“Whatever you decide is your motivation in the scene, the opposite of that is also true and should be in it…Consistency is the heart of dull acting.” -Michael Shurtleff, Audition
The great stage and screen actor, Hume Cronyn, said he followed one rule as an actor: “If you’re doing the devil, look for the angel in him. If you’re doing the angel, look for the devil in him.” Such fantastic advice!
Rewatch The Silence Of The Lambs. One of the reasons Anthony Hopkins is so freakin’ good and scary is that for the most part, he plays Hannibal Lecter as a charming cat. He talks and behaves in the exact opposite manner that you’d think a serial killer would. As a result, he constantly catches Clarice and us, the audience, off guard. We don’t know what to think. He’s unpredictable. He defies all our expectations. We can’t take our eyes off him. And when he does strike, it’s more terrifying than we could’ve ever imagined.
In your acting, in your art, hunt for opposites. They’re gifts. And trust that by doing so, you’re just behaving truthfully. Michael Shurtleff advises in his fantastic book, Audition, (a must read) to just observe yourself and others in everyday life. He writes…
“Think about a human being: in all of us there exists love and there exists hate, there exist creativity and an equal tendency toward self-destructiveness, there exist sleeping and waking, there exists night and there exists day, sunny moods and foul moods, a desire to love and a desire to kill. Since these extremities do exist in all of us, then they must also exist in each character in each scene.”