives a candid glimpse into her troubled state of mind near the end of her life.


The One Scene Every Actor Must See

James Dean. With only three films to his name and a sudden shocking death at 24, the handsome, sensitive young actor became so iconic that his image is visual shorthand for Hollywood. Because he's such a legend it's difficult to view Dean's work objectively. But, if you're able to put aside all preconceptions and simply watch James Dean in East of Eden, Rebel Without A Cause and Giant, it quickly becomes clear that yes, the kid was really that damn good. The fascinating complexity he brings to his roles along with his willingness to make odd, even risky choices sets him apart. His style and look have been endlessly copied but never with much success. Modern day actors who have been influenced by Dean too often miss the mark and end up creating characters who are sulky and puerile rather than finely drawn. 

Dean got his big break when Elia Kazan cast him as Cal Trask, the conflicted young man desperately trying to gain his father's love in East of Eden. Dean stunned audiences with the power of his performance and his sheer magnetism. He then took his place in the pantheon of Hollywood Stardom by playing Jim Stark, the angst-ridden teen, in Rebel Without A Cause. With his final role as the envious ranch hand, Jett Rink, in Giant, Dean stole the film from Elizabeth Taylor and Rock Hudson  and proved his tremendous versatility as well.

But Dean was gone before Giant was even released and became the quintessential personification of the old phrase: "The candle that burns twice as bright burns half as long". He was the first actor nominated for a posthumous Academy Award - nominated not just once but twice- for Best Actor in both East of Eden and Giant

Sometimes Dean's emotional, unpredictable Method acting confounded his more conventional co-stars. This worked to great effect in scenes with Dean and the stage-trained Raymond Massey who plays his father in East of Eden. Their clash of styles underscores their characters' inability to connect -  which is the emotional thread that moves the story. Other times, Dean's co-stars just seem stiff in comparison to his realism and truth.  

When Dean is in the company of a talent that matches his own the effect is riveting.That's the case when he's on screen with Jo Van Fleet who plays his hard-bitten, fiercely independent mother, Kate, in East of Eden. Van Fleet brings a nuanced intensity to the role that perfectly complements Dean's stellar performance. 

Before she was cast as Kate, Van Fleet was an acclaimed stage actor but, like Dean, East of Eden was her big break into film. Right off the bat she won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress. Van Fleet became known for playing strong characters who were usually older than she really was. Ironically, as she actually aged she was cast in fewer roles. When her career languished she became frustrated and somewhat bitter. Hollywood is capricious and often talent counts for far less than it should. 

In this scene from East of Eden, Cal, who has never spoken to his mother, comes to the brothel she runs to borrow money so he can invest it and give the earnings to his father.

Both great actors create their characters from a masterful combination of words, rhythm and gesture. Watch the way they use their hands, eyes and posture to bring Cal and Kate to life. it's thrilling to watch even with the sound off. Their level of skill, and the layered interplay of subtext and expressed emotion makes this, in my opinion, the one scene that every actor who is serious about their craft must see. 


Too Sexy To Be Serious?

Long before she was a respected Dame, acclaimed actor Helen Mirren was a hot dame - in some ways, too hot for her own good .

The young Mirren first made an impact on the London stage in the National Youth Theatre. By her early twenties the Russian/British beauty had proved herself a performer of substance in The Royal Shakespeare Company. But as accomplished as she was, it wasn't Mirren's way with iambic pentameter that really got her noticed - it was her raw eroticism and voluptuous curves.

Even today, the mature Mirren is admired both for her spectacular acting and her sensuality; just recently she was dubbed Body of the Year by an L.A. Fitness poll.  At this point in her career she's considered one of the great actors of our time so being hot just adds to her cachet.

That wasn't always the case. In many ways, the lust she aroused got in the way of her talent. It made her have to work harder to prove that she was more than just a sex symbol. However, Mirren's screen debut in the rarely seen - and some say - highly influential experimental film Herostratus did little to dispel that notion.

By the time Mirren was interviewed in 1975 by British broadcasting icon Michael Parkinson, her list of classical and contemporary stage credits had grown ever more impressive. This was no talentless Hollywood hottie whose stardom was a fluke of popular culture. Yet, Parkinson wrapped his questions to Mirren in an attitude of leering condescension that was part Benny Hill , part Austin Powers. Mirren, seeming flustered, and defensive, was clearly taken aback, especially when Parkinson wondered if she could really be a "serious" actress given her "physical attributes".

