Timothy Dalton's Acting Class Introduction
During the week October 27th to November 3rd 2001, Timothy attended the Savannah Film and Video Festival at the Savannah College of Art and Design and while he was there Timothy very graciously offered to give a talk, for students at the college. I was very lucky to have been sent the audio tape of this class and I have transcribed it here, in full. Where Timothy has stressed a word I have put that text in a different shade of green for you, so here then is the transcript of Timothy's Acting Class:-
The Savannah College of Art and Design Proudly Present Timothy Dalton's Acting Class - 1st November 2001.
Timothy Dalton conducting the Acting Class at the Savannah College of Art and Design - 1st November 2001. Photograph taken by Kristin Despathy © Copyright November 2001. Used with permission.
Timothy: "Morning Everybody"
Tutor - Jeffrey de Vincent: "Good morning ladies and gentleman today we are very pleased to have with us actor Timothy Dalton. Mr Dalton has appeared (the audience applauds) Mr Dalton has appeared in many many films, many many television series, mini series including, how many of you saw recently the Possessed on television a really scary movie umm Cleopatra, The Reef, Beautician and the Beast, Framed, umm Scarlett - mini series (some of the audience applauds) In Search of Wolves, The Rocketeer (one of the students says "yes" in acknowledgment of The Rocketeer and the audience laugh appreciably because of it) Agatha and The Lion in Winter just to name a very brief few that he has experienced. He has graciously offered to come and talk to you students today and we are very honored to have him. Mr Dalton "Thank you."
Timothy: "Thank you"
Jeffrey: "Umm I am going to, how we are going to work this is I am going to start with the first couple of questions and then you are welcome just to join in. Raise your hands of course don't just join in too freely. Umm Mr Dalton is, is and or was, a member of the Royal Shakespeare Company and I would like to hear what your experience was like with the RSC?"
Timothy: Well, it might not be what you're hoping to hear. I went to the RSC first of all in I think it was 19, gosh it was so long ago I can hardly remember, 1973, I think, to play Romeo in Romeo and Juliet and Costard the Clown in Love's Labour's Lost a big, big, company, an extremely good company, but a company that was locked I think at that time in sort of very intellectualized almost passionless productions. Where people would be dressed in, you know, black, grey, light grey, dark grey, back-black, less then black and sets were usually constructed of industrial umm shapes and forms made out of sudo steel, so there wasn't a lot of joy on the stage in those days umm some people loved the productions. I found the experience of being at Stratford which has been turned into a, a sort of a tourist toy town a little disturbing it seemed rather removed from, I don't know, trying to reach people with honesty passion and vigor, we became a show, you know, I mean obviously not a theater show but like a tourist show, but it was, it's a great company. My second experience was much better we opened the Barbican Theater in London which is in fact a horrible building, and a horrible theater where you virtually have to shout to be heard but we did a wonderful production of Henry IV in which I played the role of Hotspur, and you know, fortunately it was a great success and I was very happy.
Jeffrey: "Wonderful. Could you explain your own training, your own.."
Jeffrey: "How you approach a role please?"
Timothy: "Training and how I approach a role?"
