Laurence Olivier Poster

Quotes (44)

  • Acting is illusion, as much illusion as magic is, and not so much a matter of being real.
  • Without acting, I cannot breathe.
  • Of all the things I've done in life, directing a motion picture is the most beautiful. It's the most exciting and the nearest than an interpretive craftsman, such as an actor can possibly get to being a creator.
  • If I wasn't an actor, I think I'd have gone mad. You have to have extra voltage, some extra temperament to reach certain heights. Art is a little bit larger than life - it's an exhalation of life and I think you probably need a little touch of madness.
  • Work is life for me, it is the only point of life - and with it there is almost religious belief that service is everything.
  • [In 1979] You must have - besides intuition and sensitivity - a cutting edge that allows you to reach what you need. Also, you have to know life - bastards included - and it takes a bit of one to know one, don't you think?
  • [the only acting advice he would give] What is acting but lying and what is good lying but convincing lying?
  • Acting is a masochistic form of exhibitionism. It is not quite the occupation of an adult.
  • I'm England, that's all.
  • [on Method acting] All this talk about the Method, the Method! WHAT method? I thought each of us had our OWN method!
  • [to a young actress who complained she was not taken seriously because she was a blonde] But my dear, it was your decision!
  • [January 1970] I don't know what is better than the work that is given to the actor - to teach the human heart the knowledge of itself.
  • The office of drama is to exercise, possibly to exhaust, human emotions. The purpose of comedy is to tickle those emotions into an expression of light relief; of tragedy, to wound them and bring the relief of tears. Disgust and terror are the other points of the compass.
  • [first address to the House of Lords, 1971] I believe in the theater; I believe in it as the first glamorizer of thought. It restores dramatic dynamics and their relations to life size.
  • [first address in the House of Lords, 1971] I believe that in a great city, or even in a small city or a village, a great theater is the outward and visible sign of an inward and probable culture.
  • Surely we have always acted; it is an instinct inherent in all of us. Some of us are better at it than others, but we all do it.
  • We have all, at one time or another, been performers, and many of us still are - politicians, playboys, cardinals and kings.
  • The actor should be able to create the universe in the palm of his hand.
  • I often think that could we creep behind the actor's eyes, we would find an attic of forgotten toys and a copy of the Domesday Book.
  • [on whether he harbored any resentment at his forced retirement from the stage after he was fired by Britain's National Theater] I should be soaring away with my head tilted slightly toward the gods, feeding on the caviar of Shakespeare... An actor must act.
  • My stage successes have provided me with the greatest moments outside myself, my film successes the best moments, professionally, within myself.
  • [May 1958, on playing Macbeth at age 30 and age 48] When you're a young man, Macbeth is a character part. When you're older, it's a straight part.
  • I like to appear as a chameleon. So all my career I've attempted to disguise myself.
  • I'm afraid I probably outrage the Method people.
  • [upon seeing Dustin Hoffman's "method" acting technique of not sleeping and making a mess of himself to get into character while shooting Marathon Man (1976)] Dear boy, it's called acting.
  • [When asked by Barry Norman why he had taken on the role of the Mahdi in Khartoum (1966), for which he was so obviously ill-suited] One doesn't do everything for artistic reasons, dear boy.
  • [to 1979 Academy Awards show writer Buz Kohan, after receiving his honorary Oscar] God, I mucked that up. I had no idea what I was saying but I didn't want to stop.
  • [upon being awarded his second honorary Academy Award in 1979, an Oscar statuette for Lifetime Achievement, "for the full body of his work, for the unique achievements of his entire career and his lifetime of contribution to the art of film," presented by Cary Grant] Oh, dear friends, am I supposed to speak after that? Cary, my dear old friend for many a year - from the earliest years of either of us working in this country - thank you for that beautiful citation and the trouble you have taken to make it and for all the warm generosities in it. Mr. President and governors of the Academy, committee members, fellows, my very noble and approved good masters, my colleagues, my friends, my fellow students. In the great wealth, the great firmament of your nation's generosities, this particular choice may be found by future generations to be a trifle eccentric, but the mere fact of it - the prodigal, pure, human kindness of it - must be seen as a beautiful star in the firmament which shines upon me at this moment, dazzling me a little, but filling me with warmth and the extraordinary elation, the euphoria that happens to so many of us at the first breath of the majestic glow of a new tomorrow. From the top of this moment, in the solace, in the kindly emotion that it is changing my soul and my heart at this moment, I thank you for this great gift which lends me such a very splendid part in this, your glorious occasion. Thank you.
  • [1989] Time I was gone. Time I was dead.
  • [on ex-wife Vivien Leigh] We were like brother and sister, just as she always wanted. But fortunately, occasional incest was allowed.
  • [on Spencer Tracy] I've learned more about acting from watching Tracy than in any other way.
  • [on Marilyn Monroe] There were two entirely unrelated sides to Marilyn. You would not be far out if you described her as schizoid; the two people that she was could hardly have been more different. She was so adorable, so witty, such incredible fun and more physically attractive than anyone I could have imagined, apart from herself on the screen.
  • [on Vivien Leigh] Parts seem to haunt more actresses than actors. Poor darling Vivien was very much haunted. A Streetcar Named Desire (1951) didn't do her any good at all.
  • [on Vivien Leigh] Apart from her looks, which were magical, she possessed beautiful poise; her neck looked almost too fragile to support her head and bore with it a sense of surprise, and something of the pride of the master juggler who can make a brilliant maneuver appear almost accidental. She also had something else: an attraction of the most perturbing nature I had ever encountered.
  • [on actress Ann Harding] The pretty and highly regarded Ann Harding, a woman of great charm, integrity and beauty.
  • [on Charles Laughton] The only actor of genius I've ever met.
  • [on Alec Guinness] He's an actor, that fellow, a superb actor. But over and above that he does his homework. However idiosyncratically I saw Alec playing a part, I would be very, very cautious about criticizing it, because I know that every point about it would be backed by a complete marshaling of all available evidence. He really does his homework.
  • [on Michael Caine] Wonderfully good company, ceaselessly funny and a brilliant actor.
  • [on Marilyn Monroe] A professional amateur.
  • [on needing to reshoot their torture scene in Marathon Man (1976) because Method actor Dustin Hoffman had gotten excessively drunk the first time so he'd look really out of it] Oh, why doesn't he just *act*?
  • [on Marlon Brando] Brando acted with an empathy and an instinctual understanding that not even the greatest technical performers could possibly match.
  • [on Marilyn Monroe] Look at that face - she could be five years old.
  • [on Inchon (1981)]People ask me why I'm playing in this picture. The answer is simple. Money, dear boy. I'm like a vintage wine. You have to drink me quickly before I turn sour. I'm almost used up now and I can feel the end coming. That's why I'm taking money now. I've got nothing to leave my family but the money I can make from films. Nothing is beneath me if it pays well. I've earned the right to damn well grab whatever I can in the time I've got left.
  • [In 1983] If you're 75, which I am, it's damned hard to find parts. Lear is the only star part for an old man that I know of - I've never heard of a good play about Methusaleh. I played the title role only once before the Old Vic. I was 39. When you're younger, Lear doesn't feel real. When you get to my age, you 'are' Lear in every nerve of your body.