Years later when the elderly Parkinson once again interviewed Mirren, now a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire and an international star of stage and screen,his tone was highly respectful and her demeanor was confident and commanding. Times had changed and time had changed them.

Mirren has aged exceedingly gracefully and become performing royalty. The sultry, young seductress has evolved into a woman of substance. She can be a role model for all those beautiful up-and-coming ingenues, as long as they remember one vital thing. As a young woman Mirren wasn't just sexy, she wasn't just talented, she was - and is- devoted to the craft of acting. Think of all those years she spent perfecting her abilities on stage! You can't just by-pass that part of the equation and end up being such a strong, lasting presence.

Here she is in her Oscar-winning role as that stalwart and long-lived monarch, Queen Elizabeth. Long Live Dame Helen!


And The Oscar Goes To...The X-Rated Movie!

The end of the 1960's ushered in an era that could be called the Second Golden Age of Hollywood which lasted until the end of the 1970's. This dynamic era was characterized by gritty scripts, breathtaking, raw performances and risk-taking directors who were more concerned with bringing unsettling,resonant stories to the screen rather than big bucks to the box-office. 

Granted, the blockbuster also made it's debut in the 1970's with Jaws and Star Wars, (and Hollywood hasn't been the same since), but let's bypass those juggernauts and revel in the performances of two powerful actors who were kings of the Second Golden Age, Dustin Hoffman and Jon Voight. 

Hoffman has had one of the most prolific and impressive careers in Hollywood. All you have to do is take a look at his page to see how many great films he starred in. His big break was in the classic movie The Graduate in which he played Benjamin Braddock, the unlikely lover of the the sexually aggressive archetypal "cougar", Mrs. Robinson. Originally, the part of Benjamin was supposed to go to a handsome, preppy type like the young Robert Redford, but Hoffman was cast instead and entered the rarefied chamber of Hollywood Stardom - a perfect example of a less than classically handsome actor who became a legendary Star

His co-star here is Jon Voight, whose good looks and intense performances in movies like Deliverance, Coming Home and The Champ made him as big a name in the Second Golden Age as his daughter Angelina Jolie is today. 

This excerpt from Midnight Cowboy , the only Oscar-winning X-rated movie, features these two extraordinary actors lighting up the screen as opposites Joe Buck and "Ratso" Rizzo. What a scene!

** strong language


The Secret Of Star Quality

What is it that makes an actor a Star? Is it looks, talent, sheer luck? Or is it something else entirely? 

Let's talk about looks first. There are a lot of very beautiful people who try to make it in Hollywood. N
ewcomers who were the most dazzling specimens in their hometowns get a big jolt when they move to L.A. and discover that they're just one of many, many dazzling specimens all vying to be the Next Big Thing.
Beauty alone doesn't make a Star, not by a long shot. Of course, Hollywood puts a premium on great looking people, but because there are so damn many of them there it takes something else to be elevated to that place in the ether that's called Stardom. Strangely enough, that something else isn't necessarily talent. Like I said in my previous post, In Character, there are a lot of supporting actors who have far more raw talent than some of the greatest stars. 

On the other hand, soap operas are full of actors who, feature for feature, are more "perfect" looking than a lot of great stars. Oh, and as an aside - beautiful in real life doesn't always translate into beautiful on camera. When I was casting I saw it time and time again. 

An actor would come in for an audition who seemed to have all the right elements but once on-screen their beauty faded, their personality fell flat. There they were in the flesh - gorgeous and fascinating, but the camera spit them out like spoiled food. 

And, of course, the opposite was just as true. In would come an actor who was appealing enough - nothing special, but then, like magic, they'd be transformed on-screen into the most scintillating presence imaginable. 

And that's the key. Stars have that quality often referred to as It - or Charisma, that magnetic, almost other-worldly screen presence that compels you to watch and be fascinated by what you see. It doesn't even mean that you have to love what you see - that's a matter of taste. But, even if you're repelled, a Star elicits an intense, visceral response rather than a *yawn*.   

