What Do Actors Want in a Director

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"From a director, you want their full emotional participation..." - Natalie Portman

Actors often get all the credit for their performances, but it is usually the chemistry between actor and director that makes or breaks a role. Furthermore, a director who doesn't get along with his or her actors may find themselves struggling to stay afloat, because actors know that they, not the director, will get blamed for the bad performances.

So what does it take for a director to get along with their actors? What methods are most respected? Luckily for us, ElectricLightTV has cut together of some of the greatest actors on a planet discussing practices they love to see in their favorite directors. Here are some highlights (full video below):

  • “From a director, you want their full emotional participation because the audience experiences the film through the director’s eyes, so they need to be a character in every scene. They need to be emotionally involved in every scene.” – Natalie Portman

  • “If they know what they want, that’s great. What’s even better is if they can communicate what they want, and they can share it with you in such a way that you can actually bring things to them. I want somebody who is going to be open to my own creativity and who is willing to collaborate and allow me to swing.” – Laurence Fishburne

  • “I want a director who works with you, who’s there and, you know, ready to communicate because a character is built by three people, I think: director, actor, writer… He knows that you can achieve what he wants. I want to do and achieve what the director’s vision of the character is because I think that’s when you do your most interesting work. If you really trust a director, you’ve trusted his vision, he can bring out things in yourself that...let you sort of surprise yourself, which is when it becomes most fun as an actor.” – Rosamund Pike

  • “Enthusiasm. I like feedback, ya know? I love the directors that don’t look at the monitors, but there are very few of those now.” – Bruce Greenwood

  • “I think ultimately, collaboration. I think the relationship with the director...is just so important and so crucial, to be able to have open discussions and to be able to put opinions on the table and for them not to be judged but to be discussed, and then for ultimately the best case scenario to come out of that...” – Abbie Cornish

  • “Courage. I love when somebody comes to me and says, ‘I want to do this script. I want you to be on the journey with me.’ I think it’s always much more fascinating and fun and interesting if you actually are trying to explore something or trying to find out the truth about something. I don’t think it’s so fun when somebody says, ‘I know the truth, I know everything about this, so just do your thing. Just sit there go there and say that.’ Then it’s not working together. I think it’s always much more interesting to create and make the movie together… You have to have courage to do that...and you have to have trust.” – Noomi Rapace

  • “I like to be directed, in fact I’d say I demand a great deal from the directors I work with in cinema, who I trust and to whom I entrust the filming of my work. I want to be given direction and to be given guidance so I ask a lot, but only as much as I hope to give my actors when I direct in theater. I firmly believe in the commanding hand of the director at the helm of this ship that is making a film... I need to work with directors who have very clear ideas. Because I believe that within the limits of clarity exist the condition in which you can act with freedom.” – Toni Servillo