Timothy: "Well training I had always wanted to, since I was a kid, to be an actor, proberbly a movie actor from seeing films as a kid. I hadn't got much awareness of the theater itself until I was really quite late as a teenager, umm you know, doing my exams, you've got to study Shakespeare and theater so we were taken to the theater and I was so excited by, the notion that people in the same room as you, people like you, could be creating things that were so exciting, so thrilling and new so that is how I discovered theater, so I then set out upon trying to, get into the theater and I joined an organization called The National Youth Theater which was a fantastic organization started by a remarkable man in Britain called Michael Croft who's sadly now dead and he took students from all over the country, didn't matter if they wanted to be actors or not, students good kids, he got them all together hundreds of them and they mounted productions which were put on in the West End of London, in the forefront of what was happening, in the full glare of national publicity, and they were done with tremendous enthusiasm and panache and it didn't matter whether you spent time, you know, slinging flyers around the town or working backstage, or whether you played some small part in these productions, and I say small part, there were plenty of small parts, because if you had a crowd scene he could have 200 people on the stage and think how exciting that is. That was the beginnings of my training then I went to study properly at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art which I loved for about for about one term, and then I started to get, I don't know troubled we were talking about this just before we started this meeting between us all. Their approach, apart from a couple there. I mean teaching is very difficult, you're very lucky if you get it, I mean you know, you're in the middle of it now and you must all in your own sense, you know, be questioning yourself vis-á-vis, your teacher, your future, how you think, what you have to give is being shaped or damaged or you know whatever. It's a constant, and a difficult question and, you know, maybe I was being small minded and subjective or whatever, but I got to resent the philosophy that seemed to be saying if you want to be a good actor you've got to lose your uniqueness, you've got to lose your individuality, you've got to lose your personality, you've got to become a blank canvas so then you can rebuild yourself in any direction you want to go, and I didn't really respond well (Timothy laughs) to that notion. I fully accept that one is limited in a sense by ones uniqueness but I don't think that, that should necessary be a barrier to increasing your range. Anyway I didn't like it, and I left, the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art before the end of my, you know, time and I was offered a job at a wonderful repertory company in Britain called the Birmingham Repertory Theater and I had always wanted to go there because, because I had read that, that was where Albert Finney got his early training and where Lawrence Olivier got his early training and I was offered a job there so I got on my, I had a beaten up motorcycle in those days a BSA C15 that constantly leaked oil as I think all British motorcycles have ever done ever since (the audience laughs). Drove the 120 miles up there and and started my job and I had a great first year, and ended doing something on TV and then getting a movie called The Lion in Winter which I think we had hoped to show you all here in the, because it has just been restored by the Academy, but there was no time slot you know, but that's sort of my training and getting into the theater."
Jeffrey: "Wonderful. How would you say at this point that you would approach a role?"
Timothy: "How I approach a role? (Timothy sighs)
Jeffrey: "If you wouldn't mind for the moment discussing the probability?"
Timothy: "Well I will, but let me, but that was, that was a tough one."
Jeffrey: "That is why I am interested"
Timothy: "That was a tough one. I think how you approach a role? I should be able to give you a very easy answer to that because when you have done it as many times as I have, you would think you would know. I can probably give you, kind of a, a rough blue print answer. Obviously you try to understand what the piece is about the necessities of the piece that you are doing, you try and understand the necessities of the role that you are playing, and then you go kind of searching for it, you search for it inside yourself, and you search for it in things and people you see around you, you're taking every clue you can to fulfil what you think is an authors intention and if you don't think the authors done it as well as maybe he could or should but has given you a push along that road then you have got to add to that, but then something happens that is very difficult to analyze somehow all these pieces of information sort of, you know mesh, you get taken over by something and it gels and you go down that road. I don't think you go down that road without question, I think you have always got to be checking, questioning but you have got to seize it, make it your own and then go foreword. That is not a terribly good answer though (the audience laugh). Now with the thing you, Jeff was talking about a movie I did for Showtime called Possessed and Possessed, you've all heard of a movie 'The Exorcist' and that was based upon the story of an exorcism that took place in the United States in the late 40's early 50's of some young kid and then it was, was it Blatty, Batty?"
Jeffrey: "That's right"
Timothy: "Umm you know turned that into a kind of a wonderful horror fantasy but since that movie several things have happened, one of which was one of the priests who did this exorcism kept a diary, and that diary was banned from the public by the church for a certain amount of time, and it came to light, so here you have a priest recording intimately the process of this exorcism and what happened every single night and the first thing you realize is that an exorcism isn't a single event I think this exorcism took place every night, for night after night, after night, week after week, after week, month after month, after month, usually between the hours of sort of, after the kid had gone to bed. It was all happening at night 11pm, 12am, sometimes right though the night, sometimes just for a couple of hours. I mean a horrible. I mean a deeply horrible process of, you know, physical restraint and, you know, numbing, mind boggling brain washing really, but anyway we got hold of these recordings, and people honesty believed they had witnessed things like this, but anyway this was the movie we made, but I couldn't figure out, to answer your question, you know, just what made a priest, a priest, really for the longest time you know. I could understand what the necessities of the scene were. I could understand what the necessities of the character within the piece were. He was a wonderful character a St. Louis parish priest who worked for the University. A man who drank a lot and chain smoked was very, was very real and was not at all effete or you know distant from his people I think a very flawed man all of which is very interesting, all of which I can understand but what is the commitment in a man that drives somebody to test his own faith, to test himself, to test his own faith. If you fail in this process your religion is worthless and your life is worthless. It's a deeply courageous and difficult thing to do and this happened for real, and he was apparently reduced, although we couldn't really show it in the movie to, I mean covered in boils and almost on the point of being hospitalized with exhaustion because of what it took out of him, and I finally called, you know, after all this build up (Timothy laughs) what I am going to say is, just seems so simple and so obvious, but I didn't get it because I am not a particularly well, I am not a religious person. I called one of the best men I know who lives in Ireland and happens to be a wonderful fisherman, which is how I met him and he used to be a priest, he had trained as a priest and he was truly one of the best men I know, and I can't call him verbatim but when I asked him what would drive a man, what would drive anyone who was a priest? He said it is the absolute commitment to the belief that you are saving souls. The most obvious answer in the world, but one that completely missed me, but that to me just became the key, that was the thing that turned the door and opened up for me the ability to go and with absolute you know commitment seize this role."
