Al Pacino on Why He Loves Rehearsing and What Actors Should Do If They Feel Intimidated

Theatre

“I would say that intimidation and nerves are simply part of the field you have chosen to work in.” – Al Pacino

Let’s face it — even actors who are supremely confident in their abilities feel intimidated by others. It’s just the nature of the arts — with so much about it being subjective, it’s challenging to not feel intimidated by other’s performances and the praise and accolades that they receive. Even an actor with a significant level of renown like Al Pacino can feel it — or can feel when he is intimidating others. In an interview with ScreenRant about his film American Traitor: The Trial of Axis Sally, Pacino speaks at length on the role intimidation plays on an actor’s psyche.

The interviewer asks Pacino if he ever feels that his reputation intimidates actors he is working with, or if he has ever feels intimidated by other actors. Reflecting on his early experiences in theater, he explains:

“All actors have to find a way to get through that. We’re all nervous and we all have to deal with it. The various ways we handle it is an individual thing. Yes, I have worked with actors that have intimidated me, and certain situations have intimidated me throughout my career, of course. I’m glad you asked this question, because it allows me to explain why I prefer the rehearsal process. When you have the opportunity to be around your fellow actors long enough, that stigma of intimidation gets lifted because we’re human beings trying to put something together, and that’s what each project comes down to. If you’re a high wire act and if that person on the other side is intimidating you as you leap through the air and need to be caught, you could fall. Somehow, just through rehearsing, that engagement with the other actors and the feeling of doing it together becomes clear and humanizing. Let’s face it, I think it may be a cliché what I’m about to say, but I’ll let it fly anyway: we’re a team. Judith Malina, the great director of the Living Theatre, said to me, ‘There’s nothing better than the collective because the wisdom of people that demand it is clarity itself.’  You hear from people, and that’s why it’s so important. When we were working for Joseph Papp many years ago in a collective, I learned what it is: you’re sitting, around 30 strong, and everyone is talking about a scene together. Wow, the diversity, the ideas and the imagination and the energy lifts you up.”

Feeling that he may have gotten off-base with his answer while going down memory lane about his theater days, Pacino later adds, “I don’t mean to go off into the clouds, but if indeed I was talking to any young actors and actresses out there, I would say that intimidation and nerves are simply part of the field you have chosen to work in. It’s full of that stuff, but it’s good idea it get out there, keep going at it, because the more you deal with it, the better you get at handling it.”

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