The Hollywood Reporter kicked off its annual awards season Actors Roundtable with Matthew McConaughey, Jake Gyllenhaal, Forest Whitaker, Jared Leto, Josh Brolin and Michael B. Jordan.
The star-studded panel featured an extended discussion on the trials and tribulations of acting — everything from audition failures and fears to shuffling between acting and family life. The 54-minute talk is a personal look at the rise all six actors who — from Forrest Whitaker’s portrayal of Cecil Gaines in “Lee Daniels’ The Butler” to Matthew McConaughey as Ron Woodroof in “Dallas Buyer’s Club” — have made 2013 a year that resonates with impressive physical and mental transformations in the name of acting.
Here are some of the highlights:
On Saying No Out of Fear?
JARED LETO: “Oh yeah. I’ve talked myself out of auditions a hundred times. I auditioned for [Robert] De Niro seven times, years and years ago. I remember auditioning for Terrence Malick, and the casting director upended a couch, and we were supposed to hide behind it and shoot imaginary guns! In that audition, I literally stood up, took a few imaginary bullets and shoved [the casting director]. I said: “I can’t do this. This is like a bad high school play,” and I walked out. And then Terrence called me — you guys I’m sure have met him; he’s the most gentle and amazing guy in the world — and he’s like: “Uh, Jared? I’d love you to be in my film.”
“I did for six years, almost.”
“I was focusing on other passions, and time kind of flew by. But it can be heartbreaking. You make these little movies — most of the time they don’t work.”
JAKE GYLLENHAAL: “It’s only appropriate as an indulgent actor to think about quitting ’cause it’s such an intense job.”
On The Biggest Mistakes Ever Made as Actors:
MATTHEW MCCONAUGHEY: “I didn’t study acting before I got [my] first job. And I thought: “Hey, maybe you’re not the kind of actor that needs to study lines. Maybe — [laughter] — you just know your man, and you show up and you just do it.” I go do this film, Scorpion Spring, and I got this idea: “I’m not gonna look at anything. I know what I am: the drug lord on the Mexican border in Texas. I’ll just show up on the set, stay fresh and loose.” Well, I get down there, OK, and I pick up this scene, and it’s a page-and-a-half monologue in Spanish.” I felt this trickle of sweat. “Um, can you give me 12 minutes?” I haven’t watched it yet, but, “Porque the yellow …” This is bad. And I said, “Never again, man.”
FORREST WHITAKER: “I was playing a schizophrenic [in The Last King of Scotland], and every night I kept working really hard, pushing my head to the point where I started to see the things that I was imagining. I realized there is a way to screw with your brain. It took me a really long time to get myself back to thinking the way I wanted to — it almost took a year.”
JAKE GYLLENHAAL: “The biggest mistake that I’ve made is not really admitting to myself that filmmaking is a director’s medium. We all get into situations where we’re working with people, and we try to control that. [But] I realized, once I’m gone, that’s going to be this director’s vision from here on out. I did that in the past a lot, and now, giving all of that up is such a beautiful and relieving thing.”
JOSH BROLIN: “Before [the past] seven or eight years, for 20 years I worked with a lot of people with not a massive amount of talent. And there was always ego; there were always fights. Working with the Coens — just kicking back on a couch and watching them edit — they have two desks that are perpendicular, and Ethan is picking the best takes, and then Joel is on the other desk, and then Ethan hits a bell — bing! — and Joel looks up, and he brings down the take and puts it in. I mean, it’s such a simple, amazing process to watch.”
On the “Year of the Black Actor in Film”:
MICHAEL B. JORDAN: “I feel like — it’s good to be part of that movement.”