Jeffrey: "Thank you"
Timothy: "It can come anyhow with difficulty or it can come easily but I do tend to know, and I would say to any of you whatever your field of your creative endeavour is":-
Jeffrey: "Thank you. Now I will open up some questions from the audience. Jim"
Jim: "Where is some genre of theater or a film that you have not yet worked in, that you would like to work in?"
Timothy: "Well you know I go to the movies quite a lot to see all the movies that are released because I am able to vote for the Academy Awards and every time I see a great movie I think shit I wished I had been in that (Timothy and the audience laugh) why the hell didn't I get anywhere in it, so there is an awful lot, you know, never mind genre's just you know, I think we could make a very good argument for saying, you know, there might be less terrific work these days then there used to be lets say 10 or 20 years ago, but there is still great films, you know, that you would have loved to have been in umm."
Jim: "Like what?"
Timothy: "Think of any of the terrific movies of recent years and in the theater anyway, I've not done theater for quite a long time. It is time I got back to it, the last theater I did was in London and it was Eugene O'Neill's 'Long,' I wanted to say 'Long Days Journey,' Touch of the Poet which was a fabulous writer O'Neill, but I think my challenge now is, I think all of our challenge now actually is, there are less and less movies, so TV is cutting down, is actually to be, you know to have the, sometimes you have got to simply work, you got to work because there is bills to pay there's kids to put through school there's all kinds of stuff like that, you've gotta just try and do work that you can in fact feel has some value and commit to it and you get lucky if it is. I mean you know I've tried all my life to do stuff that I don't think I can do, to stretch myself, to challenge myself, sometimes that's worked fantastically. Well other times I think, you know maybe its not, its had bad repercussions but I can't see myself changing I'd hate to settle, so I will just go on hopefully challenging the best of what is offered me."
Jeffrey: (Speaking to the audience) "Another question."
Phillip: "You've worked on some films with some unique technical aspects, can you share with us any crazy confessions you have?"
Timothy: "Umm oh my, well your thinking of something like a Bond movie. It's interesting actually, you know, the last Bond movie that I made which was called Licence to Kill was the last Bond movie in which every single stunt was done for real, not necessarily by me (the audience laughs) although I was always, you know, a part of every stunt, but every single stunt in the movies that I made and all the movies that were, that had been, the Bond movies that had been made prior to my involvement, were done for real, the first movie after, and all the subsequent movies as you will be aware. I think and in most movies that we go and see now, action adventure movies, they started using computer graphics and you know simulated realities, most of which I find you can still see don't you agree? I mean, you know when you are being fooled, you know (Timothy laughs) I mean its not quite as obvious as seeing like the little fuzzy line around people but you know somehow, so the ones I did were almost, you know, not high tech they were actually real you know. I mean I wasn't hanging out of an army transport plane at you know 15,000 feet (Timothy laughs) falling off someone else was but someone else actually was and it was being filmed at 15,000 feet (the audience laughs) or you know 2,000 feet to make it look like it. No, actually higher because they, they actually fell off a lot. I don't know if you remember that particular sequences, when a big cargo net comes out of the back of a C whatever there called, you know, transport plane and there was a fight taking place on it, that was down for real by real guys with you know thin parachutes hidden under their shirts. I was in a field with a camera shooting up at the sky over the same kind of bag to inter cut, which is how it is done of course, you know, we have a camera here, you know, pointed at your head against a blue sky, you don't know whether your 20,000 feet or whatever, so that's how that's done. I can tell you that one of the things that shocked me most about doing a Bond movie, or a little tiny bit of a Bond movie, was years after I met a man I don't know in a bar, a pub or a restaurant, or just somewhere, he said 'Hi Tim remember me?' and I try never to fall into the trap of saying yes if I don't because you can really get stuck (the audience laughs) I generally try to say 'Look I am awfully sorry, no I don't' so I said (Timothy laughs) 'No I don't, I am sorry' and he said 'We shot a scene together in a James Bond movie' I said 'We did?' (the audience laughs) feeling really embarrassed now 'What scene was it?' he said 'Well you were driving a car in the Austrian Alps and I was playing the policeman in another car, that was, that had pulled up along side you.' and I said 'shit you know, I don't even,' and then it suddenly clicked. I had done that scene in Shepperton England or Pinewood England, and he had done the same scene in Austria (the audience laughs) we had done it completely separately, in two completely