Every actress or actor has wondered about it at one point in their career: What is the secret for being a successful actor? What do I need to do to improve my chances at being a working actor? What do I need to have? Is it working out like crazy? Having heaps of talent? Having a flawless face? Having the ever vague “X-factor”? Being confident? Being everyone’s friend? I’ve certainly wondered about these things. I studied the A-list actors like microbes in a petri-dish, looking for similarities, hoping to find a formula to success in Hollywood…
It’s obvious what Angelina Jolie, Johnny Depp, Brad Pitt and Julia Roberts have in common. Their gorgeousness, indeed! Although Brad is not really my type, I’m sure that breaks his heart. Because it is so obvious I think is why a lot of people overestimate this factor, driving 15-year olds to the plastic surgeon for a nose job and other craziness. Yes, I’m sure you need to have some pretty if you want to be an it-girl or teen idol. I’m also sure it helps your career in some ways. But is it really that all-important for being a successful actor? Los Angeles is swarming with stunning people after all, and it’s not always the most pretty person that gets the job. And what about Sean Penn, Nicole Kidman, Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep? I’m not saying they were at the back of the line when faces were handed out, far from it, but they’re no in-your-face-pretty Megan Foxes either. So while beauty seems to be one ingredient of the formula, it certainly isn’t all of it. Or even half.
Talent is of course also quite helpful! Another obvious one, although a little bit more elusive. All the Oscar competitors this year have talent for sure. Some actors are undeniably good and some undeniably bad. But as with any art discipline, I think the perception of someone having talent is subjective and a matter of taste too. Besides, not all successful actors are talented actors (Ashton Kutcher?) and not all unsuccessful actors are untalented. So while it’s quite an important factor, it doesn’t seem to be determiningthe formula either. So what else is there? What sets apart beautiful, talented actress number one from beautiful, talented actress number 3817 at an audition?
I think charisma plays a big part. Actors need to catch the casting director’s attention during days when thousands of other actors show up doing the same scene and being charming and interesting can help a great deal. Maybe it’s the silly “X-factor” everyone talks about, because especially actors that become famous are usually charming people. Well, at the beginning of their careers anyway. And yes, of course opinions differ and who is charming and who isn’t, but I think it’s safe to say that everyone agrees on who catches your attention or not. Wether in a good or a bad way. Successful Hollywood doesn’t solely consist out of famous, charming actors, though. There’s tons of actors who work constantly and make a great living, but who no-one’s ever heard of. Like those actors that seem to come by in a guest part on every TV-show on earth. Or those actors that always have supporting roles in movies. So what do they have that got them winning an audition?
Well, to even get to the audition in the first place they probably busted their derrieres off. I think this is really the thing that sets two talented, charming, stunning actors apart. I have written a post on this before but being an actor is really like owning your own business. You have to go out, network, work on your acting, stay healthy, send out headshots, keep talent and casting agencies up to date, build your resume with unpaid work, keep track of your contacts, look for auditions, work a low-level job to pay for printing your headhots etc. etc. If you don’t do these things, they won’t get done. And people won’t know that you’re out there, the perfect type for that role they’re casting. So if one thing is important in the formula of success, I think this is it.
But unfortunately the world isn’t a place where all hard workers get rewarded and all lazy bums go nowhere. Some people happen to have a father who is a director (this happens more than you think, and it’s extremely frustrating), some people happen to bump into Steven Spielberg in MacDonalds and end up in his movie… And some people happen to be exactly the type the director was looking for on an audition. This last kind of luck is the most common. No matter how beautiful and charming and talented you are, when someone writes or reads a story, they get images in their head. Especially scriptwriters and directors. And there’s not much you can do to influence fitting in that picture, you just have to be lucky. Fortunately everyone who tries long enough, is bound to get lucky a couple of times. And when that time comes, all we have to do is be ready. So I’m just gonna use this quote again: luck is when opportunity meets preparation.
So, the formula? I don’t think there is just one. There’s probably many possible formula’s to get succes in Hollywood, although all of them probably include a pinch (or a butt-load) of luck. What do you think? Anything I missed? Any interesting experiences? You have thoughts, so share them!
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