Once in a rare while someone arises who happens to be as charismatic and stunning  in person as they are on camera. And that, my friend, is what we call a Superstar.

Let's take a look at a scene from Tennessee Williams' Cat On A Hot Tin Roof featuring two of the biggest Stars and most luminous humans and ever to be paired on film before or since: Elizabeth Taylor and Paul Newman


Are You In Character?

Some of the most beautiful actors in the world are character actors. I'm not talking about physical beauty. I'm talking about the beauty that comes from being able to inhabit a role so fully and lovingly that the audience never forgets the experience.

It used to be that character actors were more often supporting players rather than leads - although there were some who became major stars - especially in the 1970's. These days television, which has become just as important and respected as film, has an abundance of terrific character actors in leading roles. But ultimately it doesn't matter, whether they're considered stars or supporting players, character actors are some of the best of the best!

Great character actors will work forever. Time is much kinder to them. You can be Steve Buscemi, Judi Dench, Lawrence Fishburne, or Frances McDormand and as you age people will watch your performances without any ugly, little thought bubbles popping up about how much older you look or how much plastic surgery you must have had. The reality is that after a certain age those gorgeous leading men and women start battling the crueler side of nature and both Hollywood and the audience can be unforgiving.

It's very important to understand the benefits and power of being a character actor because if you happen to fall outside the narrow spectrum of what Hollywood considers a leading man or woman, and most people do, you shouldn't spend endless hours trying to look like one. It's a waste of time, a distraction and can get very, very frustrating and depressing.

I've seen too many supremely talented young actors twist themselves in knots trying to prove to Hollywood that they're hot enough, sexy enough or good-looking enough. Enough for what? You can't prove anything to to Hollywood except that you're desirable because of who you are not what you think they want you to be. Embrace your individual beauty as an actor. Become the greatest actor you can possibly be. Blow them away with how prepared, interesting and unique you are.

If you're fat, scrawny, goofy, weird, or comically cute- that's great! There's actually more work for you in your field than for the very few "beautiful people" whose reigns tend to be glorious but far more brief and limited.

Shelley Winters was a Master. She started out as a "Blonde Bombshell" but deliberately turned herself into a character actor because she wanted more challenging roles. This chameleon strategy doesn't always work but in Winters' case it was a brilliant move. She won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for this role in A Patch of Blue. You'll also see Elizabeth Hartman, a talented but tragic actor, in her film debut. She was completely unknown when she was cast and this big break won her much acclaim. Wallace Ford, a strong character actor whose work spanned many decades, appears here in his final role.

A Patch of Blue was ahead of it's time. Set against the backdrop of the growing civil rights movement, it tells the story of interracial love at a time when the very idea was incendiary.

Hartman's leading man is the gorgeous, charismatic Sidney Poitier, a true star and a pioneer in film. He was the first African-American to win an Oscar. There'll be a lot more of him on future posts.

This  excerpt starts off with Poitier and his brother, played by Ivan Dixon - a powerful actor who deserves better than being best known for his role in Hogan's Heroes - argue about Poitier's growing relationship with Hartman's character.

**strong language


A Terrible Choice And An Epic Big Break

I've noticed that a lot of actors I've met, especially younger actors, aren't familiar with work that isn't contemporary and popular - so I'm going to share scenes from some of the world's greatest films that include stellar work from actors both known and not so well known. Study the best and enjoy!

In this clip from Sophie's ChoiceMeryl Streep gives a performance so riveting and painful that she could only do it once. And watch the masterful German actor Karlheinz Hackl as the Nazi guard. I picked this scene because it's some of Streep's best work - and that's saying a lot -  but also because I've rarely seen a performance more unforgettable and fully realized than the one Hackl gives here.

The Magnificent Film, Lawrence Of Arabia. If you haven't seen it you should. Even if it's not "your kind of movie", as an actor you should be familiar with films that are considered epic classics of Hollywood.  After all, It won 7 Oscars. As for big breaks - this was one of the Biggest. Peter O'Toole made a magnificent screen debut here and has never stopped working since. His character, T.E. Lawrence, has just been through a huge battle, trekked a never-ending desert, lost his beloved friend and is faced with the scorn and prejudice of his fellow British officers when he shows up in Arabian garb with a his young Arabian friend- who would usually only be allowed into the club as a servant.