separate locations and then they just cut it together but the weird about me doing it, because I had to be doing something else, time was limited. It's not how you would normally work, it was an extraordinary moment. I'd done my half of the scene in a studio in Pinewood so how did we get into the Austrian Alps? I couldn't believe it. I came on to a dark sound stage and there's a car you know the Aston Martin and I think so how we going to do this? And about you know four big guys turn up (Timothy demonstrates how the four big guys look) get hold of each side of the car (the audience laughs) to give it a bit of movement, a bit of bounce, and all of a sudden this deafening racket started up. Now remember this was '86 which was actually a long, '88 meaning, which is a long time ago but we were still pretty technologically advanced then, this deafening racket starts up, and they have two vertical rollers, one there, and one here, (Timothy demonstrates this) with a bit of painted canvas of trees and white snow going haradabadabadabadabada (that was Timothy demonstrating the sound of the painted canvas as it moved) going past the window of the car for the background, which is Victorian (the audience laughs) but it works, but it works, you would never ever, ever know, and it is cheap" (the audience laughs.)
Jeffrey: (Speaking to the audience) "Have you got any questions. Sir"
Audience Member (Blake): "OK. Hi"
Blake: "I'm Blake. Many times when you take over a popular role it can either really help or hurt (Timothy laughs) your career how has being James Bond affected your career?"
Timothy: "Oh, yea I think it can often hurt because people you know, whatever it is, and I've almost made a career of (Timothy laughs) sort of doing other peoples remakes in a sense, you know, people do if they, generally speaking if something is remade it is because people like it, you know, they think it is going to be commercial a second time, and if people like it of course they have, you know, great memories of original performances, so in a sense when you do a remake your going to run right up against other peoples convictions of how the part should be played, and their memories of whoever played it in the first place. That doesn't happen in the theater of course, you know in the theater every actor constantly reworks a role. Every time you go to the theater you are remembering so and so played it before, and somebody else, and your fascinated by, you know, what the different individuals bring, bring to the piece, but the cinema's not like that because there is not a great, history of that. With with the Bond movies though I think its kind of different to a degree anyway, you know you are going to be compared but when I came in there was already a history of people doing them, you know, you started off with Sean who was for me, because they were the ones, I saw when I was a kid, he was James Bond. I mean that was it, you know he's the best, but then George Lazenby took over, then Roger Moore and each particular one created very different kind of Bond movies, so you know you're going to get, you know damned for being good, damned for being bad, you also know some people are really going to like what you do. No different with mine but I think it was more possible to take over, and then Pierce takes over, and someone will take over with him. I think in a way you generally go and people generally go and see a Bond movie now because of the fun or the excitement its going to bring them, you know."
Timothy: "Cool" (the audience laughs)
Jeffery: (Speaking to the audience) "Any other questions?Audience member (not named): "You've played many deliciously evil villains, you've played debonair hero's do you have a preference for other parts and if so what is it?"
Timothy: (Timothy sighs) "I do seem to have played a number of those kind of, you know, either good guys you hate, or bad guys you like. I don't know I think that's a bit of a cliche to say that. I think its there more interesting parts to play. I think its hard just playing a good guy, because its hard to define exactly what good is and how you, you know, latch on to it, and it can sometimes I think seem, seem bland certainly the bad guys or good guys that have got contradictions I think are much more interesting to play anyway, and I would always be in a sense part of my personal philosophy correctly or incorrectly to always never look at an individual or a character in, in my profession, as being one thing or the other. To try to bring in different shades, different facets of a personality because we know all of us we can all behave like shits, we can all behave wonderfully well. We can take ourselves by surprise by how good we can be, and how at times awful we can be, and I don't think people in movies are necessarily always any different so I think it is nice to try and, and it also keeps an audience interested I hope when they're being a little bit surprised by a personality. I mean yes there are necessity's, I mean the good guy is going to end up being the good guy you know and the bad guys going to end up being the bad guy but within that I think one should bring in different colours, depths and that's what I try to do but whether I am better at that then, you know, the bad guy or the good guy I don't know really, probably the bad guy."
