Michael Caine And Dustin Hoffman Break Down Acting And Reveal Their Secrets

“It’s true what they say about failure. You don’t learn from success.”
— Dustin Hoffman

Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 hours rule from Outliers has caused some speculation among readers. The author states that spending 10,000 hours on a craft essentially makes you an expert.

Some of his examples include The Beatles and Bill Gates. Perhaps there’s room for speculation on the actual numbers, but experience is certainly key to becoming an expert.

Consider what lifelong actors like Dustin Hoffman or Michael Caine know about acting versus those still in acting school. Currently, Dustin Hoffman has over 80 film credits. Given the amount of time he likely spent on set (45–60 days), this is probably over 43,200–57,600 hours, plus rehearsal time.

Dustin Hoffman’s Master Class

In Dustin Hoffman’s Master Class, the actor revealed, “There is a wonderful exercise to access part of your brain. That’s what the method is. There’s a plate glass window over there; I’m going to try to break it with my voice.” As if he were then someone else, Hoffman screamed, “I said, ‘Get out of here!’”

During those iconic moments in his film career — Kramer vs. Kramer, Tootsie, Rain Man, The Graduate — he’s not thinking about anything other than the scene. To become a lifelong creative, Hoffman continues to ask himself one question: “How do you stop the candle from going out inside of you?”

Currently, Michael Caine has twice as many credits as Dustin Hoffman on IMDB. As the actors have gotten older and more iconic, many of these roles are supporting rather than starring, but it’s likely both actors spent equal time preparing for each role.

Michael Caine On Acting

As the Kevin Spacey joked, Michael Caine chooses roles as follows: “I sit in a nice, comfortable chair and I read the script they want me to consider. I read the first page, then I read the last page, and if the part they want me to play is on both pages I do the fucking picture.”

Whether or not this joke is true about Caine, he did literally write the book on acting, in Acting in Film: An Actor’s Take on Movie Making. Some of his bits of advice are those taught in acting school, while others can only come from an expert.

Some of Caine’s advice includes the following:

· Film acting is, in large part, reacting and listening.
· If you’re going to smoke on-screen, you must plan it absolutely perfectly, don’t mess up the continuity.
· While rehearsing something with a fellow actor, if a crew member can come up and recognize you’re rehearsing vs. having a real conversation, then you aren’t doing it right.
· The camera catches everything you do; so don’t be afraid to play things subtly.
· All actors steal certain gestures and behaviors from other actors — but the best actors make these gestures their own. Steal from the best, and make it your own.

“I rehearse on my own,” revealed the actor, now in his 80s. “By the time I come on set, I have said the line to myself, a minimum of 1,000 times.” Caine sees the line as part of a conversation, so he doesn’t need for someone to read the lines with him nor does he stand in front of a mirror to practice.

“When the other actor says the line, I’ve never heard it. You don’t know what someone’s going to say. That’s the trick. I don’t want to be in the situation where I know what he’s going to say, [but] I know what my bloody answer is, [because] I’ve said it 1,000 times!”

Caine thinks this makes the difference in his portrayals. He walks into the scene as if he’s about to have a simple conversation and by using repetition, he’s confident that he will not forget the lines. Similarly, he doesn’t visit the set if his character isn’t supposed to be familiar with the room.

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