Acting means living, it’s all I do and all I’m good at. If I weren’t getting paid well, I would still be acting in a small troupe somewhere.
All my life, all my life that I can, as far back as I can remember, I saw my first movie when I was six years old. And since then I wanted to do that. I wanted to be a part of that.
And finding the hat, I always like to find the hat. And then props just dress the set. It’s all fabulous.
And some places you been before are so great that you don’t ever mind going back. Some places you been before you don’t ever want to go back, you know, like Montreal in the Winter.
And that if you become a star, people are going to go to see you. If you remain an actor, they’re going to go and see the story you’re in.
As you grow in this business, you learn how to do more with less.
Black history is American history.
But I can say that life is good to me. Has been and is good. So I think my task is to be good to it. So how do you be good to life? You live it.
Dr. Martin Luther King is not a black hero. He is an American hero.
Give me something interesting to play and I’m happy.
I always tell my kids if you lay down, people will step over you. But if you keep scrambling, if you keep going, someone will always, always give you a hand. Always. But you gotta keep dancing, you gotta keep your feet moving.
I am going to stop calling you a white man and I’m going to ask you to stop calling me a black man.
I can only be so long without work before I start getting antsy.
I do know there are a lot of people who seem to be in my corner, and that’s, of course, wonderful. I’m really more interested in the nomination than in the award, because I think the nomination just puts you within a group of outstanding actors.
I don’t get off on romantic parts. But I often think if I had had my dental work done early on, well, maybe.
I don’t have to work. I could stop and never have to worry about paying the rent. I’m working for the joy of doing it.
I don’t know what my favorite film of mine is… But I think the most important film I was in was ‘Glory’.
I don’t want a Black History Month. Black history is American history.
I feel fine, I don’t care who the director is. All you have to do is know what your doing – all of us – everybody in the business – that’s all you ask anyone – you know your job, I know mine, let’s go do it.
I find it difficult to watch myself… I find it boring.
I gravitate towards gravitas.
I had a philosophic aversion to it. I didn’t want to do the same thing twice. Then, I realized that my philosophical aversion was bullshit. I realized I liked Alex Cross. And the fact that he’s black is totally incidental. That’s a rare thing for a black actor to find. – on his hesitation to do Along Came a Spider.
I have never acted he has never been cast in a romantic lead or has been cast opposite a female love interest in any movie he starred in.
I joined the air force. I took to it immediately when I arrived there. I did three years, eight months, and ten days in all, but it took me a year and a half to get disabused of my romantic notions about it.
I knew at an early age I wanted to act. Acting was always easy for me. I don’t believe in predestination, but I do believe that once you get where ever it is you are going, that is where you were going to be.
I knew that movie wasn’t going to work. I don’t think Brian De Palma had a clue. It struck me that he didn’t read the book – or that he didn’t like the book. Originally, they hired Alan Arkin to play the judge. Perfect. But it was not politically correct. They only had one black character in the film and he was not a positive character. So, they fired Alan and hired me. I was kind of a suck ass for not turning it down, but they weren’t going to give it back to Alan anyway. I never did get around to seeing the movie.
I like the blues a lot. I grew up on it.
I like the character roles. Somewhere back there I really came to the conclusion in my mind that the difference between acting and stardom was major. And that if you become a star, people are going to go to see you. If you remain an actor, they’re going to go and see the story you’re in.
I saw ‘Fight Club’ and I didn’t like it much. It’s a great movie, well made, fabulous acting, but it just made me feel so bad. But David Fincher is an extraordinarily good director.
I saw Neil LaBute’s first movie, ‘In the Company of Men’, and I thought it sucked deeply. I mean, talk about a couple of scuzzy guys. Man, they were turds. But I was intrigued by the mind that would think this up and film it. Then, I saw LaBute’s second movie, ‘Your Friends & Neighbors’. Not any better, but still intriguing. So then I got the script for Nurse Betty, and I loved it and I went and met him. And it turns out he’s married, has these lovely kids. He’s just this big bear of a man. Cuddly, even. It didn’t take any persuading to convince me to do the film.
I think we all have a private bucket list. It may not be written down, but I’m constantly checking them off. I just checked off Jack Nicholson. Every day was a holiday because I’ve been praying at the temple of Jack ever since Five Easy Pieces. I had a chance to ride with him on the Warner Brothers plane with Clint. I got to jawing what a fan I was, and as actors will do, he expressed how he liked my work. Then we started talking about how we could make a sequel to ‘The Last Detail’. But that didn’t pan out.
I want to thank everybody and anybody who ever had anything to do with the making of this picture.
I was in Africa when I got the call for ‘Unforgiven’. Clint called my agency and made an offer for a western. I was like, ‘He called for me?’ It was jaw-dropping.