Jeffrey: "You've had an opportunity to work with some of the greats, Katharine Hepburn"
Jeffrey: "Anthony Hopkins...
Jeffrey: And I would be interested if you tell our students who are approaching their careers as is the mission statement of the college to prepare students for careers. Among all of the people that you worked with, not necessarily mentioning names, what about them that made you enjoy them the most, to work with?"
Timothy: "Well I can remember, that's a good question we talked about The Lion in Winter earlier and you just mentioned Tony Hopkins and The Lion in Winter I don't know whether you know but it was a film that starred Peter O'Toole and Katharine Hepburn, and it was my first film and the two of them were you know tremendously famous stars at that time, O'Toole had done his 'Lawrence of Arabia' and his 'Becket' and Hepburn was of course a major force in American cinema and I think I was 19, 20 years old at the time. Driving that same leaky motor bike (the audience laughs) kind of a skinny, hairy arrogant cocky little prat probably (the audience laughs) and I remember we had a, I am answering the questions in a sort of a round about way, the Director of the movie Tony Harvey had decided to have a rehearsal period which is not normal and we met at a theater in London called the Haymarket Theater for a read through of this very dense script. I mean a wonderful script written by James Goldman one of the last sort of talking movies in a way, I mean a real fabulously written script and I think I and Tony Hopkins was in it, Tony's first movie, my first movie an actor, John Castle, Nigel Terry, Jane Merrow were the main people in it, and it was all our first movies, apart from Hepburn and O'Toole and I think in those days we were sort of a little overcome by this notion that you really took your text, you thought about it, you tried to allow it to seep and work its way inside your personality, you were very tentative and you mumbled a little bit, you kind of searched for your character the sense what it was you were doing through the rehearsal process. I am sure we were influenced by, you know, probably nonsense we were hearing about method acting, and Marlon Brando, and all sorts of things (Timothy laughs) so we came to this read through on the stage of the Haymarket and there was Katharine Hepburn 'Good Morning' (Timothy does an impression of Katharine and the audience laughs) and there was Peter (Timothy does an impression of Peter O'Toole) 'Good Morning how are you, good to see you ha barf' (the audience laughs) and we sat down fully prepared all of us, you know boys to kind of, you know, mumble and be very professional, and all that. Well Peter O'Toole started reading as though he has been blasted by a rocket into the room he came out exploding with passion and vigor and style and anger and panache and Katharine Hepburn burst after him and we were amazed it was the scariest thing I think (the audience laughs) we were seeing better then performance on our first read through, we kind of shriveled, we didn't know it, we couldn't read it, we couldn't match it. Every one of us came back the next day knowing every word of the entire script totally prepared to give as good as we got and that example, well that is one example but throughout the making of the film they took on a similar personality they lead that company, they lead by example, they lead, they forged a company in which people wanted to watch them work, people wanted to support them, people wanted to go to work because they knew they would have a good day at work and if anything I have tried to always emulate those qualities, not necessary banging into a performance straight off but certainly to emulate the qualities that say, you know, lets have a good day, lets make people want to be part of this process, lets lead people, lets make people feel good, lets really deliver, lets really give, because that's what we are trying to do. That's what we are here for."
Jeffrey: "Wonderful thank you."(Jeffrey now speaks to the audience) "Questions? Deborah."
Deborah: "What about the industry does it work for you, does any thing bother you or...?"
