Welles on Character Acting and Personality

September 21, 2017

For decades, I have found Orson Welles to be as complex and as essential as any of the great creative souls of the 20th century.   This excerpt from Cahiers du Cinéma, No. 84, June 1958, reveals the profundity of his own self-knowledge and its revelatory, yet disguising, nature upon screen.

You know, in the old classic French theater, there were always some actors who played kings and others who did not. I’m one of those who played kings. I have to be, because of my personality. So naturally, I always play the role of leaders, men of some unusual breath: I always need to be bigger than life. It’s a fault of my nature. So it’s not unnecessary to believe there’s anything ambiguous about my interpretation. It’s my personality that’s responsible, not my intentions. It’s very serious for an artist, a creator to be at the same time and actor. He runs a grave risk of being misunderstood. Because my own personality intrudes between what I say and what you hear; and a great part of the mystery, the confusion, of the interest, and all you can find in the characters I play comes from my own personality and not from what I say.

This excerpt, Comito, Terry, ed., Touch of Evil: Orson Welles, Director, p. 205.

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Wyntner Woody