Wednesday, 29 September 2010


The video is Jack Nicholson as Jimmy Hoffa laying down the law to Robert Kennedy.

Most people wake-up in the morning and go to work and repeat this cycle over the course of the month and are guaranteed payment for that work at the end of the month. For the actor, however, there are no such guarantees. Most of his time is spent hunting for work and practicing his craft (this practice might include daily voice exercises, script analysis and physical exercise), and this hunting and practicing are bound together because the actor must be in shape when the work comes along. Further, this hunting and practicing takes up most of the actors time. However, this effort is unpaid, and there is no certainty that any reward will be granted at all. It is driven by the actors desire for excellence and by the need to accomplish goals. And it is not easy to maintain this daily effort without a guaranteed pay-off. Many cannot cope with the struggle and insecurity a life in art brings, the constant demands on self-esteem, and the pressure to improve in order to survive in this highly competitive arena. Many quit, of my own group there are only a handful of us still standing, and as we get older we see our friends marry and start families and acquire the material goods which are typical for our time, while the actor faces a life of gruel, speckled with moments of exhilaration. The lure of security for the actor can be strong, one can be seduced away from achieving one's acting goals by the warm images of the regular life, by membership of the country club, by comfort, in short. And, unfortunately, most are in the end.

Question: How can the actor remain fixed on his goals despite the overwhelming odds against him?
Answer: Singlemindedfuckoffedness.

Stick to your decision. Ignore your intuition and you're feelings. Coldly and rationally formulate your objective (there will be price whichever path you take, something's got to give), and articulate the actions you need to do to accomplish your objective. And this must be renewed every single day. Often when we wake-up in the mornings, all manner of things swirl around in our mind and so this daily renewal of goals and actions helps discard that which is not helpful but only confusing. It also helps to remind ourselves of the thinking which lead to the formulation of our objective in the first place. And stick to your decision. Fear of commitment can have a strange affect on us, the most common of which is a “going off” of the task we have set for ourselves. It is at this point of no return that all kinds of other options suggest themselves as preferable alternatives (including country club membership), but the trick is to be strong in this moment and dismiss those alternatives and see it through. Singlemindedfuckoffedness.

This philosophy is embodied by Jack Nicholson in the movie Hoffa. The film charts Jimmy Hoffa's rise from street agitator to one of the most powerful men in America as leader of the Teamsters union. And he accomplishes this goal against ludicrous odds. During the film Hoffa takes on The Kennedy brothers, the mob, big business fat cats among others, and he does so not only through the force of his personality, but also through a commiment to doing the job he said he was going to do, by remaining focussed on his goal whilst under enormous pressure, by having the courage of his conviction and by refusing to bend when faced by powerful forces. As one of the characters says of Hoffa during the film; he built a union with “a pair of brass balls”. However, it is important to note that the character is played by Jack Nicholson, one of the most dominant actors there has ever been in the history of the profession (note how Nicholson's personality still looms large on the Hollywood scene while those of De Niro and Pacino [Nicholson's only serious rivals] have diminished in recent years). Although I do not know Nicholson personally, I would hazard a guess that the qualities his displays as Hoffa the character are engendered in the actor himself. Nicholson, being the Hollywood outsider he was, could not have risen to the prominent position he has, without employing the philosophy of singlemindedfuckoffedness.

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