Timothy: Well you know you're students, and you have a fantastic, you have the world in front of you, with all your, you know, idealism and hopes and determination and the real world is never, is never you know sadly like you hope it is going to be, but that doesn't mean to say you've got to allow it to stay, you've got to fight it, you've got to challenge it, you've got to, you know, work within it but there are lots of things in the movie industry that, you know, we live in a society where movies only get made because people believe they are going to make money on them that means there are a fantastic number of truly good and worthwhile projects that don't get made, people will look at you and say, or your friend the Producer, and say this is terrific but I can't make a penny off it, so its binned. That is a constant once your doing a movie that has an actor or an actress in it who is box office, who someone thinks, well we can make this movie because so and so, you know, will attract an audience to go and see it, then you suddenly find the project is getting shaped to suit that person and it becomes a different project altogether but that is life that is what you have to live with and work amongst. Having said that the business is full of really talented good people who truly care about trying to make things that have something to say to people, that might alter people's way of thinking about things, you know, or, you know, have an effect because not simply just to rake in tons of cash. Tons of cash is great if you've done a good job, tons of cash for its own sake is what a lot of the industries about, but maybe that keeps the industry going and allows the good things to sometimes sneak through. So how's that? Is that, you know, you can't always do what you want."
Jeffrey: (Speaking to the audience) "Matthew"
Matthew: "What are the factors that you take into consideration when you are offered a role prior to accepting it?"
Timothy: "Do I like the piece? Do I like the project? Is it something I would like to go and see? It doesn't have to be important although it is nice if it is. I mean would I enjoy watching this? Do I think it has something to say? Does it, is it fun? Is it serious? Would I like it? Is the first thing, and then I ask myself questions about, is this a role I want to play? You know if someone comes to me now with a terrific thing and the role is lets say a secret agent I would say no because I am not interested in, I have done that it's, you know, there have been times I have had bills to pay and you think its not great but I believe that I can not dishonor myself by doing it, that is the other side of the coin. I don't think you should ever do something without being able to commit to it, so I look for something I can commit to, you know, truly believe in. Even if its not a, you know, a particularly, necessarily a great project because if your hearts not in it. If you can't gather enthusiasm, enthusiasms a great quality. Enthusiasm is something that's easy to lose as you get older and wiser and more experienced and I think we have got to remind ourselves that enthusiasm and passion are what drives us, and they carry us, they work, they do work for us. It is very easy to get, you know, distant and cynical, so you've got to find something that you can latch onto that makes you want to do something and commit to it. If its on a worse case scenario, in a great case scenario you just know wham I've got to do this."
Jeffrey: (Speaking to the audience) "James"
James: "Is there a particular actor or actress that you connected with, within a role that has meant a lot to you?"
Timothy: Well I mean we can talk right back to that early, I mean O'Toole and Hepburn were wonderful. I mean we were kids, I mean true kids you know, I mean, I don't mean to be disparaging to anyone who's as old as I was when I did that, but from, you know, my position now, you know, we were complete naive's about the business and O'Toole and Hepburn not only set a fantastic example of acting standards, but of personal standards too, professional standards and they looked after us, you know, there are people out there who, you know, kind of small minded, self destructive in their ego. Who seem to think that, you know, they have got to put other people down in order to shine themselves, without realizing that you only shine if the work you are doing is good, and that means everybody being good, if everybody in the scene is good, the scene will be good, O'Toole and Hepburn made sure that all of us were good."
James: "When is that film going to be re-released?"
Timothy: "Well I don't know if it ever is going to be re-released what I was talking about was the, I think the negative has probably, again this is a terrific film almost every department design, lighting, acting, costuming, every sort of artistic department on this film was, it was made in a sort of height, of a certain era, in movie making, and it was I think nominated for maybe seven Oscars or something, but I think the negative has gone. The Academy with various other people, maybe like Lucas, restored it, but I think they have just restored prints and I went to see it in London this spring and they've had to restore it from prints because real changes are, you know, jumpy, you know. I don't know if, you know, there's a kind of weird thing that happens in projection rooms, that they take these spools of film and obviously join them with a bit of sellotape to make one or two you know big spools and then what they are supposed to do when a movie leaves the cinema, is that they are supposed to (Timothy laughs) take the bit of sticky sellotape off re-spool them up into the smaller spools and send them on to the next cinema (Timothy laughs again) and what they do is they take a pair of scissors and they just cut either side of the sticky tape so when you see an old movie and it jumps its because literally there's two, three, four or if the movies been around a lot of cinemas, you know ten, twelve frames missing (the audience laughs) so and that was kind of happening on this restored version of The Lion in Winter so they have obviously got hold of some old prints that were still extant as opposed to negative and tried to touch them up, but I think it is more for the historical you know records for the museum then for any kind of re-release. Well of course you can see the movie on video."
