Actors, on the whole, are the most loyal members of the film business. They’re probably too loyal for their own good and definitely more loyal than the rest of us often deserve. They are especially loyal to writers. They give writers the benefit doubt even when they have a feeling a writer hasn’t written something very good. Actors assume writers know best when everyone else in the business assumes they don’t. If actors knew what writers know about writing, they might not be so loyal, and that would be just fine with writers and the film camera.
Actors assume everything that exists on the page is all that exists. For writers, what’s on the page is just the tip of a very big iceberg most of which is not visible on the surface. Writers leave most of the world of the story off the page. On film it’s the job of actors and directors to imagine the world the writer left off the page and apply it to the words the writer put on the page in order to make what is on the page become three dimensional on the screen. Filmmaking is the art of imagining and creating the three dimensional world beyond the words.
Actors try to understand everything their characters are thinking and feeling at every moment. Human beings don’t understand themselves that thoroughly. What makes characters interesting to watch on film is that they don’t understand the feelings they’re feeling and watching them grapple with that.
Many actors dissect every word their character utters for secret and profound meaning and infuse each one with as much dramatic significance as possible. If actors want writers to be as obsessively in love with them as they are with writers, actors will remember CleverActorTip#37: “The less you make of the words the more you make of the lines; the less you make of the lines the more you make of the scene.”