Are there actors you admire or careers that give you inspiration?
I borrow from everybody. John Hurt gave me some very good advice. When we were doing Midnight Express, I took investigating your navel to the limit – that Method acting attitude that if you don’t mumble to yourself for half an hour and hit your head against a wall, you can’t possibly do it. I was so into that, and he would say, “Why do you put yourself through all that?” I said, “I want it to be real. How do you do it?” He said, “I pretend. It’s that simple. It’s like cowboys and Indians when you’re a kid.” Well, when I was studying acting, the word “pretend” wasn’t allowed in the room. I took “pretend” to mean fake, phoney, bullshit. At first I was stunned. Then I thought, “If what he’s doing is pretend, it’s pretending in a way I never thought you could pretend. It’s believing.”
What do you think of in that moment when the house lights are out, just before going onstage?
I think, “I can’t believe I’m going to do this again.” What I do to myself is very intense. I don’t cheat – I don’t know how. It’s hard for me to walk through a play, say, at a matinee and only give three-fourths. If I did that, nothing would come out. I think, “Take a deep breath.”