James: "Is there someone that you would like to work with?"
Timothy: "Lots of people I would like to work with gosh I would love to work with someone like Scorsese as a Director, you know, I mean who better, lots of people yea, one is humbled by (Timothy laughs) the great talent that is out there."
Jeffrey: "I have a question that is related to something that you just said, you have set an amazing example today with your graciousness and how have your remained centered, what do you do to step aside from acting, to put acting on the side, which you are really good about, and to stay centered?"
Timothy: "Bad question (the audience laughs) I don't know that I do stay centered you know?"
Jeffrey: "Well you seem to."
Timothy: "Umm you know, lets look on the bright side, one of the advantages of being an actor is one learns how to retire early. I think most people get shocked by retirement, they spend all their lives wanting to retire and then they've found they have retired and after six weeks you know they are going crazy because they don't know what to do with themselves, you know they've had the holiday and they've slept in and then they don't know what to do, and feel totally frustrated and unfulfilled. Actors do that all the time because even hugely successful actors aren't working every day there is always a month, two months, six months, even a year between jobs and I think for Directors, I mean think about it, add up the number of movies that even the top Directors have made over the last ten, twenty years, it is not many. It is not like the Studio system when they churned out three or four a year you know. It might take a Director three, four years to do a movie, so we are all used to those, you know, kind of destructive times in between, you do what you can, you know you read. I used to go, do a lot of, I love fishing, and I used to do a lot of fishing but I don't do fishing when I am frustrated because I realize I'm only doing it because I am frustrated (Timothy laughs) so I try to deal with the frustration. To stay centered is not easy but, you know, I guess it builds up passion for the next time round. Its not easy you just learn to think about life."
Jeffrey: (Speaking to the audience) "Anymore questions, Sir?"
Audience Member not named: "When you work with a Director what do you usually expect and why?"
Timothy: "Great question. Directors I think, I am generalizing and I am being very simplistic, so forgive me, fall into two camps. Those Directors that see the movie in terms of a story that is told visually, that comes from their own vision and they know how to construct it visually, and haven't a clue really about the nature of the interpersonal relationships that happen inside there, they leave the actor to himself essentially and just concentrate on, you know, the shots, the way these shots are put together and build into the movie as a whole, and they are in the majority. Most film Directors in my experience want to film, want to make film, and tell stories through, and are not terribly, I don't want to say not talented but their main passion is not the creation of the work between actors. Then you have the exact opposite who are in the minority who work fabulously with actors and virtually leave the making of the movie to the people around them, and some are good at both, but let me tell you if any of you want to be Directors, get a DP (Director of Photography) that you like, trust, who understands your vision, because the two of you work as a fantastic partnership, which ever way your strengths are, so does that answer your question? I mean to be more simple, very few Directors tell you how to do it, hardly ever (Timothy laughs) you're kind of on your own, and then there are Directors who you just say 'ahh my god what a wonderful note, what a brilliant idea, what a fantastic piece of help' but there in the minority and generally they are not thinking about how they're shooting the movie the DP's thinking that."
Audience Member not named: "Do you prefer a Director who is more hands on?"
Timothy: "Depends, depends there are advantages to being left on your own, but the truth is, you know it, the best of all is when you can work with someone to explore something and refine it so it gets better and better and better, that's obviously the best, you know, the worst is when you are not, because as an actor you don't have a vision, you don't have the Directors vision. There are times when I've, I mean there is something very exciting about working on a set when you don't know what the best choice is, so what you will do is you will rehearse it, as you film it in a sense, you know, you try different things in each take, different angles and think 'oh this is fantastic,' because now in the editing process the Director and the Editor have got choices, and I've explored the work. Now that works great when they take the right choice, but quite often they will take the obvious and the most simple and the worst choice, in ones own opinion, I might be wrong so that's dangerous too. At the end of the day, you know, you strike the best relationships you can. Your duty also is to work to discover what a Director is after, so you know what ever you think he's going to ultimately bring it down to, his vision as best he can, even over the Editor and every body else so the more you can understand what he's after, the more you can establish trust and openness between the two of you, the better the ultimate result will be, whatever his strengths or weakness's, whatever your own strengths or weakness's, you know a partnership will work better 99% of the time."
Jeffrey: (Speaking to the audience) "Anymore questions? Melanie"
Melanie: "Who in your opinion do you think has been a big help in all aspects and in what films"?