FORREST WHITAKER: “I’ve been fortunate, I guess: I’ve gotten to play a lot of very diverse roles for quite a long time. But in the beginning, I was thinking: “I’m not gonna do certain characters. I will be willing to say no and live on a couch.” And I was really happy. Maybe more happy sometimes than in the latter years when I had more, when I was thinking and considering more things for different reasons — for family, for my home. But luckily I was able to at least maintain some sort of a line. Even if I would veer right or left, I would stay pretty close to center, and the roles were really interesting.”
On Balancing Your Personal and Professional Life:
JOSH BROLIN: I wasn’t working a lot when my kids were growing up, so I got to spend a lot of time at home. And my kids are 20 and 25 now, so I get to go work and don’t have to worry about them.
MATTHEW MCCONAUGHEY: Fortunately, mine come with me. My wife and I made a deal, and it scared me more than it scared her in the beginning. She was like, “OK, here’s the deal: When Papa goes to work, the McConaugheys come with him.” I was used to my Airstream trailer, solo, staying by myself, and I went, “Are you kidding me?” [But that is] a huge privilege.
JAKE GYLLENHAAL: My family has been in the movie business — my weirdly extended and immediate family. The movies are such a big part of our interactions. It makes me anxious being around a table here because this particular scenario just makes me feel like the dinner table. [Laughs.]
FORREST WHITAKER: That’s tough for me, being away, because my kids are teenagers, and they can’t be transported all over the place. You try to balance it. It’s more like a dance I have to play.
On the Biggest Sacrifices:
MICHAEL B. JORDAN: The family, for sure. When I was 19, I left Jersey and moved out here to L.A. to pursue acting. And one of my only regrets was not realizing how that affected my little brother. [There’s] a six-year difference between us, and when I’m 19, he’s 13, and that’s the age that he really needs his older brother. And I was selfishly trying to pursue the acting thing on the other side of the country. [He was] growing up in the shadow of his older brother — not being his own person in a way — [with] everybody looking at him: “Oh, that’s Mike’s little brother.” I guess you just have to accept it.
JAKE GYLLENHAAL: What (Michael B. Jordan) said, which is really true, is there is just a selfish nature. I think there has to be that kind of indulgence. The business can create a real selfishness.
On the Strangest Auditions:
JOSH BROLIN: I did an audition for [1989’s] The Fly 2. I was living in New York at the time, and I went in there, and he’s in a cocoon, transforming into a fly. So I walked in, and I started reading. You do the voice, and you’re like, [choking sounds] you know, doing your thing. And I ended up on the floor, frothing at the mouth. I got back to my apartment, and there was already a message on my machine from my agent that said: “What the f— did you do in there? You scared them.” I said, “Well, did I get it?” That was the worst audition I ever did.
FORREST WHITAKER: I fell through a stage once. I was doing a truly African dance, and all of a sudden I hit the ground with my foot and went straight through the stage. I guess they didn’t have much money, so the floor was kind of rotting.
MATTHEW MCCONAUGHEY: Worst for me was a Lee Tamahori film. Went for a read on that for the part of the heavy. I knew going out, “Man, you kind of gave 80 percent.” And I got in my truck and turned around — U-turn — came back in, just [walked] right past the secretary, knocked the casting director out of the way, went right up to [Tamahori] and weight-nailed him against the wall. I grabbed the next guy and put him in the corner and grabbed like a spoon or something. I just wrecked the room and then left. I didn’t hear back from ’em.
JAKE GYLLENHAAL: I remember auditioning for The Lord of the Rings [the role of Frodo] and going in and not being told that I needed a British accent. I really do remember Peter Jackson saying to me, “You know that you have to do this in a British accent?” We heard back it was literally one of the worst auditions.
JARED LETO: It is an incredibly strange process as a grown man to go in and let your ego and your pride get deflected. It’s a strange thing.
JOSH BROLIN: I literally started filming my own auditions. [Then-president of production] Meryl Poster at Miramax 10 years ago said, “You and Benicio Del Toro were notoriously the worst auditioners we’ve ever seen.”
Watch the video below:
For more check out The Hollywood Reporter article here.