I was talking to Bob Hoskins when we were making Unleashed together. We were talking about the joy of doing bad guys. And he confirmed exactly what I was thinking. With bad guys you get to let it all out. All those dark places in your psyche? You can let ’em go. When you play good guys, it’s kind of boring. It’s one note.
I work about half the year. I’m just a guy who enjoys his work and enjoys working with people who enjoy their work. When that happens you get a bonding situation and if it come out with a good product, then that ties you even closer together. It’s almost like a great love affair.
If you don’t show the actual violence and the audience provides their own violence, it’s much more gruesome. This is a guy who spent a lot time planning and preparing, and what was he doing? He was punishing people for their sins. He had a moral agenda. A twisted moral agenda, but do you know how many people do? People in high places.
If you live a life of make-believe, your life isn’t worth anything until you do something that does challenge your reality. And to me, sailing the open ocean is a real challenge, because it’s life or death.
If you wake up and the snow is knee-deep outside, you are not filled with rage. It’s just something that you’ve got to cope with. If you’re living in a situation it’s the only situation that you know, and you’ve got to deal with it.
If you’re playing somebody who is not you, then you can imagine that you are that person. You can feel like he feels, move like he moves, look like he looks – in your own mind.
I’m not intimidated by lead roles. I’m better in them. I don’t feel pressure. I feel released at times like that. That’s what I’m born to do.
I’m not one for blaspheming, but that one made me laugh.
I’m very worried about what’s going on in the world at the moment because we have this Napoleonic president; by Napoleonic I mean he’s a man who just seems to need to search himself. It doesn’t make sense. I don’t have any love lost on Saddam Hussein. If he needs to be removed from office, fine. You have to find the right way to do it, but going to war, nah, with the people. To do what. What is the real reason? Because he’s harboring weapons of mass destruction? So it is with North Korea. Why are we acting to acquiesce to this? We do not need the Iraqi oil. We have Kuwait oil. It’s the same pool. That’s why Kuwait’s there. That’s why Kuwait was set up. You think that country could exist there without somebody backing it? We’re talking about a piece of Iraq. So, we keep this. That’s my noise. I am terribly upset about the whole thing.
Is there a movie I think I should have won the Oscar for? Yeah. All of them.
It can have an enormous effect because big budget movies can have big budget perks, and small budget movies have no perks, but what is the driving force, of course, is the script, and your part in it.
It took a long time for word of mouth to kick in because no one could say it. It was ‘The Shimshunk Reduction’, ‘The Hudsucker Redemption’; I mean people just couldn’t say it, which really made me angry because I knew that at the time! The movie we made was called ‘Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption’. Isn’t that a great title? But they were like, ‘That won’t fit on the marquee.’ So it took a year or two for people to say it. Some people still can’t say it.
It was a wonderful experience. Steve Bing was the producer and was very generous. But the movie didn’t turn out very well. The director fell ill and we shut down production for a few weeks while he recuperated. And I think when he came back he just didn’t pick up the ball and run with it the way he should have, and the movie suffered greatly for that.
It was my idea to just do The Electric Company’ for a couple of years and go on. But, you get trapped by that money thing. It’s golden handcuffs. It gets a lot of people, including soap opera actors and commercial actors. Then, they don’t want to see you in serious work. That was going to be me, having people come up to me saying ‘My kids love you!’. I was there three years too long’.
It’s a tricky character, right on the edge of Uncle Remus. But, I knew how to play him right away. I knew when I read it. I just saw him – the dignity in the character. The only time I ever worried about it was when I was doing the show Off-Broadway, and all these Southerners would come back wiping their eyes and talking about how nostalgic it made them feel. How their grandmother had a chauffeur just like that. I was like, ‘God damn it! I made these people nostalgic for the good ol’ days!’ But, then, I had some black friends see it, and they said, ‘Oh, my grandfather was exactly like that.’ So that made me feel okay. – On the character of Hoke in Driving Miss Daisy.
It’s sort of well-known that anytime any catastrophe happens anywhere in the world, they can count on the United States for help.
It’s what I learn from the great actors that I work with. Stillness. That’s all and that’s the hardest thing.
I’ve been living with myself all of my life, so I know all of me. So when I watch me, all I see is me. It’s boring.
I’ve never been a mechanic. Throughout my life, what I have been is an actor, a pretender. I do have the wife and the family and the stuff like that but on the other hand, I’m – knock on wood – outstandingly healthy.
Just that working with Clint again is like coming home.
Learning how to be still, to really be still and let life happen – that stillness becomes a radiance.
Let me be the first to tell you, drinking alcohol is the worst thing to do in cold weather. Hot soup is the best because the process of digesting food helps to warm you up.
Let me tell you about being executive producer. It is not a job, it’s a title. Don’t go around asking executive producers what they do because they don’t do anything, alright?
