Martin Landau: “Acting is NOT showing”

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  • Martin Landau:

    “Acting is Not Showing” 

    Putting all your emotions on display does not necessarily make your performance more interesting

    (arranged by AM Staff)

    (Martin Landau in Crimes and Misdemeanors)


    Acting is NOT showing.


    The late Martin Landau (June 2, 1928 – July 15, 2017) was an American actor, known for his award-winning roles on both television and in film. He was also an acting coach at The Actors Studio.

  • Landau passed away on July 15, 2017 at the age of 89.

    His film career included early roles in movies like Cleopatra (1963), North by Northeast (1959) and The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965). His later work would include Oscar-nominated and Oscar-winning performances in Tucker: The Man and His Dream (1988), Ed Wood (1994) and Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989).

    Landeau also found success on television, with appearances on television series like Mission: Impossible.

  • One notable bit of advice Landau passed along to aspiring film actors is that emotions are not always something to put on display. Indeed, the most interesting emotions are often implied, rather than revealed.


    Only bad actors try to cry. Good actors try not to. Only bad actors try to laugh. Good actors try not to. Only bad actors play drunk. Good actors play sober. How a character hides his feelings tells us who he is.” 

    (Martin Landau) 



  • Landau went further:

    “In a well-written script, what people say to each other – the dialogue – is what a character’s willing to reveal, willing to share with another person. The 90% he or she isn’t willing to share is what I do for a living.”

    In on-camera acting, putting all your emotions on display does not necessarily make your performance more interesting. Instead, it’s the opposite. It leaves little to the imagination. It leaves the audience with too few blanks to fill in, on their own, about your character’s thoughts and intentions. And it leaves no room for the audience to yearn for more.


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