Acting, Professions, Reality

I keep thinking about how being a professional actor impacts your view of the real world.

On the one hand, I see examples of high profile actors that seem content to remain on the fringes, outside the normal confines and rules of normal life, not inclined to be interested in politics or share their opinion, let alone try to use politics as a weapon to impact change.

On the other, I see actors highly involved in sharing their political views and working to impact change.

All-time examples include Ronald Reagan as President and Arnold Schwartz as California Governor but the list extends far beyond that and the twittersphere is filled with actors expressing their political views openly.

Meanwhile, Anthony Hopkins has said in interviews that he doesn’t even vote and doesn’t like to share his opinions or pass judgment. And we see how one of the most successful actors of all time, Daniel Day-Lewis rarely gives interviews or shares any of his views.

These are two of the most successful actors of all time. I’m inclined to try to create a formula for this, like: The greater your success and fame as an actor, the more you’re able to comfortably distance yourself from reality or the concerns of normal people. This, however, is probably less related to being an actor and more related to having enough wealth to not have to worry about things in the same way people with fewer resources worry.

Certainly, there are very high profile actors with tremendous wealth who insert themselves into the political process (Hanks, Clooney, DiCaprio) and so I think the bottom line is something like: It’s very difficult to make any blanket statements about what being a professional actor does to your engagement with “real life.” It’s all a choice. Our professional certainly impact the way we think but hopefully it doesn’t consume our thinking completely. Hopefully living in a fantasy professionally, as an actor, doesn’t mean we’re forced to continue living there outside that and, hopefully, being a professional computer programmer doesn’t mean we have to attempt to reduce everything in conditional logic. But my own experience does tell me that what you spend a lot of your day working on DOES impact how you see the rest of the world.

When you go really deep on anything it can be hard to get out of it and find balance. Daniel Day-Lewis, during his rare interviews, has spoken about the depression or sadness he has felt from embodying certain characters. I think of the tragic end of Heath Ledger’s life after his brilliant role as The Joker when he reportedly, locked himself away in a room for a month to try to “find the character.”

This all seems to be an argument for the importance of balance. Even this, however, is tricky because sometimes balance doesn’t get us to something really great. Sometimes we need to go deep.

Maybe the only reason Day-Lewis, Ledger or even Johnny Depp are able to get to these amazing places is because they go deep. (In Depp’s case, I think he’d still be great without a 30k / month wine habit and 20 homes around the world, or whatever the number is.)

Consider too, the number of broken families or failed relationships from professionals in any occupation who have absolutely rebelled against balance neglected their relationships and family in favor of seeking “greatness” by going very deep on something.