Life doesn’t offer you promises whatsoever so it’s very easy to become, ‘Whatever happened to… ?’ It’s great to be wanted. I spent a few years not being wanted and this is better.
Martin Luther King Jr. is remembered as our prince of peace, of civil rights. We owe him something major that will keep his memory alive.
Most of the time it’s the role. Sometimes it’s the story and sometimes it just the paycheck. It’s the little movies that come out as stories or the fact that I have work to go out, you know what I’m saying, you can only be out so long without work, you start getting antsy.
My approach to acting is that I am totally intuitive. I read the script and I get it. If I don’t get it, I can’t do it.
My parents were working in a hospital in Memphis. But I didn’t live there for any length of time that I remember. The first thing I remember is the town in Mississippi that I live in now, Charleston.
Not only do I have to live, right, I have to get some cash for my troubles – it’s a scary thing, and people need to start to think about the messages that they send in the movies.
Once you’ve gotten the job, there’s nothing to it. If you’re an actor, you’re an actor. Doing it is not the hard part. The hard part is getting to do it.
People hear that and say I’m being modest, but I am not a modest person, but I have to be truthful about what I’m doing and what I’m doing is channeling.
People need to start to think about the messages that they send in the movies.
People say it’s a movie about boxing, but… I don’t agree at all. I don’t think it’s a movie about boxing. Boxing is like a platform. It’s just a stage where this is played out.
People thought it was a picture about slavery. But it wasn’t about slavery at all. It was about American jurisprudence. The point of the film ultimately was that the President in not the king. But I think people were like, ‘Jesus, not another movie about slavery!’ We really do have a negative response to negative history. Which is a shame.
Sometimes you want to upset an audience so you can engage them. I’ve done so-called Hollywood films, and I know that it’s all about wanting the audience to feel upbeat, give them a happy ending. But they also like complete stories. If your story’s complete it doesn’t have to have a happy ending.
Still, it can be more effective to accomplish what you need to accomplish with the minimum effort. Watch Anthony Hopkins. He doesn’t appear to be doing anything. He is so still that you can’t see him working, but you are drawn into his character through his very stillness.
Stop talking about it. I’m going to stop calling you a white man. And I’m going to ask you to stop calling me a black man.
The accident was a horrible thing – but that horrible thing made Chris, at the end of his life, Superman. It’s a happy irony if there is such a thing. I’m proud to have known him.
The American Indians have this saying. ‘Look at the day, look at the sunlight, the grass and the trees! It’s a good day to die!’
The best way to guarantee a loss is to quit.
The reason actors, artists, writers have agents is because we’ll do it for nothing. That’s a basic fact – you gotta do it.
There’s no mystery to it. Nothing more complicated than learning lines and putting on a costume.
They say there’s no fool like an old fool. But blessings be upon my wife because I think without her, I’d be somebody’s fool by now.
This kid came up with Napster, and before that, none of us thought of content protection.
Upon getting work as an off-Broadway actor in 1967, I made $70 a week as an actor and I’d been making $60 in LA. Making more than that as an actor was just unbelievable to me. I never went back to typing but had some real lean times in-between. But I didn’t have to go to work for anybody else. I didn’t have to wash dishes, I didn’t have to wait tables, I didn’t have to drive a cab or wash cars. I deliberately left myself nothing to fall back on. If you’ve got a cushion, where you land, you stay. You can’t climb a mountain with a net. If you’ve got the net, you’ll let go.
Upon waking up face down in a door way and not knowing how he got there: ‘I recognised that it had become a problem, so I just quit. I do have self-control. Once I realise that I’ve got to change something I just do it.’
Was I always going to be here? No I was not. I was going to be homeless at one time, a taxi driver, truck driver, or any kind of job that would get me a crust of bread. You never know what’s going to happen.
When I got nominated for the Oscar, it put rocket boosters in my career. Since childhood, all I wanted to do was make movies. I love the stage, but I wanted to be a movie actor.
When I was a teenager, I began to settle into school because I’d discovered the extracurricular activities that interested me: music and theater.
When I was doing press for Deep Impact, reporters would always ask me how it felt to play the first black president, and I’d tell them, ‘I’m not playing the first black president. I’m playing a president who happens to be black.’ Or they’d ask me what sort of research I did for the role. Research? What kind of research do you need to play the president? He’s a guy. Besides, we all know what presidents are like standing up there in a press conference. Hell, you don’t have to do any research to play a president.
When I was doing theater, I was very successful at believing that I was great, God’s gift to the theater.
You couldn’t possibly try to entertain all of the people who seem to be offering you entertainment. Because most of them want some compensation for it.
You know, I was hanging out with Sidney Poitier and we were trying to decide if he or I were the better actor. We decided it was me as I convinced the world I could sing.
You want to be home about three weeks after you left in a big way but the family’s okay, particularly if you’re going someplace you never been before.
You’re going to relegate my history to a month.