Matthew McConaughey in "Dallas Buyers Club"
Matthew McConaughey in "Dallas Buyers Club"

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."

On Quitting: 


"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."