Timothy: "Oh well I mean a person immediately comes to mind is a movie, you'll probably, you'll never have seen or, might not want to see. A movie that was called, this is my first, there are plenty others, and I mean, you know, I did say I was being simple in that answer, you know, making very clear distinctions, but distinctions aren't clear they are very blurred because, you know, most of the time you are working with very intelligent people, but I am throwing them into those camps because those camps do exist. Anyway I made a movie once called The Kings Whore with an Austrian Director who I thought, he is dead now sadly, who I thought was who had the most profound insight into, I mean far greater then mine, which is why I respect and admired him so much, into how human beings are, how they work, what the layers of relationship between people are and the intelligence to know how to try to develop those, you know in a communicative story, and he also, he was working again with a wonderful Director of Photography, one of the great European Directors of Photography, so it is beautifully shot, and it is also, you know, given our own limitations and there are weakness's in the movie, and failures in the movie, but, you know, the work was about really, with real insight, I mean, as I say, far more profound then I could have brought to it, you know, insight into the personal nature of it, but his name was Axel Corti, and funny enough he did a lot of work at a University too."
Jeffrey: (Speaking to the audience) "We've got time for one or two more questions. Eric"
Eric: "Do you ever sit down and reflect on your, like career, and say wow I am really doing what I wanted to do, I am living my dream, do you ever sit down and reflect on that? Do you ever get caught up in it all?"
Timothy: "That's a good question too, I mean in one sense the answer is, of course I do yes, that is the simple one, but it's a good question because (Timothy laughs) you know what is ones dream? How does ones dream change? You know when I was a kid or a student at Drama School, my dream would have been if only I could be good enough to get into a movie, if only I could be good enough to get a job (Timothy and the audience laughs) if only I could be, be a dream to be on the West End stage, you know, and I have done those things. I've been in movies and I've been on the West End stage and I have worked for the Royal Shakespeare Company. I've never worked on Broadway and I would like to do that a lot, so I've fulfilled those dreams but what are my dreams now, you know, your dreams change you can look back on your life and say, you know, I am really pleased I did that it's a terrific movie why the hell didn't more people go and see it, you know, or things you've lost, things you've not done so well. I think you keep adjusting your dreams. I would hate to, I would hate to actually now (Timothy laughs) be looking back and just saying oh well I've done that, that's the end because that would lead to you know depression and, you know, but its true I think in a way challenges diminish don't they? They must diminish the more you conquer in a sense you know. If your gonna go, if you've never seen a coral reef or a snow covered mountain or a desert once you've seen them what else do you want to go and look for? You know you run out of, you can run out of objectives, but I think you've got to find new goals, you've gotta, you know, the big early challenges I think get conquered but then you've gotta find, probably the answer is concentrate on what it is that you want to communicate to people, concentrate on the value of the work. Modeled answer but the best I can do off the top."
Jeffrey: "Great. Well I am going to actually wrap this up now"
Jeffrey: "Normally I would dig up some lovely Shakespearian quote to wrap up my meeting but I am not going to do this today. I am actually going to quote from The Lion in Winter and that is 'Now here is a man' and I am going to tell you why I had a lovely conversation with Mr Dalton in the back umm prior to our beginning and he came to this festival for this opportunity to meet with the students, and he came to this festival because the students are in the forefront of the purpose of this festival, and, he offered to do this for you students, so just so you know here is a man."
The audience then warmly and loudly applauds.
Jeffrey: "Thank you very much"
Timothy: "Thank you all very much and I wish you, courage, determination and success."
The audience applauds again.
Timothy: In closing says "Thanks"
Jeffrey: "Thank you"
Timothy: "OK my pleasure truly."
The Credits for Timothy's Acting Class.
This transcription is the (c) Copyright of The Savannah College of Art and Design, Jeffrey de Vincent, Timothy Dalton and all the students who were in attendance for Timothy Dalton's Acting Class on Thursday November 1st 2001.
The credit for the photographs used with this transcription goes to Kristin Despathy.
Timothy Dalton's Acting Class was transcribed by Debra Best, Co-ordinator, The Timothy Dalton Chat Group, and the transcription was completed on the 28th December 2001.
The credit for obtaining Timothy's Acting Class audio tape goes to Hazel in the UK.
A big special thank you to everyone named above - Love Deb